Thursday, 24 March 2011

Dear Andrea's of the Past.

If I could give some advice to the Andrea’s of the past, and even to the Andrea of the present, this is what it would be.


Dear May 2010 Andrea,

You just received your host families and this is finally all starting feel real. Your brand new red blazer is hanging on the back of your door as a constant reminder of the year ahead of you. There’s a countdown on your computer telling you the number of days, hours, minutes and even seconds until you leave.

Basically your every thought is consumed by Denmark. But what about Canada? Why don’t you slow down and take a look around and think about how much you are going to miss everything? You should have enjoyed your last months at home instead of counting them away. Obviously you had a lot to be excited for, but did it ever cross your mind that you were going to miss what you had?

You don’t know it yet, but you have an incredible year ahead of you. It’s almost frustrating how little of a clue you have about what your life will be like. You’re going to grow up more than you can even imagine. You’re going to have some of your lowest lows and some of your highest highs. None of this is even entering your mind though. You’re lost in your day dreams of what your life is going to be like. You didn’t listen to Rotary and you had expectations. In many ways they were beyond exceeded. That email you got from those random people? They feel like family now. Those other people in the Denmark 2010-11 Facebook group? They’re your lifeline. Your support group. You don’t know what you’re going to do when you have to leave them. That city that you spent hours googling? It’s where a part of you will always stay. But on the other hand you're also going to be let down, and it’s going to be hard. That school you were so excited to go to? It’s not like you thought it would be. That language you were so sure you could master? You won’t. It’s not going to matter though, because the good so much outweighs the bad.

Be excited for Denmark, because it’s going to be so great, but don’t forget to enjoy Canada too.

(And PS. I know you think you’re going to be done English 20 by mid June. But just so you know, you won’t be even close.)

Love March 2011 Andrea


Dear August 2010 Andrea

You’ve been in Denmark only a few weeks, and you’ve seen and done so much and met so many amazing people, and this is just the start. I know it’s a shock being so far from home, but trust me when I tell you that you didn’t make a mistake. Denmark is where you’re supposed to be. I know it’s just hitting you that this will be harder than you thought, but it gets so much better. This country is amazing, and although 11 months seems like a lifetime right now, soon enough you’ll be willing to give anything to have that much time left.

Be outgoing. Take pictures of everything. Soak up every last moment because soon enough all of the things that seem so weird will be so normal.

Stop thinking about Canada. Stop talking to people in Canada. Denmark is your new home. Spend as much time with your host family as possible because although I know it doesn’t feel like it, these first three months are going to fly, so make the most of every day you have with them.

Realize that things aren’t like you imagined, but embrace it. This is going to be the most amazing year, whether it feels like it or not. You are going to gain new families, and so many new friends. You are going to get to see so many different views on life, and so many amazing cities. Be excited. You have to much to look forward to.

Love March 2011 Andrea


Dear March 2011 Andrea,

I know this year has flown by faster than you ever ever everrrr thought it would. And I know that the rest of your time will go by even faster. But don’t think about it. Yeah, I’m sure it’ll be amazing. Yeah, there’s so much to look forward do. But pleaseee don’t forget about the present. Learn from your mistakes. You were so excited to come to Denmark that you forgot about Canada. PLEASE do NOT do that again. Because this time, when you board that plane, it’s over. Like, done deal for real never getting it back over. So don’t waste even a second of your time wanting to be back in Canada, no matter how hard it is.

Take in everything. Spend as much time with everyone. I know three months seems like a long time, but we all know it’s really not. This is it, the time to fully live it up. And it’s not enough to write it in this blog; Actually get off your ass and do it. It’s right outside your window, so embrace it while you still have it, because I can guarantee that three months from now you’d give up your major organs to have it all back.

Love Andrea of the future.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Min Danske Fødselsdag!

I’ve been meaning all week to sit down and write this, but like always I kept on getting distracted.

Last Friday was “my Danish birthday” (that’s what the title of this post says.) Getting to turn seventeen abroad was really special, and it really was an amazing birthday. Friday morning my host mom came into my room bright and early and woke me up with breakfast in bed (how sweet is that?) and she gave me my gifts. My big gift was tickets to go see Mamma Mia, which I was soooo excited about, because I’ve wanted to see it since I heard it was coming to Denmark. It’s my favorite musical, and I thought it would be really cool to get to see it in Danish.

Friday evening Charlotte and I went for dinner and then went to see Mamma Mia. It was really really good, and I was so excited because I understood almost the entire thing. I’m finally at the point now where I really have a good understanding of Danish, which is awesome, but it just sucks that it’s happening so close to the end of the year.

Because we live right in Copenhagen, we take our bikes everywhere, and it was really cool to bike home after the show, and see the city from a whole different view. I didn’t realize how little you really see when you are driving, but getting to bike through Copenhagen at night was gorgeous, and it was one of those, ‘I’m so lucky to be here,’ moments. And then I got to end off the night talking to my family, which is always really nice.

Saturday morning I met Claude in Nørreport and we were going to take the metro to the airport to meet Emily who was coming back from her class trip to New York, but we were running late and ended up missing her, so pretty much we just went to the airport, contemplated buying $10 starbucks, decided against it, then went home.

Saturday night I was having a birthday dinner, so after I got back from the airport, Charlotte and I went grocery shopping. All of the food I made was American food, so shopping was a bit tough. It gets frustrating shopping in a foreign store for American food. Stuff that we think is normal in Canada is near impossible to find here.

The night went really well. There was five of us in total, me, Emily, Claude, Laura and Simone, and it was a really cozy night. We made fettuccine alfredo, caesar salad and garlic bread and just sat around and talked and then my host mom made me a homemade danish lagkage, which was so nice. (Lagkage is a danish layer cake.) After dinner and cake we went into the city and met up with some of Simone’s friends and it was just a really nice night and such a great way to spend my birthday.

(Simone, me, Emily, Claude and Laura)


Sunday was Rotex, which is when all of the inbounds and outbounds in my district meet up for some sort of event. This time it was a food day, where all of the inbounds brought food from their home countries and all of the outbounds brought food from their host countries. I love rotex and catching up with people who I don’t get to see a lot. Exchange students really do have this special like, bond, and whenever we’re together it just feels so natural, like it does with people back home. I know I say it a lot, but I’m so lucky to have the other exchange students.

(Me, Nova and Chelsea at Rotex)

This week was pretty quiet. I’m all settled in now with Charlotte and I am really happy here. It still hasn’t totally hit me that this is my last family. It makes my stomach twist to think of how fast this year has gone. Here are some pictures of where I’m living right now. It’s so beyond amazing.

(My street!)

(The view from the end of the street)

(This is what I see everyday on my way to school)

Wednesday at Rotary my Rotary club sang happy birthday to me in Danish, and they gave me a really nice gift, a big book of H. C. Anderson stories in Danish, with the audio version on a CD too. It was exactly what I wanted, so I was really excited. And I feel like every week when I get up to talk, my danish gets better and better. And one of the rotarians came up to me after and told me that they all love me, which made me really really happy. I really do have the most amazing club.

Friday after school I went home with Chelsea and we made lagkage! (You can never have enough of that stuff.) We didn’t have any particular reason to bake one, but it was more just to celebrate being here, and having made it through the cold, hard winter and everything.

(Our fantastic lagkage!)

And then last night Chelsea, Claude and I slept over at Emily’s. I love just having nights in sometimes. Obviously I love going into the city, but sometimes you just need a chill night.

I love how busy I am now, I finally have really found my place here, and it seems like my calendar is full from now until pretty much when I go home. This is the shitty part about exchange, it takes so long to really get the hang of things and feel at home and just when you’re like, ‘Yeah, I can see myself living here,’ it’s time to go.

This year has been such a roller coaster, but sitting here and thinking back on it all, I wouldn’t change anything. (Except school, that I would gladly change in a heartbeat. It’s really sad that I never found a place in my class. It’s embarrassing and frustrating not having Danish friends, and I really really want to be friend with the girls in my class) But overall, I’m really happy with where I sit right now, and although it hasn’t always been easy, the hard stuff has really made me appreciate how great things are going now, and I just hope it keeps up.

It’s 11.34 and I’m falling asleep, so this is where I’m going to bid you farewell.

Kærlig fra Danmark,


Thursday, 10 March 2011

Sidste Familie!

"I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself." ~Maya Angelou

My first host dad’s car parallel parks itself. He just presses a button, lets go of the wheel, and the car does all of the work. How nice would be if life were like that, if something else could take care of the hard things while you just sat back?

As nice as that would be though, it would also be a bit boring. If your car always parks itself, then you’ll never get the satisfaction of learning to do it on your own. Am I making sense? Probably not, so to make it simple: Dealing with the tough stuff makes the good stuff even better.

Everyone says that the second half of the year is the best part, and I can see now that’s pretty true. The winter was hard because it was so dark and there wasn’t much to do and I just missed home so much, but in the past few weeks things have slowly been turning around, and now I’m just like a huge bundle of optimism!

Last Thursday Emma came and visited me, which always means a good time. Her piano teacher from back home is on tour around Europe, and he was playing Friday night in Copenhagen and he gave us tickets. I’m not really a huge jazz person, but Emma is my best friend so of course I would go with her. The whole experience was probably the most grown up thing I’ve ever done. We dressed up all classy (I even wore a blazer!) and then all by ourselves we found our way to where the concert hall was. I think it was the first time the two of us have done something without messing it up. And the music was actually really good. It’s not something I would normally listen to, but it was kind of relaxing to just sit there and listen to the music and And then after the show we snuck backstage so that Emma could see her old teacher and the guy he was playing with. They are such amazing musicians, and it makes me wish I hadn’t given up on every musical thing I tried when I was younger.

(I don't have normal looking pictures of us -- but trust me when I say we were classy ladies)

Saturday afternoon Emma headed home and I went over to my first family’s house. I love visiting them so much, and I love how even though I haven’t lived there in four months, as soon as I walk in I right away feel at home. That night we went to see We Will Rock You, and woooow it was soooo good! I actually don’t even have the words to describe how much I enjoyed it. It was the UK cast, so they all had wicked cool accents, and the music was really good, and the lead actor was really hot. Overall it was a really fun night!

And then Sunday was moving day! If you aren’t, or haven’t been, an exchange student, then it might be hard for you to know what it’s like to try to become a part of someone else’s family. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it just doesn’t. And with Rotary, where you have 3-4 families, the honest truth is that you won’t connect to all of your families in the same way. Anyone who read my Three Months in Denmark post knows how heartbreaking it was to leave my first family. I just connected with them so well, and I really felt like a family member. I didn’t talk much about leaving my second family, but leaving them was sad on a different level. My second family was so different from anything I had ever known, and at first it came as a bit of a shock. The sad thing with them was that just as I was beginning to feel at home, I had to leave because of the cats.

And then there was my third family. My third family was really nice, but I just couldn’t find my place in their family. With my first family, I remember feeling at home right from day one. Of course it took a while for them to feel like my family, but I was never not at home with them. Becoming a part of someone else’s family is hard, but once you’re in, I think you’re ultimately in for life. Obviously not on the same level as the rest of the family, but with my first family, I feel like I will always sort of be an honorary family member. I honestly feel like ten years could pass, and then if I saw them again it would feel like I had never left them. With my third family though, I sort of felt like an observer. I don’t feel like I have that same family connection, and it’s frustrating to figure out why.

It is scary just jumping into someone else’s life, and if the host family isn’t there to catch you, then it’s nearly impossible to make the leap. My first family understood how I was feeling; they had hosted before, and Therese had gone on her own exchange, so they really knew how to make me feel at home. But my third family was a first time host family, and to be honest, I don’t think they know very much about what it’s like to be an exchange student, or at least that’s the impression I got.

Having a host mom who acts like your mom makes things a lot easier. My first host mom gave me a hug every night before bed, and it’s little things like that that just made me feel so at home. I know that I shouldn’t compare families, because the point of living with multiple families is to experience something different, but I can’t help it. When one thing works better than another, it’s human nature to want to know why. Even after three months with my third family, I just couldn’t make the connection. My host mom was really really nice, but she never felt like my mom. I couldn’t come to her crying like I could with Susanne or my mom at home. Asking a stranger for a hug when you’re sad is scary, and I liked that I never had to ask my first host mom, she just knew if I was sad, and that’s something that I really missed when I left that family. I also did more things with my first family. Just small things like going grocery shopping, or if my host mom was going to pick someone up, I’d come along for the ride, and some evenings my mom and I would watch TV together, and it was things like that that made me feel close to her.

But just because I didn’t feel as close to my third family doesn’t mean that I didn’t learn a whole lot from them. Observing someones family for three months can teach you a lot. They spent all of their time together, and although that’s not something that works for me, it’s got me thinking that maybe my family at home could spend a bit more time together. I like having my room and spending time alone in there just talking to my friends, or watching TV, or reading or whatever, but I think once I get home I will make an effort to spend more time with my family.

Anyways, Sunday I moved to my new family. Leaving was sad, but in a different way. It was more like, sentimentally sad. (Is that the right word?) As in, another stage of my exchange is over, and even though I didn’t fit in perfectly, I still had a lot of good times with the family, and I was used to living there. They did a lot of really nice things for me, and took me to see a lot of places and of course I am very grateful to them for opening their home to me, and in those three months I really feel like I learnt a lot, so also for that I am very grateful to them. I hope to keep in touch with them, because they really are nice people who played a big part in my year.

(7 months worth of stuff)

This move was really exciting though because I was finally moving to Julie’s family!! Julie is the 2010/11 outbound from my host club, and we talked a lot last year when she was still in Denmark and I was still in Canada, and I have been looking forward to living with her family for a long time now! Of course, Julie is in Australia, so sadly I’m not living with her, but her family was the first one I knew about, and that’s a really special thing, the first person from your host country to contact you.

Her family is really sweet though! I’m living with her mom, Charlotte, and her little brother and sister, Aksel and Marie, who are 12, and so far I’m really happy. They live right in the center of Copenhagen, which is SO beyond amazing, I can’t even describe it. The buildings are all hundreds of years old and it’s so gorgeous and I’m also right in the middle of everything. It’s the perfect place to finish my year. And I already really love my host mom. She understands what a roller coaster this whole thing is, and she’s super, like, motherly and I just think that it’s going to be a really good fit. Sunday Charlotte, Aksel and I went skating, and then Monday afternoon we went for a walk to Nyhavn (the colorful harbor) and then yesterday we went to the library and I got some kids books and movies in Danish to help me practice, and then we went to this cute little cafe and we sat outside in the sun and it was so great! I’m really really happy! And my birthday is on Friday! So overall this week has just been really awesome. I’m really determined to just enjoy every second I have here and to really make the most of the time I have left and to not let a single experience slip away.

(Me and my new host mom)

I’m sorry this was so long, but there was so much to say and a lot of it was really hard to find the right wording for, but I hope some of it made sense and that you got a little glimpse into the confused mind of an exchange student who just wants to find her place. And if it seemed confusing or scrambled to you, well, just be glad you aren’t actually inside my head.

Så, farvel for now!