The Problem With Exchange Blogging

There is an intrinsic problem with exchange student blogs.  This is something I’ve witnessed with my exchange friends in the past, and my very own blog as well.  See, the main problem with blogging as an exchange student is that you’re blogging about how different your host country is.  All the little quirks and differences, perhaps the thoughts, feelings, and experiences that make you think of home.  But at the end of the day, almost every blog made to capture the essence of exchange is one that attempts to do so by contrasting an old life, and a new life.

And that of course isn’t the real problem; we watch documentaries and read news from far away lands to experience just that, contrast.  The first few months of a blog are always the most interesting, you can read raw thoughts on a new country, read about experiences you couldn’t hope to have back home, and live vicariously through the author as they go about their new life.  But what happens when a new life just becomes your daily life?  This is the intrinsic problem I mentioned before; eventually the contrast you were once able to identify becomes normal.

Yesterday I marked the fourth month living in Denmark.  Three months prior I could’ve written about contrast until my keyboard fell apart.  But now, everything just seems so normal.  I remember one of my earlier blog posts, it was about the rain and weather in Denmark.  The mere fact that it rained 6 out of 7 days of the week was so foreign to me.  But now? Now I’ve just accepted that Denmark is only suitable for amphibians and vikings.

All of this made me think; as an exchange student, I’ll tell people mundane things about life in Canada that just shocks them.  For instance, snow days.  Days where you don’t go to school because there’s simply too much snow on the roads; that’s just a regular facet of Canadian life.  But, to the Danes it’s incredible, especially when I tell them we get 10-15 of them per year.  This of course is just one example of “normal life”.  But, now I have two “normals” and it’s interesting to reflect on which of the two normals will win over in my mind.

Perhaps you may live a life that would be unimaginable to someone else.  It’s hard to imagine someone eagerly wishing to live vicariously through you in your own life, but yet it’s easy to become excited when you read, watch, or experience the life of another.  Is this because your life is merely uninteresting or normal? In my experience, no.

The more “normals” I experience, the more I realise how extraordinary normal can be.

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I’m Back.

It’s been a while since my last post, I think over a month to be honest.  A lot of stuff has been going on so I’ve been busy a lot!

Since my last post I’ve travelled to Western Europe when I visited Amsterdam with my school, I celebrated my 3 month anniversary since coming to Denmark, I changed classes in school, and I moved to my second host family.

Going to Amsterdam was phenomenal.  As you may know, I love large cities. My favourite place on earth is Manhattan; so, finally getting travelling outside of rural Denmark was fantastic.  Amsterdam was unlike any city I’ve been to before.  I was struck by just how quiet the city was at night.  I’d walk along the canals in the cool autumn air and could just quietly listen to the city.  Three months ago I was still in North America, never travelled to Europe, and now I’m sitting on a bench by the Canal enjoying one of Europes finest cities.

New York is a City to Dream in, but Perhaps Amsterdam is a City I Could Live in.

While I love Manhattan in all aspects, I find myself living Amsterdam in a different way.  Sure, there isn’t a constant 24/7 hustle and bustle, but perhaps that’s a good thing.  Seeing the sights in Amsterdam, the canals, the leaning houses, and the Dutch culture, it was amazing.  Oh, and I had the opportunity to see an old friend from Canada on Canadian thanksgiving.  Suffice to say, I had a great time.  I think Amsterdam is my #2 city of choice to live in.

Three months is a long time to be away from home.  No parents, no home, no Canadian comfort food (well, I brought maple syrup with me, but that’s besides the point) and no familiarity.  This exchange was a leap before you look kind of affair.  It’s been fantastic for me in more ways than one.  For instance, prior to leaving Canada, I was defined by certain characteristics.  Maybe I was that “smart guy”, or the “cocky guy”, but since coming to a country where I’m unable to express either of those things through language I’ve been forced to adapt and try to flesh out other parts of who I am.  It’s been good for me to expand upon different parts of my character.

Today is my 100th day in Denmark.  300 days of Denmark only has 200 days left…  Chronophobia is the persistent and irrational fear of the passing of time.  I can definitely relate to that fear.  Sometimes I lay awake at night and think about all the people I meet here, the things I do, and the places I go— it’s all temporary.  Sure, the memories will exist for the rest of my life, but in all honesty nothing has given me more profound sadness than remembering my old life.  I don’t miss home, I miss the memories.  And perhaps someday I’ll miss the memories of my Scandinavian home.  That thought constantly runs through my head, and the fact that I can’t do anything to stop the passing of time really messes with me.  All I can do is try to ensure that I don’t waste any time.

This year is approximately 5.26% of my life.  But if I play my cards right the memories will account for a much higher percentage.

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Canada Is Weird.

Canada and Denmark inhabit disparate worlds.  Such is to be expected on an exchange; totally different cultures and beliefs.  And most of the time I am able to adequately explain my culture to the unfamiliar Danes.  “why do you drive everywhere? Why can’t you take the bus?”  Well, Canada is massive.  Public transport isn’t feasible for most of the country. “You’re from Canada, why don’t you speak French?”  For the same reason you don’t.  I live just as far from French Canada as you do from French Europe.

But there is one aspect of Canada I cannot defend or explain to a Dane.  And that aspect is our hybrid measurement system…

See, Canada is a metric nation, for all intents and purposes we are like most other nations.  And perhaps I don’t speak for all of Canada, but where I live, we use metric and imperial in a 50/50 split.  If you asked me how tall the CN Tower in Toronto is I could tell you in meters.  If you asked the cruising altitude of an airplane I’d tell you in feet. If you inquired how tall I am I’d reply with feet and inches in a heartbeat.  Want me to cook dinner? Sure, the water boils at 100 Celsius but the oven will be set to 350 Fahrenheit and I’ll certainly be measuring my ingredients with tablespoons and cups.  Want to ask a Canadian the temperature? You’ll get it in Celsius.  But, ask a Canadian how much they weigh and you’ll get it in pounds.  I’ll pump my gas and measure it with litres, but when I buy a coke it’s in a 16 ounce bottle (591mL).  Making things even weirder, when asking a Canadian how far away a city/town is, you’re likely to get a response in minutes and hours, not kilometres.

Why do we do all this? Why don’t we pick a system and commit to it? Who knows, maybe we’re just a little stubborn 😉

I Haven’t forgotten about you

It’s been a while.  But I promise I haven’t forgotten about you or this blog.  I’ve just been really busy recently.  So, perhaps there will be a flurry of blog posts in the coming days.

However, this post will be rather short.

As I approach the one month mark, the idea of Canada is becoming an increasingly difficult thing to wrap my head around.  It feels like I’ve always lived here in Denmark despite it being less than 30 days since I arrived.  Anyway, It’s the little things that remind me of home sometimes.  Like hearing an American accent on the television.  Or seeing the Danish flag draped in a way that it almost looks like the Canadian one.  Or even just someone asking me where I’m from and why my accent sounds so funny. Small things mean the world to an exchange student I suppose.  As a result, the big things mean even more really.  For instance, my parents shipped me a care package recently with a plethora of Canadian/America goodies in it.  I can tell you, every North American takes peanut butter for granted.  Every one of them.

Despite my mind finding it’s way home more often than not, I still find it difficult to miss my homeland.  One must venture away from the known so they can find what “home” actually means.

Talking to other exchange students; they all say the miss the feeling of being home.  But for me it’s different.  Perhaps I always feel at home, wherever I am.  Or, I have never felt at home and must keep searching for it.  Either way, eventually I’ll know.

I’ll write soon, I promise.

It’s Always Rainy in Ejstrupholm

I have been in Denmark for nearly a week now.  Today was my first day without rain.

The idea of a cloudless day seems so far away to me now.  Wherever I go in Denmark, no more than 25% of the sky is blue.  The rest is a bleak grey.  They say it rains almost 180 days a year in Denmark.  Every morning I wake up to the sound of 1000 year old church bells, and the light drizzle of rain.  Each morning I must wear my jacket outside because the temperature never exceeds 15 degrees.  And every night I struggle to understand the nightmare language that is danish.

But, despite it all, I am so, so happy to be here.  Thank you Denmark.

Never change Denmark, never change.

 

Back to School Already

Upon my arrival in Denmark, on my way home from the airport, I sheepishly asked “Hvornår skole begynder?” (When does school start?), My youth exchange officer, Niels, quickly replied “Wednesday”. After a second or two of silence, I clarified: “This Wednesday? like, two days from now?”. “Ja” said Niels.

Well, today is Wednesday. My first day of Danish school. I emphasise the “danish” part, because all my classes are in danish. I was told, before I came to school, that because I was a Førsteårsstudent (first year student) the other students would sing and jeer at me. They would come up to me and throw green paint on me and cover me in green glitter. The tradition behind this is because, for some reason, first year students are referred to as “Frogs”. Well, fortunately, and almost unfortunately, I was late to class my first day (I live 20 kilometers away from my school after all, don’t blame me) thus, I missed the hazing.

At first I was uncertain about my place in the school, my school has 820 students, so it is much larger than any school I have attended before. Before I came to Denmark I was warned “The Scandinavians are a very reserved people. Making friends will be incredibly difficult and my take you several months.” However, within 30 minutes I was able to talk to people and make friends. Thankfully, one of my friends speaks English very well and can understand my Danish. When I walked in the front doors this morning, I had zero danish friends, by the time the day ended I had many.

In Denmark I will have many more, and far more challenging courses. My course load is as follows:

  • Music
  • Gym Class
  • Etymology 1
  • Etymology 2
  • Danish Studies
  • Spanish Class
  • English Class (Easy A+)
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Math
  • Social Studies

As if that wasn’t hard enough on it’s own, every one of my classes (Except for English) is in Danish. Danish physics, Danish chemistry, Danish Spanish!

Wish me luck. I’ll need it.