Rotary Intro Camp
Dear Reader: I vow to never write something this long again. If you read this whole post, you must really love me, and I’d recommend that you find somewhere comfortable to sit before you read it. 🙂
I had no idea that intro camp would be such a fun and memorable experience.
Everything started on the first sunday when I was dropped off at the train station. When I had to get off, I had no idea what I was supposed to do to get onto the next train. Luckily, a really nice Dane took me all of the way to my next train and told me everything I needed to know so that I could get to my destination. I was really surprised that she would go out of her way just to take me to my train without me even asking, and it was really cool to know that people like her are in Denmark.
I entered my second train with a three hour ride ahead of me. I was directed to my seat and it turns out that the whole train car was filled with Rotary foreign exchange students! Among the ones already on the train were Britney and Brooklyn, two Canadians who I hadn’t met. Of course at that point I didn’t know that they would become some of my closest friends that I met at the intro camp, but I find it really cool that it’s the fact we met each other on the train that made us hang out later. It was kind of like Ron and Harry becoming friends on the Hogwarts train.
Personally, my favorite part of the long train ride was when we showed each other our pins on our Rotary Jackets. We almost died of laughter when the girl from Venezula mixed up the words “pins” and “penises” asked how many penises we had. Moments like those are priceless.
Once our train arrived at the station, I was reunited with my friend Taylor from Alaska and we went on the bus from Randers to Hjerringbro. When I arrived at the school where the intro camp was held, Nørgaards Højskole, I was greeted with hugs from lots of friends I had made previously at Rotary meetings. It was nice to see my fellow Wisconsinites, such as Julian, Sami, and Shelby!
It’s so cool to see so many foreign exchange students from around the world all in one area, and even though I only knew a few of them at the beginning, I knew that I would be close with a lot of them by the time I left the week long intro camp. There were about 20 Americans and 10 Canadians, but everyone spoke English since it was the only common language we knew. It didn’t take long to realize that there were a lot of Brazilians, but I had no idea how many of them there were. Overall, there were about 140 Rotary foreign exchange students staying in Denmark, and 85 were from Brazil. Yes, that’s right, over half of the people at the intro camp were from Brazil…..you can imagine how crazy the intro camp parties were.
Shortly after my arrival, I was able to get my key to my room and found out that Julian had the room next to mine, so we both thought it’d be possible to get one of our roommates to switch. Even though it was quite possible that Julian and I being roomies could result in the world being set on fire due to our combined awesomeness, we went for it anyways.
After a speech welcoming us into the intro camp, we were divided into the classes we’d be taught Danish with. Other than Shelby(shark), most of my friends were sorted into different classes, but it wasn’t a problem since all foreign exchange students are awesome. We started off with some simple Danish learning.
Dinner came afterwards, and it was definitely delicious. The cooks successfully mixed the Danish foods that I knew and loved with the American food I missed, making me more than full every meal. It was a great opportunity to meet new people at the meal times.
The next 6 days followed a similar schedule, so I’ll just put it below.
8.45-9.00: Morning assembly in the Lecture Hall
9.15-12.00: Danish lessons
12.00-13.30: Lunch and relaxation
13.30-16.30: Danish lessons
19.45-21.00: Evening activity
From what I’d heard from previous foreign exchange students, the intro camp hardly helped with Danish, which was definitely the case for most of the people this year. I was fortunate enough to get the best Danish teacher, Iben, and everything she taught us helped me immensely. The main thing we focused on was grammar: et, en, personal pronouns, etc. Even though vocabulary is essential when learning a language, Iben taught my class the basic foundation of Danish. My teacher was also able to make class fun while keeping order in the classroom. She deserves a medal for achieving both of those things, because 6 hours of Danish lessons each day could have easily gotten boring.
“Surprise in the Gym”
When a teacher says “We’ll have a surprise in the gym later, so get on your dancing shoes,” you automatically guess that the surprise is going to be something lame like square-dancing, or maybe Just dance on the wii.
This surprise started out just as lame as I had pictured it, where we’d copy what the teacher did with clapping rhythms and other things that were too lame to even mention. After about 15 minutes of lame, the teacher announced that our real surprise was ready…..we were getting a private concert from the band Mettro! This band won something that was “like the Danish X-Factor, but for people who can actually sing,” and is apparently on the brink of being internationally known, so it was really cool to hear, meet, and get signatures from what may be the next big Danish band.
Seeing the Queen
Because the city of Hjerringbro was having its 150th birthday, the Queen of Denmark came to walk through the streets, and we were able to go and see her up close! This is a pretty big deal, considering a lot of Danes haven’t even seen her, and we got to see her during our third week in the country! All 140 foreign exchange students lined up on the streets, waving our flags and patiently(hahaha) waiting for her to come. Ironically, in the distance we could hear the song “We are the Champions” by Queen playing in the background. Queen. Hahaha. It’s possible that I’m the only one who finds that funny. While we waited, we broke out into song, singing the American National anthem, and all the Danes across the street took pictures of our foreign-ness. One of my friends even got interviewed for the Danish news! Anyways, after many false alarms of, “Is that the queen?!?” she finally came with other members of the Royal family, and I was even able to get a decent picture!
On our third night, we had a bonfire. Britney, Lucas, Brooklyn, and I all decided to skip the first few minutes of it and jam out by the piano the main room. It was a great bonding experience for the four of us, and they’ve become some of my closest Rotary friends. The few minutes we skipped somehow turned into 40 (fantastic) minutes, and the Rotary mentors had to come fetch us. At the actual bonfire, we took a lot of pictures with our flags and roasted bread on sticks! It took forever to actually turn the bread dough into edible bread, so I gave up half way through and just ate the parts that looked good.
For those who don’t know, all foreign exchange students that go with Rotary have a blazer of a certain color (USA has navy, Canada has red, etc.) and you exchange pins with other Rotary students so that you can fill your jacket with a pin representing your country with one that represents their country. It’s a really cool idea, because each pin represents a friend that you’ve made on exchange, and you know that you’ve done well if your jacket is completely full.
It was interesting to see how many pins that people had gained before even arriving in Denmark. The Americans (And a few Canadians) who attended the Grand Rapids conference had a lot of pins, and even though I had missed most of the pin exchange, I had still managed to get a lot. Sami and Julian had huge amounts of pins on theirs, which shocked the Canadians and Alaskans who only had a few pins. My pin, the one with my face on it, was one of the most couvetted ones, and everyone tried to find me to get one! When I was handing them out at the first assembly, I practically started a riot as people asked me for my pins, and I started just throwing them into the crowd, hoping I wouldn’t take out an eye. A common phrase that I used when exchanging pins was, “Here’s my face on a pin. Enjoy!” While most people thought it was cool, it also creeped a few people out, which was even cooler! Keep in mind that most people at intro camp thought I looked exactly like Justin Bieber, so having my face on a pin was cool. Personally I think I look nothing like him, but apparently the rest of the world disagrees with me. Oh well.
Sightseeing in Aarhus
Even though it was over an hour away, I got to sightsee in Aarhus for the first time! On the bus ride there, I got to sit by Brooklyn, so needless to say it was a pretty crazy awesome bus ride. Once we got there, we split up into two groups and got our tickets to go into Aros, the Modern art museum. This is definitely the coolest art museum I’ve went into for many reasons. First of all, the museum itself is modeled after the piece of literature called “Dante’s Inferno,” which described the different levels of hell. The basement was dark with 9 sections (representing hell), the middle floors represented earth, and the top floor represented heaven with the circular rainbow. I’ve been waiting to visit the rainbow since I found pictures of it while researching the country on the first night I found out I was going to Denmark! It was just as beautiful in person, and I took far too many pictures of it. Even after we left, I came back into the museum to take more pictures.
We were also able to see the piece of art called “The Boy” which was a huge sculpture of….you guessed it….a girl! Just kidding, it was a boy. The sculpture itself was extremely realistic, and it was huge: the eyes were the size of footballs! It was fun to pose by it and try to mimic his position, which I’ve heard is very hard to duplicate.
In the basement, we saw a form of modern art that I actually found to be extremely interesting. It had a video projected on the wall that showed the cycle of a day, but the room you were in was part of the art as well. The furniture in the room was featured in the video, and the room you were in changed as the video’s time of day changed. It’s hard to explain, but I feel that everyone should get the opportunity to go to the art museum to see everything with their own eyes.
We also got to see an abstract sculpture filled with light that represented the soul. The cool thing about this sculpture was that it was somehow connected with a live video of space, and we were lucky enough to see a star die, which filled the whole sculpture with crazy light.
After a few other exhibits, we were able to have about 2 hours of freetime. When we split up further, I went with some of my fellow Americans that I had met at the camp: Hannah, Devin, and Ariana. Other people had big ambitions for their two hours, but we just wanted to explore the beautiful city of Aarhus and see where it took us. We ended up eating at a cheap restraunt with giant pizzas, and then going to an ice cream shop where we had the most delicious ice cream ever (I had terra mizu flavor!) We found ourselves at an H&M, Jack and Jones, a toy store, and lots of other stores that we found interesting.
Even though we had planned to see the old church, it was funny that we ended up there by accident. My camera died while we were there, but I was still able to get some good pictures! The four of us ended up releasing so much swag upon Aarhus.
Overall, my week at intro camp may have been one of the best weeks of my life. It was so sad to say goodbye to the people I’d become so close with during the short week. Even though I had missed my Danish home, it didn’t take me until after arriving home to realize how much I was going to miss the crazy foreigners I’d met. I met so many amazing people, and I hope that someday I can visit some of them in their home country.