Living in two different worlds

Jasmin Lykke, Co-Online Editor

THE air is thick and cold from the massive use of air conditioning, the American slang blends in together with the noises of lockers slamming. I am overwhelmed with confusion. I don’t know where my class is, what class it is or how to get there. These were my first days of school, but also some of my first days of living in America. Where I come from, it couldn’t be more different.

I am an exchange student from Esbjerg, Denmark, and for the next year, I will be living as a real American high school student. I live with my host family here in Richmond and I attend school as a senior. The exchange has been hard; adjusting to the cultural difference, the language, and my new life.

My last school in Esbjerg, Denmark is a common example of a Danish school, it is small with about 500 students, ages 6 to 17 years old, where there are two classes of 22 students in each grade.

Our school system is very different, going to school for ten years, ten grades and an extra for former graduates. A normal school day in Denmark would be starting in class at 8 a.m., when the teacher would come into our class. The periods are 45 minutes, and after every other period, there is a 30-minute break, except for the third, which is 10 minutes. You stay in the assigned classroom all year, and for every period the teachers switch between classrooms. The schedules are decided by the Danish government and the same nationally, but there are different combinations of subjects every day.

The schools don’t have cafeterias, but the breaks give you the opportunity to leave the school. The day ends at 3:30 p.m. and schools don’t offer any sports or activities, you have to join private clubs instead.

This is almost the complete opposite of the American school system, but there are benefits for both.

I found that American schooling is tough at the start because I was used to all the breaks and staying in the classroom. Although it is beneficial to stay and avoid the stress of getting to class, the changing of classrooms is refreshing. I believe choosing your own schedule is something Denmark could also learn from.

I have been a student at RHS for a few weeks now and I am so thankful for all the open and friendly people I have met. I’m almost overwhelmed with how welcoming people have been, being interested in me and my culture. People have included me in conversations and taught me so much about the U.S. and what it is like to be an American.

But the difference between my life in Denmark and my life in America isn’t just the schooling.

In Denmark, I lived in the city apartment, a seven minutes bicycle ride of or a 15 minute walk of away from everything. On the streets of my city, I would always see someone I knew. Here, I have to get a ride from my host parents or a friend to get anywhere. If I would walk down the street here, everyone would be strangers.

A huge difference is the tax system. Denmark is the country with the sixth highest tax rate on an average of 55.8%, where the U.S. barely makes it into top 30th highest tax rate on an average of 37%. The tax on buying a new car is at 150%, and every purchase is 30%. This must seem outrageous, but it has its benefits. All the people living in Denmark have access to free education and financial support. When I go to Denmark’s form of college, I can go for free and get paid between $200-900 a month depending on my parents financial status and my living situation. If I was going to college here in the U.S., it would probably make me bankrupt, or leave me with a large debt.

In Denmark, finding a career to follow gave me a hard time, that’s why I decided to sign up for the military for a week. That was one of the greatest experiences of my life, which might end up being my future. I get the idea that the U.S. encourages students to dream big and work to reach those dreams, whereas Denmark focuses on having as many opportunities open and being realistic.

At this point, I have almost figured out a way to and from classes or when to go to my locker. I almost understand what people are talking about in the different classes, except math, it doesn’t make sense to me yet. There are so many things I look forward to in America; the sporting events, the dances, the holidays, school events and, of course, graduation. At my old school, we didn’t have sporting events, dances or any special ceremony at graduation.

While I love Denmark, I am very excited for my upcoming opportunities in America and my new high school experience.