One of the benefits of having a father who has traveled around a little bit is the stories. Unfortunately, I haven't received quite as many of them as I have hoped during my time abroad, so my dad unknowingly gave me an excellent Easter present when he sent me one recently. Many years ago, my dad was in a country with a very low percent of Christians: Senegal. Denmark is a country that is largely culturally Christian, but is not widely religious and, while I know a lot of nonreligious people here, my dad got to know lots of Muslims.
It was approximately one year ago that I found out that I was going to a little town called Vojens in Denmark, and would be attending school in Haderslev. The morning I got the email from my counselor in Denmark, I excitedly Googled the town and found out that Vojens was known for motocross and ice hockey. The remaining months flew by, and there wasn't a day where I wasn't overflowing with anticipation. Eight months ago, I flew to Denmark and I have loved it ever since.
If yer from Minnesota, you betcha ya know about the Scandinavian origin of the Lutheran church and the special culture that goes with it, involving being shy and bringing jello salad to potlucks.
I spent sixteen years of my life in the Detroit Lakes and Frazee area. I wouldn't say I had my myself thoroughly established there--I always intended to move away--but I would say that I had a life there. Yet, seven months ago, I flew away from all of that to a host family who I had Skyped with twice and a vague knowledge of fellow Rotary exchange students from Facebook.
I am assuming that a lot of my readers know the story of the Good Samaritan. I've always wondered what it means for me in my own life, but I hadn't really gotten a good idea until now. It turns out that this story, once a mystery to me when I was young, is now very applicable for the current state of the world. The story, which can be found in Luke 10:25-37, is a parable told by Jesus on how to inherit eternal life. A man is robbed, beaten, and left half-dead by robbers on his journey. A priest and a church figure walk by the man, but simply go to the other side of the road.
If you have ever read any of my articles before, you can probably tell that I am quite particular with how I phrase things. Now, in another country, I am learning that communication can be a bit more complicated when you are with people who aren't native speakers of English, despite the fact that most Danes speak perfect English. My Danish is now to the point where I can understand most of what people say in conversations, and have a normal conversation with someone if they speak a bit slower.
There are some experiences that give people stereotypes or affect how others view them. In the U.S., those lines were clearly defined to me. However, in this different culture, I have started to realize that it's less black and white and based more on other factors than society's standards.
I am used to a Christmas of snow activities, activities through my local church, and special time with just my parents on Christmas day. I love skiing, being involved with the church, and eating our family's traditional Christmas food. Now, though, is my time to tell you all about Dansk Jul.
We can't always control our circumstances, but we can always hope, and God will guide us down the right path if we let Him. It might turn out different than expected, and it's hard to see this through the chaos. Despite this, I am glad to see how it has worked in my life and excited to see where it brings me next.
One of the things I have learned about being on exchange is cultural identity. I have met people with all sorts of cultural identities and found out more about my own one. Right now, I represent my country anytime it is figured out that I am an exchange student. Despite representing my country, I definitely don't feel like the typical American, or like I really am a fair representative of my hometown.