By Aly, a 2014-2015 outbound student,
on exchange in Denmark. 
Aly is sponsored by the Oshkosh Southwest Rotary Club.
Submitted by Dennis Swetlik, District 6270 Outbound Coordinator     


     January of 2014 year was the longest month of my life.  I spent the first 25 days racing to the phone every time it rang, in the hopes that, this time, it would be Rotary calling to tell me where my exchange year was going to be spent.  When the call finally came, and I found out I was going to Denmark, the first thing I said was, “where is that?”  After a quick search in google, I had my answer, and my excitement grew exponentially.  
 In the months leading up to my departure, I began researching Denmark.  I wanted to know as much as possible about the foreign country that would soon not be so foreign.  I researched the food, the climate, and the main attractions: anything I could find was fair game.  Through all of this, I constantly reminded myself not to get too high of expectations, in case they weren’t met.  I arrived in Denmark expecting to ride my bike everywhere and to eat lots of potatoes.  Other than that, I had remained fairly open to the possibilities of what this year would bring with it.
     My first full day in Denmark, I was taken on a bike tour of my entire city.  Granted, it’s not that big, but it was the most biking I had done in years.  My host family was very amused when, the next day, I could barely walk I was so sore.  Rain does not stop the Danes from biking, and I bike to and from school every day, regardless of the weather.  As for the food, I soon found out that bread, and not potatoes, is the staple Danish food. 
                Aside from the biking and the food, my biggest expectation for this year was that it was going to be a walk in the park.  I assumed that I would board the airplane, land in a foreign country, and immediately be perfectly okay.  I didn’t think I would ever be homesick, or that there would be times that I ached for a simple hug from my parents.  I didn’t think there would be times when I felt so alone.  I certainly didn’t think there would be times when I would spend hours doing things that I could accomplish in minutes back home, or times when I would get stranded at train stations because, heaven forbid, I got on the wrong train. 
                With all of this said, I also didn’t think that I would make the best friends I’ve ever had in my life.  I didn’t think I would meet people who impacted my life as much as they already have.  I didn’t realize that I would be able to feel this happy in a country that has gone from being completely foreign, to being a place I can now call my home.  I didn’t realize that in three months, I would go from being shown around, to being the one who shows other people around.  I certainly didn’t think that I would change as much as I already have, or that I would learn as much as I have about myself.  I didn’t realize how wonderful it feels to become a part of another culture, and to travel to countries that I used to only dream about visiting.
                The past three months have been three months filled with memories, new experiences, and new people.  Denmark has quickly changed from a country I knew nothing about to a country that I can now call home.  I’ve become accustomed to riding trains instead of driving.  I no longer expect the peanut butter to taste like the stuff we have in America.  I finally understand the Danish money system.  I no longer think Danish sounds like gibberish: I can actually pick out a few words here and there.  I’ve already come leaps and bounds from where I started, and I still have months ahead of me to discover more of what this lovely country has to offer.
     Exchange is the single greatest thing a person can choose to do, and it has opened my eyes to a world that I never knew existed.  I have had the privilege to see more of the world in a few short months than some people do in their lifetime, and I am grateful beyond words that Rotary has given me this opportunity.  Choosing to fill out the painstakingly long application a year ago was the best decision I have ever made, and I am reminded of that daily, when I wake up here in the happiest country on earth.