“Copenhagen feels like a second home and everyone is so welcoming”
Indeed, this is a sentiment shared by many Project Rousseau students who have been fortunate enough to be treated to the warm welcome of our longest standing partner school, Rysensteen Gymnasium in Copenhagen. This year, our fourth visit, was no different and the group had a wonderful stay in Copenhagen learning a great deal about Danish society and history whilst making a number of new friends in the process.
Arriving over the weekend meant the students had the opportunity to explore the city and to get to know their hosts. Jet lag soon went out of the window and, despite this being the first trip outside of the U.S.A. for the majority of the group, the Project Rousseau students soon acclimatized to their new surroundings.
Monday soon rolled around and both Rysensteen and Project Rousseau students were back in class. For the Project Rousseau students the concept of calling teachers by their first name, using laptops in class and being allowed to work freely in groups was extremely novel and exciting. That said, all still worked extremely hard in class and contributed to the lively classroom discussions. Thanks to Rysensteen’s special Global Citizenship Program the topics covered in class were also particularly relevant to the visit of the U.S. students, ranging from the Harlem Renaissance to using social media in a global context. The Rysensteen students also complemented their U.S. History studies by asking Project Rousseau students which historical events they felt were the most influential in shaping the country; the answers offered were very different to those of the Danish students textbooks!
Outside of class the students continued to learn a great deal. This included visiting the Cathedral and Viking Ship Museum at Roskilde to appreciate the history of Denmark. We also spent a day at Louisiana including a fantastic tour of William Kentridge’s new exhibition their focusing on humanity and perceptions of time. Throughout the tour the students offered insightful comments on what they were seeing which was heavily based on apartheid in South Africa.
In Copenhagen we focused on the local history in the Middle Ages and this was a somewhat stark contrast to what the students experienced during our short trip to Berlin whilst in Europe. Here, our students gained a rapid but in-depth glimpse into life both during World War II and in the years that followed as Berlin became a divided city. In just three days the students visited over eight museums and monuments piecing together the recent history of the city with great maturity.
Upon our return to Copenhagen we managed to gain a theoretical understanding of our insights into Danish culture by attending Morten Warmind’s class “Aspects and Contexts of Danish Society” at the University of Copenhagen. Undeterred by being the youngest in the class Project Rousseau students contributed greatly to the class sharing their experiences from their host families. Of particular note in the class was the importance of evening meals to Danish families and our students all commented how they too had experienced this. Indeed, many of our students noted how much they enjoyed these meals and how much they had learned from their host parents over dinner.
When asked on the last day for feedback on the trip a common theme was “Can we spend more time with each other without scheduled activities please?!”. From family meals together to many evenings spent playing board games at the Absalon community center our students, clearly, all of the students had a wonderful time with their hosts and their families. And, once again we are extremely grateful to the Rysensteen students, their families and their teachers for welcoming us with such warmth and hospitality.