Dane-ger: Culture Shock Ahead!
by Helena Goldstein Wendelboe'17
As the world grows smaller, and cultures come together, Bedford High School has decided to take it to the next level: to host two sets of international students for a week every year. Recently, a few Danish exchange students came to spend a few days at our school.
Bedford High School is a school with two sisters: Grenaa Gymnasium in Denmark, and IES Núñez de Arce in Spain. From the 7th-9th of March, danes flooded the halls of Bedford. Each student living with a Bedford student to truly experience the American way, if only for a few days.
Kyra Smith is a Bedford student who hosted a Danish student. She had no knowledge of Denmark before hosting, but in the end, she ended up learning a lot. ”It was amazing,” said Kyra, when asked about hosting for a few days. “You form a really close bond with the student.” She says that she would definitely want to host another student, and would love to be an exchange student herself.
While the Danish students are teenagers just like their Bedford counterpart, it was clear to Kyra that there were a few differences. She especially liked their reactions to American things, food in particular. She, and many others, think it’s good for the school to open up in this way. “It broadens the very close circle of knowledge,” she said.
In the United States, it is far more common to do a year abroad in college rather than in high school, while in many European countries, it’s fairly common to take a year out of your school career to dive into a new culture. Michael Giraldi, a junior at Bedford High School, is the first student in the history of the school to do a year abroad. He is in Sweden in a town near Stockholm.
Michael Giraldi has a passion for exploration and travel. His father was a pilot, and through this, he got to experience the world. His mother first proposed the idea in the fall of 2014, and the idea slowly grew on him. “I love traveling, speaking different languages, and experiencing new cultures,” he said.
When it comes to the cross Atlantic experiences, everyone gets involved, especially the teachers. Mrs. Orrego is going on the intersession trip to Denmark for her second year running. As a Spanish teacher, she had never looked into other cultures than the Spanish speaking ones, but when she hosted a Danish teacher 3 years ago, she was inspired to go learn about Denmark first hand.
“I knew nothing about Denmark,” she admitted, but after getting introduced those three years ago, she started reading books about the Danish culture and history. She says she enjoys many aspects of the Danish culture, including the relaxed nature of the people and the incorporation of the outdoors into regular school activities in the early years.
Mrs. Orrego says she originally thought the students would be substantially different from the Bedford students, but when she met them, she changed her mind. “In the end, they are teenagers just the same,” she said, “They are full of hopes and dreams just like American teenagers are.”
As humans, we often divide ourselves and put barriers between people, but in the end, we are all just human. Countless people explore the world and broaden their horizons every single day, no matter the age. So while it is human nature to fight, it is also human nature to learn.