Being an Introvert vs. Being an Extrovert

Being an Introvert vs. Being an Extrovert

There are regular conversations on social media about differences between introverts and extroverts, and I thought it would be interesting to address these differences as they may relate to being a foreign exchange student. When you’re an exchange student you have no choice but to deal with many new people, and social situations that can be more awkward than you ever imagined. Sometimes it’s far easier than it sounds to handle but other times it can be a lot to take in. The fact of whether you are an extrovert or an introvert can very easily play into how you handle these situations. Both have their advantages.

You don’t necessarily have to be completely one or the other, you can be somewhere in between and that’s what I consider myself. I lean more towards being an introvert, however, I am still more social than someone who is completely introverted. It also depends on the situation I am in. If I am surrounded by completely new people it is hard for me to go around and shake hands and it takes time for me to adjust to the environment socially. Once I am done adjusting I am easily able to make new friends and meet new people.

Extroverted people will be a lot more outgoing socially and will always try to keep conversation by telling stories, asking questions, or talking about recent events. Introverts are much quieter however they are fantastic at listening and once you know them well they will become more outgoing towards you. Both have the need to be social but seek it out in different ways and with different numbers of people. Extroverts can easily introduce themselves to new people while introverts wait patiently for people to introduce themselves and say hello. When it comes to being an introvert down time is a lot easier since you’re used to not needing to be around people all the time. Extroverts prefer to be surrounded by people all the time which can make down time difficult when all their friends are occupied.

As an exchange student I can see how people would gladly be more in favor of extroverts going on exchange so that they may be able to make more friends, meet new people, and possibly learn the language faster. As an introvert I can say that if you try hard enough you can do all those things just as well because I have already more friends here than I could have imagined and am starting to grasp the language. The fact of whether or not you’re an introvert does not hold you back from what you should achieve on exchange.

Similarities Between Denmark and The United States

Similarities Between Denmark and The United States

I have been focusing this blog so much on how my home country and Denmark are different. That this week I decided to change it up a bit. Things in Denmark can also be extremely similar and it is something I take comfort in.

Social Life Among Teenagers

If you look past the fact that legally teens here can smoke and drink then they aren’t too different. There are some who work hard in the classroom and are willing to work for good grades as well as those who could care less and go out partying every weekend. You have your jocks as well, and gym rats who constantly go to the gym even though their biceps are already massive. This is something that makes school and social life very easy since I already got along well with a majority of those groups back home.

The Further South You Are The More Weird People Can Be

This isn’t exactly something I’ve noticed but was brought to my attention by others. People in the south tend to be more conservative than most(even though in Denmark if you are conservative it’s not nearly how Americans perceive being conservative). There is also a slight difference in accent as well when they speak Danish. This was pointed out to me by a couple of exchange students who stayed with me this weekend, and who also had a better grasp of the language and said there was somewhat of a difference. We also have a couple words that we have that if you said a little further north they would think you were some sort of idiot. I realized this when I was walking around Odense, which is further north than my city, I was saying “mojn”(a way to greet people or say goodbye like saying “aloha” or “howdy”) to people I walked by and they would give me weird looks.

Kindness Among Strangers

I realize that in a lot of places in The United States you won’t always meet strangers whom are as kind as they are in my hometown. Here it is similar to what I’m used to. People are very willing to have brief conversations and help with directions. I have talked to many strangers here and it is something that helps me practice my Danish a bit.

These are all things that very much help me feel right at home. I’ve also found a Mcdonald’s in my city and although it’s two kilometers away it still tastes the same as it does back home.

Traveling With Children: Good or Bad Idea?

Traveling With Children: Good or Bad Idea?

Normally with this blog I come up with a few topics I could write about throughout the course of the week and then in the weekend I pick one. This was a tough week for coming up with topics. I could not think of any worth reading about. Later in the week, a topic presented itself to me. My mother sent me an opinionated article about why you should never travel with children.

The article stated that it is a huge waste of money, time, and effort to take children abroad with you.  I strongly disagree. I can very easily state why and have many personal experiences and a few statements from people who were with me in those experiences to back up my own.

Here is that article:

I am 17 years old and I have traveled internationally more than most people I know. My traveling started at a very young age, in 2001, when I was 18 months old and I went with my parents and grandparents to Ireland, sadly this is a trip that I do not remember at all. In 2011 I had just turned 12 and my brother was 8 we went on a huge three week trip all over Europe to Finland, Estonia, Germany, Holland and Belgium. The next year, my parents decided to check out an organization in Guatemala that helped work with poor farmers to teach them to get more food and profit from their crops. This year my parents got the opportunity to go to Seoul, South Korea for the Rotary International Conference and took my 13 year old brother and I along. Finally, although I will not be using this in any of my arguments, I am currently on an exchange year in Denmark. That is my entire international traveling history so you can see where my opinion comes from.

I admit, I believe it is a lot better to travel with a teenager because they tend to know when not to complain or have a better sense in making use of opportunities than kids do, not to mention they also will be able to remember more from the trip. However, every child is different. I am told that as a 12 year old I was easy to travel with and that even after traveling from place to place every day I was still thrilled to see new things. And I cannot recall a lot of that trip but I was smart enough to keep a daily journal to record all of my experiences in. Traveling as a child gets you far more accustomed to traveling later in your life. Since I have done so much traveling it is easy for me to keep my mind open to new traditions in cultures I have never experienced and I almost have the procedure of going through an airport completely memorized.

To share my experiences, I have asked my family a couple questions about when we traveled:

Can you share a memory from when we were in Europe that you remember to this day?

“When we were in Amsterdam I remember sitting at a restaurant that was beautiful and it was right next to a canal. We were spending our time talking to each other and I remember seeing horses with carriages going by and boats in the canal. Looking back on it now it was amazing to have that experience and how insane it was to be so close to something as historic and symbolic as Anne Frank’s house.” -Colin (my brother,14 years old now, 8 at the time of the trip)

What was it like to go abroad with an 18 month old baby? Were you worried?

“On the trip to Ireland, we had some worries about traveling with a baby, but we made plans to keep you occupied on the plane, and keep you on as regular schedule as possible, and let the chips fall where they may. I guess your attitude kind of reflected what you saw, the more relaxed we were, the more relaxed you were. The more stressed we were, the more anxiety you showed. I think in traveling with a child, you have to make accommodations appropriate to the age of the kid, but beyond that, the ease of travel depends a lot on attitude. On each subsequent trip, things got easier as you got older, and attitude was still key. I saw you gain confidence and common sense, which was gratifying. In Korea I was blown away at your self-confidence and poise, even when we were in such a different situation, it was the most culture shock I’d ever felt, and you said the same. Often we were the only non Asian people we would see for days.” -Beth(my mother)

Can you compare my attitudes throughout each time we traveled as a family?

“For the other overseas trips: Finland (plus Estonia, Germany, Belgium, etc.): your attitude was fantastic. You tried new things (new food, new experiences), you were excited to explore, and you never complained about hauling luggage around or staying in a new place so many nights in a row. I know that moving around a lot created a lot of uncertainty for you and your brother and I learned some important lessons on that trip, but overall I am really proud of how well you did and how appreciative you were of that trip. Along the way (on all trips in fact) I work hard to keep my own travel stress in check because I know that if I am stressed, it has strong ripple affect among the family, sometimes we just need to separate what we can control and what we cannot and when we are traveling there are things (plane schedules, storms, miscommunication) that are going to happen and we just need to roll with it. So when I planned that Europe trip I tried to make sure we didn’t have any really tight schedules and I tried to have a “plan b” in my head at all times. Saara(our friend who stayed with us as an exchange student) was really helpful for navigating trains too and I learned a lot from having her there.

The trip to Guatemala was pretty easy to plan; your attitude was really good for that one too. I know that it was a lot different than the Europe trip, but probably just as educational — we got to see some not-so-pretty living conditions and again I was proud of you for your sense of adventure and you did not complain about the conditions or schedules. And when we went to Korea, I was watching you closely because your exchange was coming up soon and I wanted to get some insight on how you would handle new experiences, uncertainty and stressful situations… The restaurant experiences alone were proof that you have what it takes to be an exchange student.

Also, that situation in the Hong Kong airport gave me a good sense of your attitude toward uncertainty and stress: we ran a mile with luggage hoping to catch that plane… only to miss it. No one was angry and we were all smiling when we realized that our plans were broken — we had our good humor and the realization that sometimes we need to rely on the kindness and diligence of others for things to work out–which is what happened for us eventually. A lot of times the plan that we have in our mind is not the one that works out, but something different (and maybe better). We ended up getting home within an hour of our original plan even though we were stuck in Hong Kong for a few hours waiting for new airline itineraries… It all worked out and your attitude was fantastic throughout this whole experience. As a parent, I want to share experience with my kids — and I think the awesomeness, the hilarity, the stress, the weirdness and the unpredictability of travel can bring a family together in ways that staying home together never will. I would not have wanted to take any of those trips without you, and I’m so grateful that we have had these opportunities together. We are truly blessed.” -Mike(my father)

All in all I believe that you should travel with children and would never advise against it. They way they travel is affected by how they mature and how well they have been parented. No two children grow up with the same experiences so you the only actual way to test your children is to travel with them, if they don’t take it well then wait until they are teenagers. However if they do take it well then urge them to take pictures and record their experiences through writing, and do that regardless of what age they are. With the money my parents spent on traveling with my brother and I they could have bought a brand new car, but they don’t regret spending a cent on those trips.

A Day In the Life

A Day In the Life

I have been in Denmark for almost two months now. Ever since school started I have been developing a daily routine in which I tend to stick. Since the life of an exchange student seems so intriguing to many, I thought that I may share with you today how interesting a normal day actually is for me.

On a normal weekday my alarm on my phone goes off at 6:30 AM. After hitting snooze about three times I finally get up to take a shower at 6:45. At 7 I go back into my room and sleep for about 20 more minutes and then get up to get dressed and pack my laptop for school and have breakfast which normally consists of granola drowned in strawberry yogurt, and a glass of orange juice, while checking my phone to see which classroom I will need to go to that morning for school.

At 7:45 I gather my things and head off to school which is about 200 meters down the road. I sit in my classroom for about ten minutes to answer any messages I got the night before and to greet each of my friends as they walk in. Class starts at 8 and goes on until either 1:40 or 3:25 PM(it can be different every day). I’m not expected to do any schoolwork, since I still don’t know most of the language, which can make it boring at times but I always have my friends to keep me company.

After school sometimes I go get food with the other exchange students or find something in town to do with them. If I do not have any arrangements with them then I will go home and take a two hour nap and wake up either when my phone vibrates from some message someone sent or when it’s time to have dinner. Dinner normally takes about an hour and after everyone has eaten they like to sit and have long conversations with each other in which I stick around for out of respect.

Later in the evening I try to find some small activity to keep me occupied. Normally I watch a movie or show on Netflix or sometimes even pull out my violin to play all while messages my many friends from my school in Denmark, sometimes back home in the U.S., and other exchange students all around Denmark.

For me a day like this is absolutely normal. It doesn’t have anything wrong with it within my mind and it’s not always exactly the same which is fantastic because when things are too consistent it drives me insane and I need variety from day to day. It may not look interesting when I write it but even a normal routine day for me here is an amazing day since I’m still spending it halfway around the world.

Bad Days and Good Days

Bad Days and Good Days

During exchange you’re always bound to have either great days or days that leave you at the end of the day feeling empty inside. This is normal for every person regardless of where they are. We all have been at our worst and we have the ability to bounce back and get out of bed the next morning.

It’s alright to have a shitty day once in a while. We’re only human and sometimes things just don’t go as planned. At the end of the day it’s all up to you to try to be positive or to let it disrupt your happiness beyond belief. I am one to believe everything happens for a reason and that reason can be good sometimes. For example: your significant other left you but maybe the next person you find will be better for you or maybe you’ll find that you’re happier alone. Or you lost your job but the next one you find may be one that you are so happy doing that you do it for the rest of your life.

I wrote one thing this week for my future self when I was feeling down and very stressed: “It’s always up to me on days like these and any other day to look back and say that I can make it through all this and to get out of bed the next morning and keep going. It’s up to me to decide that halfway around the world I can either not let anything stop me or I can just throw in the towel and give in. I have an absolutely amazing opportunity to be here and I shall not waste it.” I was stressed this week because I feel bad for not being able to participate much in school and because my Danish is coming along very slowly and for both of those reasons I feel extremely left out of a lot of things going on.

No matter how bad it gets and no matter how often you just want to stay in bed you can make it through any day and make what you want out of it.Remember to take time to do the things that make you happiest.

Readers should not worry about me for I am happy and have already gotten through my share of bad days for the time being.

The Happiest Country In The World

The Happiest Country In The World

Denmark has been named the world’s happiest country for a few years in a row now. From my standpoint everything here seems extremely well-functioning, including leadership within the government, education, and having the freedom to choose your own career path. People tolerate and get along with each other.

Although taxes take a huge toll on everyone who lives here, there are many benefits provided by the government. No one needs to find health insurance to pay for when they break a leg or need surgery, and all public schooling including university is free. In that way, tax is also a very good thing. How much you pay to the government depends on how much you make and is set up to reduce the gap between socioeconomic classes.

Family is also a very important factor within this culture that adds to its happiness. People here, no matter how much work they have or plans they make to go out with friends, always make time for family every day. I have seen this with my host family. Every dinner we have together, everyone just takes time to talk to each other even after the meal is over and it can last a couple hours.

Everyone I have met is also extremely tolerant of each other. I have not heard anyone make any rude comments or nasty remarks. People try to embrace the fact that we are all only human and that we should focus on how much we are alike rather than how much we differ. They curse like sailors but are very accepting of everyone.

All in all I am one to believe that this is the happiest country in the world for the reasons stated above. No country I have been to has been able to compare to the characteristics of this one.

Differences in School

Differences in School

This week I have been thinking about how different the normal school day and teaching is in Denmark compared to the United States. The biggest difference is the amount of responsibility and independence students are given in each country, and how the day is structured.

In the United States students are given a schedule of roughly seven classes that each last about forty to sixty minutes in between which they have three to five minutes breaks to rush to their lockers and find their next classroom.  It’s very stressful until you get into a routine. Many students do not act as if they want to be there and do not do a lot of the work but must stay there for the full school day unless stated otherwise. Some people even compare it to being in a prison.

Schools in Denmark are run more like a college. You are required to look up what classroom you meet in the next morning and throughout the rest of the day. Most of the time you stay in the same classroom and you have the same classmates throughout the entire day. Classes last an hour and a half each with ten minute breaks halfway through. There is no set schedule for each day so it’s normal to get out of school at different times no matter what day of the week it is. Classes can also be canceled throughout the day and when that happens you may do whatever you want with that time whether it is go downtown to get something to eat or simply go home to take a nap. As long as you’re back in time for your next class it is fine.

I have gone through the United States’ school system long enough to understand it and become accustomed to it. I still have yet to get used to going to a Danish school although I am starting to develop a routine. Between the two, and even though it seems less organized I prefer the Danish school system since it gives me more of an independent feeling.