The Life Of A Teenager In Denmark

Until going abroad, I had never really thought about how there are so many other young adults around the world going through similar moments in their lives as me. We are always so consumed with our own lives and what we need to do in order to live our best lives, that we forget how many other people there are in the world searching for happiness and success just like us.

When I was deciding what type of housing I wanted while studying abroad, I knew I didn’t want to live in a homestay. Although homestays are the best way to immerse yourself in the culture, I was nervous that I would not adapt well and would never meet people my own age.

Luckily, my study abroad school gives students another option for people who want to meet Danes and learn about how they live, but don’t want to be a part of Danish culture 24/7. This option is called having a visiting host family.

The idea behind this is that students who sign up will get assigned a family they can meet up with and hang out with, but do not have to live with. You get to decide how often you want to see the family, if they have children, how old the children are, etc. You get assigned a family based on the answers you put on a questionnaire.

I decided I wanted to see my visiting host family about once a month and I wanted the family to have children around my age. The first time I met up with my family, I was very nervous. They invited me to their house for dinner. I was worried I would not have anything in common with the children and we would be sitting in silence.

This was definitely not the case. I met Olivia and Victoria, two teenage girls growing up just outside of Copenhagen. Immediately when I met them, I was embraced with hugs and questions about living in the US.

We talked for hours, comparing young adult life in Denmark to the United States. Olivia, who is my age, had lived in California for about six months as an au pair and knew a lot about American culture.

She loves American pop music and driving an automatic car. She told me about how in Denmark, they take a lot of gap years and do not go to college until they are about 22. This is because the schooling system is set up differently.

In Denmark, you go to university when you are a little older. However, university is really what we think of in the US as graduate school. Danes go to learn one subject and that is it with the hopes that this subject will turn into their career.

In between what we would consider undergraduate and graduate, a lot of Danes will go somewhere to make money like Olivia did as an au pair or go to the UK, or the US to learn English.

This can be expensive, so right now Olivia is working at Magasin, which is a department store similar to Nordstrom. She doesn’t really like working there because she wants to be working towards her future, but she knows she’ll need money when she goes to Miami to learn English.

Olivia has watched so much US television and is convinced American life is just like Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill. She is excited to have turned 21 before she goes to the US so she can go out like she’s been doing since she was 18.

Americans and Danes lead similar lives, but there are differences that we always seem to forget. It is important to think about how others live in order to put our lives into perspective.