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Denmark Students Share Culture with OHS Counterparts

October 16, 2012

The exchange program was more than two years in the making…but well worth the effort according to both Danish and American students alike.

“It has definitely been really cool,” effused sophomore Zayn Dweik whose family hosted two of the students visiting from Denmark. “It’s interesting – it makes it more exciting just seeing new people in the school.”

“It’s been very good,” agreed Malene Vaever, one of the students Dweik was hosting. “Everything has been so American, very American, just like in the movies and in the tv shows!”

The program was developed through a collaborative effort between OHS Principal Dr. Paul Lucas and two staff members from Herning Gymnasium, a secondary school in Denmark, in the spring of 2011. Following a visit to the school, Dr. Lucas, Superintendent Dr. Nancy Wingenbach and School Board President Sam Steinhouse finalized the partnership.

“The state of Ohio provides guidelines for international education, and I did not feel we were doing all we could do for the students, given the supportive communities in which we are situated and a supportive Board,” noted Dr. Lucas. “I am hoping this will be the beginning of a much larger international program for Orange High School.”

While at Orange High School, students had the opportunity to interact in a variety of settings and on a variety of topics including the Danish Judicial system, equality and rights, politics, the media and education. A cultural exchange enabled the Danish students to speak on views, attitudes and values while providing information about their heritage and fielding questions from their curious American counterparts.

“I think it opens your eyes to see how things are different from there. We ask them a lot of questions…it is kind of funny to see how different but how same we are at the same time,” said Dweik.

Orange students were especially interested in the differences in the social culture. In Denmark the
drinking age is 16; and although liquor is a part of the social life for most teens there, Danish students said the punishments for drinking and driving are far more severe and not something that most students would ever consider. Danish students also noted that often they will spend a year at a boarding school which is one of the highlights of their education.

Following panel discussions, host students had the opportunity to offer gifts to their Danish counterparts that were “representative” of this area. Many Orange students gave out Browns, Indians and Ohio State University paraphernalia, along with Malley’s “Buckeyes”, and of course, Orange spirit wear! Senior
Kurren Bafna got creative and offered a Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat stuffed animal which confused one Danish student who had not heard of Dr. Seuss and thought the doll was a monkey!

Other “very American things”?

“The school buses, the food, the shopping…in Denmark we don’t have school buses only public transportation. The food is bigger here. Everything is bigger!” said Vaever.

Danish students also presented their hosts with gifts from Denmark which mostly included natively created chocolates, jewelry, vases and legos! Following the gift exchange, students had the opportunity to shadow their American counterparts in classes including AP Government, Ceramics/Sculpture, AP Environmental Science, Photography, Chinese, Trigonometry as well as the learning environment for students with multiple disabilities.

“The purpose of the program is to expose students to different cultures and provide students with the opportunity to interact with peers of another culture,” said Dr. Lucas. “The program is not designed to simply have students shadow students of another culture during school. The intent is for students to engage in the home and social aspect of another culture and learn similarities and differences.”

The volunteer host families treated the students to dinners, professional sporting games, and movies and journeyed together to local landmarks like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Zoo, the Westside Market and The Popcorn Shop at Chagrin Falls. Danish students toured Cleveland on Lolly the Trolley and even had the opportunity to meet with some local town officials when visiting Garfield’s Cabin in Moreland Hills.

But the best part?

“The host family we live with,” added Vaever, smiling.

A group of Orange High School students who volunteered as hosts will venture to Denmark for a week in April along with other students who are currently going through an application process. The cost of the trip is the responsibility of the student but fundraising venues are being explored to help defray the expenses. While there, the OHS students will provide similar cultural presentations to their Danish colleagues and engage in numerous educational activities and experiences.

“I am hopeful that our partnership with Herning Gymnasium is the first of many international opportunities for Orange High School,” said Dr. Lucas who is exploring the possibility of an exchange with a school in China next year. “The feedback from parents, students, and our Danish partners was fantastic. It seems that the students, both Orange and Danish, learned a great deal from the experience.”

Both Dweik and Vaever would agree.

“It’s a very big experience,” Vaever said. “I know we are learning something every time we do this.”


To view the entire slideshow of the Danish students' visit, please click on the photo below:

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