Cultural exchange, laughter, love, friendships and beautiful moments

Many have been asking me about my trip to Oxford – “So how was it Irina? Did you have fun? Did you like your students? Wasn’t it hard work? Are you going to write about it on your blog?” and so on. Funny I’ve had such hard time telling people about it and even write about it. I honestly don’t know where to start. It was an experience that I can not describe with words. It is an experience that you have to experience on your own to understand. It sounds weird I know – it was only three weeks. But three very special weeks. Yeah, it was that amazing. Three weeks that I will carry in my heart forever. There is something about Oxford – it is a small city that contains most of the cultural and metropolitan facilities you could want, in terms of vintage bookshops, cinema, theatre, stories, street music and hidden coffee shops. If you look up, you will see some of the most beautiful buildings and every building has a story behind it.

 

 

It all started at the Copenhagen airport, all nervous, jittery and excited at the same time waiting for my 15 students.
After what felt like forever they all finally arrived – Andreas, Mathias, Oliver, Molly, Kristine, Dagmar, Ronja, Caroline, Alma, Filippa, Freja, Anne Sofie, Bodil, Cecilie and Hanna. They were as nervous as I was. Most of them weren’t saying that much. They were very shy, except Molly and Andreas. I was thinking to myself “oh boy this is going to be a long trip, what am I going to do?”.
After an awkward circle of introducing themselves to me and singing a birthday song to Kristine we were on our way to Oxford. Not knowing that we all were going to have time of our lives.

The beginning was tough for all of us – problems with the different host families, the food was different for them, the schedule was too tight, they were very tired, I was tired, the Italians were late, they were homesick, we got lost, I missed my first staff meeting and I was trying to make all of them happy at the same time. Yup – it was crazy!
My Danish students got split up into different activity groups with students from different countries as Spain, Italy, France and Norway. In my activity group also called Hermione Granger I had Molly, Cecilie, Oliver, Ronja and 24 other students.

Every day was planned for them: school, activities, excursions and discos. Due to this, things started to change slowly and fall into place. Suddenly the Italians weren’t that annoying anymore and became charming instead and Spanish girls were cute and knew how to sing and dance to Despacito. Friendships were born, some fell in love and even got their first kiss.

 

They all added each other on Snapchat and WhatsApp so they can stay in touch when they all return home. They started to learn about each others cultures and languages. The Danish were learning Spanish and Italian and vice versa. It was fun to watch how they all were struggling with pronouncing different words in each language. I think they learned more Italian, Spanish and Danish than English LOL. The Spanish students in my group created a playlist for us with all the Spanish songs we were dancing to at the disco.
Having a diverse group of friends teaches people to love and accept people who have views that are different from their own. We tend to judge really quick – “the Italians are so annoying cause they are so late all the time” but they are more relaxed and don’t stress if they miss the bus, while us Danish sweat like crazy and stress too much about little things. We can all learn from each other. In my opinion friends make some of the best teachers.

As their course leader it made me very proud to see how much these young students developed during these three weeks. Here they were, so young, away from their parents, on their own and doing a great job. They learned to accept the fact that this was different from being at home in Denmark and it was alright.
Couple of days ago I asked them about what they think was very different in England from Denmark. Here is what some of them replied (I had to laugh a little bit 🙂 ):

“In general, English people are more polite to strangers than Danish people are
– Bodil

They don’t say thank you after the dinner. I felt very impolite
– Mathias

They ate chips and candy for lunch. I had to get used to eating much more chips than I usually do.
And they had so many weird chips flavours”

– Hanna

When I was showering I had to be careful because the water could go right through the floor
– Kristine

It was challenging to figure out the buses. They don’t say the stop names out loud
and they don’t show them in the buses

– Alma

“The currency. Pounds are very complicated and confusing
– Ronja

The days passed quickly. A lot was going on all the time. Very few breaks. We all grew close to each other. The shy ones weren’t that shy anymore. We got used to the craziness and Oxford became our home for three weeks.

Before we knew it it was time to pack all the books we’ve bought and all the clothes we got at Primark. Besides packing, we had to say good bye to everyone that wasn’t going back to Denmark with us. My students were very sad and there were a lot of tears, hugs and kisses. I got so many beautiful presents from my students that I as well had a very hard time keeping my tears away. I think I cried as much as they did. From my international group I got a beautiful neckless, the sweetest card they all signed saying that they will miss me very much, chocolate and hugs and kisses. From my Danish students I have a notebook where they all wrote the sweetest notes, a painting my dear Filippa painted for me and Rochér chocolate cause they were listening when I said that it is my favorite chocolate. 🙂

Oxford you have been amazing!

It was so weird to come back home again and adjust to the every day life in Denmark.
The hardest part about leaving Oxford was saying good bye to all the friends I’ve met from other countries. I miss them all every day“.
– Molly

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