I can’t believe it’s almost been ten years since we went to Denmark, Distrikt 1480. 2014 was the first year that RI decided to stop funding Group Study Exchange and defer to districts willing to fund it and run it themselves. Being as passionate about the ‘international’ part of Rotary International as we are about local service, 5110 said yes. And it was the first year Rotarians were eligible to apply to be team members.
Our 2014 GSE team home-stayed with seven different families in seven different cities. In each one, it was only a matter of time before someone asked us non-Danish speakers to try to pronounce ‘rødgrød med fløde’.
Danish for red berry pudding with cream, it is also one of their favorite national tongue twisters. You can watch some people trying, and failing, in this video.
There are about 6 million Danish speakers around the world. They are as proud of their language as they are of their history and their beautiful country. Most Danes are bilingual. Many of them are trilingual or even polyglots. One of my host moms is fluent in five languages.
But no matter how hard this Oregonian visitor tried, no matter how much I wanted to show my respect for their language, I could only make the Danes laugh with my attempts to say rødgrød med fløde correctly. The “ø” is a vowel I just can’t pronounce.
And that’s ok. Because there is nothing quite like laughing with generous strangers and gracious families who become friends.
I couldn’t be more grateful to be a Rotarian and a GSE alum. What an incredible international community we have.
The impact of GSE isn’t just the totally unique professional development that international exchange gives young people and their careers. Cultural immersion, foreign languages, old customs, and new traditions make compassionate global citizens by sparking curiosity and creating cherished memories.
Whenever you travel, do it with as much curiosity as gratitude. Try to learn as much of your host’s language as possible. You can always start with the tongue twisters 🙂
Thank you to my fellow team members, from left after me, Sophie Nathenson, Jill Trekell, Danny Aynes, and Team Leader Mark Clark. Pictured above in Solrød, Denmark with GSE Chair Hans Nielsen between Sophie and Jill. And thank you to our own GSE Chair, PDG Dell Gray, the Rotary Club of Cottage Grove for sponsoring me, and Chandra La Husen for throwing the best going-away celebration party a Rotarian could ask for.