My project takes place in Denmark, in Odder town, in hojskole - folk school for people from 18 y.o. and older. This is a college without grades that aims to study various arts. The average age of students is 23 y.o. 70% are Danes, 30 % are foreign students.
Work in the project
Within the framework of the project about intercultural learning and understanding I provide workshops (games, discussions, storytelling) about intercultural interactions and global citizenship; I’m a teacher’s assistant in journalism class and was in painting class the previous semester; I organized and performed intercultural café evenings; implementing now RIA (Raising Intercultural Awareness) project about stereotypes of different countries and nationalities and how to deconstruct them by interviewing students; head and main mentor of Speaking clubs (English, Russian, Spanish) for students. Every day I have classes together with students. Some of them my mentors chose for me, some I chose myself.
My project began later (in the beginning of September) than the semester at school (mid-August), which I believe prevented me from establishing stronger relationships with students. They had already become friends, and when I arrived, they did not understand who I was, where from and what I was doing there. Since I am the first volunteer at school, and this project is new, I also did not know what exactly my tasks were. I can’t say that Danish mentality is very different from Ukrainian one. We are also not open to strangers, we also appreciate our own space and time. The standard of living in Denmark is much higher than in Ukraine. But even despite the wonderful conditions in the country and the school (I have my own room in school, meals 3 times per day with everyone), my late arrival and the fact that I'm not a student, did not help my socialization. I missed my friends, family, I often spent time alone, walking, reading, preparing tasks for the Speaking clubs - since I was not given specific tasks, I was doing what I could do: Speaking clubs, music classes, helped foreign students prepare presentations about their countries, preparing tasks for journalism class, writing articles on the school's website, trying to communicate more with students to help with problems at school. Also, many Danish students didn’t transfer into English (some didn’t really want it, some were embarrassed of their bad English) - it prevented to be closer to them, both to me and to foreign students. This semester I’m here from the very beginning, everyone knows what I’m doing (and me), they perceive me as part of the school, which is much easier. Now I communicate with many students, but first of all, there are many of them (110), and secondly, there are some who don’t want to pay attention to foreign students (and me as their part), but this is a drop in the ocean, I don’t force them. My mentors reminded me that I was not a student, but it's hard to move away from them when you live with them, eat, visit the same classes. There are several teachers with whom I have very good relations, I almost don’t communicate with others. It’s totally fine for me, also for them. I have a contact family in the town, they are Danes, they are under 60, their younger daughter lives with them. They invite me once a month, and we spend evenings chatting and eating dinner. I like them, they are friendly and hospitable.
Spare time, trips
There are some working hours written in my contract but in real life I don’t have them here. I’m with students all the time. Nobody checkes how many hours I have been with them, how many - in classes or if I really led Speaking clubs and so on, I like it a lot, that means they trust me. I provide everything, I participate in everything because I am curious, I try to communicate with students all the time, almost every day I return to my room about 22. If I want to play the piano or the guitar (I was given a guitar in my room from the music center so I could play every time I want to), to read (in the town there is a wonderful library), to play billiards, to walk, I do it after classes and when I have no stuff to do. The town is small but there’s nature around, it is also good to be out of school because we are all here constantly, like in a bubble. I don’t travel a lot because I don’t have so much free time and money. I visited seminars from this project, coming back home I always visited some cities, so I know Denmark a bit. Each semester “educational” trips abroad are organized for students. Last semester we went to Amsterdam. All my expenses were paid (like for students), I had to pay only for food, this semester I was also promised to go (to Berlin). I’m incredibly grateful.
Learning a language
This is probably the most surprising and difficult component. I can study Danish with foreign students 2 times per week but it doesn’t help. Language is hard, and although I learnt languages easily before, with Danish it doesn’t work. Sometimes I try to practice with students but often I don’t have time or forces to do that, although there is definitely motivation.
Liudmyla Rybalko, EVS volunteer from Kharkiv