Madeline Sternig reported on her time as an Rotary Exchange Student returning from an 11-month exchange in Virum, Denmark. She discussed what it was like to live abroad along with the joys and hardships, especially during a worldwide pandemic. 
Maddie thanked Alec Mitchell for introducing her and thanked the club for the 'Best Year of her Life'.
When she landed in Copenhagen, she was overwhelmed, partly from heading across the world on her own and partly because her bags got destroyed on the flight.
Her biggest impression was how different the culture was in interpersonal interactions.  Danish culture is very private and you don't even ask someone how they are doing because that is perceived as rude.  So, her first host family, just let her alone to settle in and she felt lost and confused....."Did they not like me?"  But, she discovered it wasn't her, it just was the culture.  It took her 4 months to make some good friends at school.  For some of the other exchange students it took 7 or 8 months.  Learning Danish helped to bridge the divide.
There are a LOT of trains, all electric.  There is also a different sense of independence.  Children from about 10 are expected to get themselves to wherever they needed to go; parents aren't driving kids everywhere.  She got used to biking to and from school (30 minutes each way).
She also noticed that people stay out really late (until 10 or 11 pm), even young children and even on a school night.  Feeling safe to do so was normal.
There were fewer exchange student expeditions than normal because of COVID, but before COVID, there was an exchange student camp which really was a boot camp in the Danish language.
Denmark burns all its garbage but at such a high temperature there are minimal emissions.  There is a fake mountain that you can hike up and ski down on mats.
Danish architecture is very avant garde, even crazy sometimes.  There are lots of castles, she even got to see where the Queen lives.  She showed us a picture of a boardwalk built in a spiral going up into the trees.
She went to Abeltoft, the Apple Festival, in western Denmark in a very old town.  There are many hills but they were actually man-made as graves in the Viking era.  She showed us a rock formation that would have been made for a very important person in that era.
There are beautiful churches as well and her second host family regularly attended church so she was able to experience it.
Her school was a combination of very old and very new and the staff were very supportive.
Her host family held a birthday party for her.  In Denmark birthday celebrations include cake and 'lots of flags'
Several members of her host Rotary Club bought a sailboat together so Maddie learned to sail.
COVID was a hard time.  She wasn't sure when she'd see her family again and they weren't allowed to leave the house.  All the exchange students lived with the uncertainty of whether they were going to be sent home and not have a chance to say goodbye to all their friends and Rotary Clubs.  COVID put a stop to her sightseeing; but, after lockdown, she was able to go on bike rides with other exchange students.  It took quite a bit of work to get flights home and Maddie is thankful for everyone who helped. 
She arrived back home on June 16th and is still currently working at Thrifty's.  She's still processing being back home and she's still not over how their leaving was abrupt and she wasn't able to say 'Goodbye'. 
Since university is online this year, she's looking to start college or university next year.  She'd also love to go back for her class's graduation in Denmark.
Murray Tough thanked Maddie for her great presentation and honest re:  the cultural adaptations that were required.