Mariagerfjord Gymnasium in Hobro, Denmark (on the Mariager Fjord – the largest fjord in Denmark) has had exchange programs with various North Carolina high schools since 1999. Danish and American students are remarkably similar when it comes to their tastes in clothes, music, and films. However, there are huge cultural differences between the students of modern, super power America and ancient, tiny Denmark. The experience is eye-opening and mind-expanding. Not only does it open students to different cultures, but it also forces them to reflect on their own culture and identity.
The Danish students at Mariagerfjord apply to an “American Class”, so they know from the first day of high school that they will participate in an exchange with a North Carolina school. They also exchange with Olympic High School, Mecklenberg School of the Arts, Brevard High School, and Asheville High School. The Danish teachers and administration ensure that all families are dedicated to the project. There are usually about 24 students in the American Classes.
Hobro is a rural community with a town about the size of Hendersonville, and the vast majority of the students come from stable middle-class families. Their parents may own farms or bakeries or work in business, education, or industry. All the Danish students and parents are fluent in English.
Danes prefer to travel to America in the early spring, as it coincides with the end of a major academic period. We prefer to travel the following fall as we are not yet in the throes of AP exams.