JACKSON TEEN HAVING THE TIME OF HIS LIFE IN DENMARK
January 8, 2016, Published in the newspaper ”The Conway”
By Lloyd Jones
Malcolm Badger (left) with his host family and his contact family in Denmark. (PHOTO COURTESY AFS DENMARK)CONWAY
"Everything and more." That's how Malcolm Badger describes the last five months living abroad in Denmark and volunteering as a teacher's assistant.
Badger, 18, of Jackson, graduated from Kennett High in June and eight weeks later headed to Europe, staying with a host family and working in an international school as a teacher's assistant in Ikast-Brande. But there's no paycheck for his efforts; it's strictly community service, which Malcolm loves.
The trip is all part of AFS-USA (formerly the American Field Service program), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which, according to its website, "is a leader in intercultural learning and offers international exchange programs in more than 40 countries around the world through independent, non-profit AFS organizations, each with a network of volunteers, a professionally staffed office, and headed up by a volunteer board."
Malcolm was one of just five students to play three sports all four years at Kennett High, earned the prestigious Kennett Cup for embodying the spirit of Kennett High; and he wasregional district governor for Key Club, leading over 6,000 Key Club members across New England and Bermuda last year.
Malcolm shared some of his experiences in an email interview this week.
• What has been the highlight for you thus far?
"The highlight for me definitely has been my work at the school," Malcolm wrote. "When I first started, I really didn't know what to expect. The staff has been so nice to me, but more importantly, they've treated me as a responsible and mature adult. I didn't get any special treatment because of how young I am and how little experience I have, but I didn't want any. In a professional culture, you would expect the same treatment as everyone else. I have an incredible boss in Ricardo Passo, who is one of the most caring and intelligent people I have met. The kids are amazing. I think most, if not all, speak at least two languages, with some speaking up to five or six. It's a beautiful building to work in and I love going to the school each day. I have so much respect for my fellow teachers, they are smart, honest and very trustworthy. Every day I remind myself how lucky I was to be given this opportunity to work in such a great place."
Malcolm Badger (second from right) with his cousin Tatiana Salcedo and her family in Trondheim, Norway. (COURTESY PHOTO)
• Has it been what you expected, easier or more difficult being away from home?
"I knew it was going to be hard spending a year away from home," Malcolm wrote. "And to be honest, it has been really hard. It's been a lot easier at some times when I thought it was going to be hard and then it's been really hard when I thought it was going to be easy. I just end up missing the little things a lot. For example, last year my sister Nina and I always drove to and from school, and in the car we had legendary jam sessions where we just sang our hearts out. We are both horrible singers but it didn't matter. But I could always tell when she was mad or upset about something, because she wasn't singing along. And I miss always trying to sing louder and crazier just to try and get her to smile and join in. It's little things like that that pop up in the most random of situations, and that's when I miss home the most. But at the end of the day, I love being in Denmark. I haven't regretted being here once. I'm very thankful for having such a strong family that is supporting me at home."
• What's a typical school day for you? Up early? Do you like the kids? Has it been a big adjustment to the language?
"Typically, I'm up at 6 in the morning," Malcolm wrote. "My host mom has already gone to work and my host dad is usually getting ready as I leave. Then I catch the bus at 6:56 a.m., and it takes about 20 minutes to get to my school. I arrive, put all my stuff away, and then have a cup of tea before the kids start arriving around 8 a.m. The school day starts at 8:25 a.m., and until 10 a.m. I'm with the secondary kids in different classes (ages 11-17). I'm either supervising a class because a teacher is out or I'm providing support to a teacher as a one-on-one aide in either math, English or science. At 10 a.m., I head downstairs to Early Years and spend the rest of the day there.
"There are two main teachers (Gerry from Scotland and Randi from Denmark), and usually I am providing assistance and support," he continued. "Gerry and Randi are amazing people and I have learned so much from them. It's really nice because they always listen to my suggestions, since they are trying to improve themselves as well. I teach Numeracy (maths) to the younger kids, supervise all of them on the playground, and sometimes do periodic lessons if they have to do with the USA (like Thanksgiving)! I love all the kids, they are all incredibly polite and mature for their age. Finally, I just finished running a football (soccer) club for kids from 9-11 years old that was four days a week after school.
"The language has been difficult to learn, to be honest," Malcolm wrote. "Teaching at the International School has been great, but because we instruct only in English, it makes learning Danish harder for me. Currently, I am in language classes at LaerDansk in Herning, that are three hours each day for two days a week. I am also trying to learn some Danish online using the Duolingo program. Finally, I'm also trying to speak some with my host family and also with my Danish friends."
Malcolm Badger at the International Cultures Day at his school. (BRITTA SIEGERT PHOTO)
What do you think of Denmark?
"It's honestly a great country," Malcolm wrote. "Equality between everyone is a big priority, so essentially, the more money you make the more you are taxed, which means, the more stuff you have, the more worries you have. It's also a very clean country, where recycling is taken really seriously. There is a lot of trust in Denmark, between neighbors, friends and even complete strangers. The Danish children usually end up being very independent because they are raised in a really safe environment, which is why Denmark is generally regarded as one of the best countries to raise a family. It's also known as the happiest country, mainly because the Danes don't have much that stresses them out or worries them. Everything is very structured and in control. At most of the shops, you have to take a ticket with a number on it and wait your turn for that number to be called, so there really aren't that many lines. Every Dane that I've met has been very nice, and most really don't mind speaking English if they know it. Danes are really proud of how well their country is run and most don't see a better way of living, because they are comfortable how they are."
• Do you have any snow?
"No, unfortunately we don't have any snow. Denmark is a very flat country (at least compared to New Hampshire and the Mount Washington Valley) and snow is rare," he wrote.
• What do you do for fun?
"It has been nice living in a city, because there are a lot of things to do," Malcolm wrote. "I enjoy watching both professional football (soccer) games and professional handball games. Herning was just the host city for the 2015 Women's World Championship of Handball, so I went to a couple games for that. Herning, along with having the professional teams, has an incredible performance center called the Jyske Bank Boxen, where all different kinds of things happen. Last month, I went to watch Serena Williams play a tennis match, and in May I am going to watch Adele perform with one of the other teachers, Gajenthini, who is basically like my new big sister. I'm also part of a small group of teachers who go out on Friday nights after school, which is really fun. I'm also lucky because my host family has taken me to many different places in Denmark just to see the sights and experience new things. It's really important for the Danes to have family time, especially around the holidays, so I do spend a lot of time with them. "
• Has anyone from MWV come to visit you?
"No, not yet, but the invitation is always there," he wrote.
• Have you been able to see any other countries?
"Yes! It is very easy to travel from Denmark to other countries in Europe in Scandinavia," Malcolm wrote. "So far, I've gone on two trips outside of Denmark. The first trip was to visit my second cousin Tatiana in Trondheim, Norway. Trondheim was very picturesque, with views of both the ocean and the mountains. The second trip was with my host dad Peer to Brugge, Belgium. Herning (the city I live in) has a professional football (soccer) club called FC Midtjylland (FCM) and we go to see games often. Currently, FCM is the Europa League competition, and when they went to play Club Brugge in Belgium in the group stages, Peer and I went on the fan bus to go watch. We spent a great day in Belgium and then watched FCM win that night! The only downside was that I ended up spending almost 24 hours in a bus, but it was worth it."
• What was a Danish Christmas like?
"The big difference is that they celebrate it on the 24th, so they don't really have the concept of a Christmas Eve like we do back in the USA," Malcolm wrote. "We had a traditional dinner with a Christmas duck and brown sugared potatoes, among other things. Then we sang songs and danced around the Christmas tree, which they decorate with ornaments and real candles, not the electric lights that we use. Then everyone opened the presents under the tree, and we just socialized for the rest of the night. The next day, I ended up FaceTiming home with my family to celebrate Christmas with them, so it worked out pretty well."
• Is there anything from home that you're craving, like a certain food?
"Not going to lie, I really miss Dunkin Donuts, a lot," he wrote. "I mean, don't get me wrong, Danes have great pastries, but it's just not the same. I also really miss driving, it's a different experience having to rely on public transportation or biking if I want to go anywhere."
• Would you recommend the program you're in to others? Why?
Yes, without a doubt," Malcolm wrote. "I think it's a fantastic idea to experience the world before you go on to pursue higher education, or whatever your plans may be. I think it's really easy for us as Americans to just stay in the country, because of the incredible amount of sights and sounds that can be found within our borders. But, in my experience, it's really important as a U.S. citizen to see the USA from a different country and to hear about the USA from different perspectives. From working at an International School with teachers from all over the world, I've learned that most complicated problems can't be solved with only one perspective. AFS is a great program, because it provides the youth of the world to travel to different places, and come back to their home countries with a different, more experienced mindset.
• Have you finalized your plans for next fall? Still going to DC?
"Yes, I'm going to start at the George Washington University in August, majoring in political science," Malcolm wrote. "I'm also planning on continuing my community service through their Circle K Club, which is the college version of Key Club. I'm really happy that I took the year off, and I'm grateful to the college for letting me do that. I feel like having real world experience will be an advantage in DC."
• If you could change anything about where you're at, what might that be?
"That's a hard question to answer, but I would have to say 'nothing,'" Malcolm wrote. "I've had both good and bad experiences so far, but that's how I want it. I have caring friends and a supportive host family. Life isn't supposed to be an easy road, and even if I had the power to change something, I don't think I would. It's just as important to make mistakes as it is to be successful, especially when you are doing something as drastic as living in a different country for a year. Every day has a learning experience, and the faster I learn, the more fun I can have."