Now in its 12th year, our Danish Cultural Exchange Program continues to honor our ties to the birth country of our founder, Jacob A. Riis, and continues to afford some of our young Riis Academy students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel abroad, explore a new culture, and gain a broader worldview. This summer, six of our students departed New York City for what would be a very memorable trip. They were accompanied by Veronica Franklin, director of youth programs at Queensbridge, as well as Riis’ newly elected board chair, Gordon Mehler.
The group first flew to Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, and from there they took a four-hour train ride through scenic countryside to Jacob Riis’ birthplace, Ribe – where they were greeted by their host families. The following day the group explored the small town, which is the oldest town in Denmark with a population of just over 8,000. They experienced the unique Danish concept of the hygge by enjoying warm coffee and cake with their new friends at a local café and attending a barbecue at a local farm. Hygge, pronounced hoo-guh, is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” It is a way of life that the Danish hold dear and one that the hosts were proud to share with our youth.
Next on the itinerary was a trip to the Wadden Sea and Mando Island. The Wadden Sea is a few miles from Ribe and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Mando Island is home to extensive birdlife but only 40 human inhabitants!
During their time in Ribe, the youth also had the opportunity to learn more about Denmark’s connections to the Vikings, who ruled Scandinavia between the eighth and thirteenth centuries. They visited the Viking museum and a replica Viking village.
The last two days of the trip were spent back in Copenhagen where the group visited the famous Tivoli Gardens amusement park, experienced Danish city life, and bid their final farewells to their new friends.
The Danish Cultural Exchange Program has been sustained over the years by some of our most steadfast supporters. This year, in particular, we must thank board member Neda Yagan and her husband, Ove Haxthausen, for facilitating a generous donation from the Stamford Denmark Friendship Committee, which allowed our youth to have this life-changing intercultural experience.
We looking forward to the start of the 7th cycle of the program next year and welcoming a new cohort of Danish students to New York City and treating them to some American hygge!”