Ancient castles, round churches and large windmill factories are just part of what Sunnyside High School senior Sarah Rasmussen remembers of her year in Denmark.
Rasmussen spent last year in Denmark as a Rotary Exchange student, attending school and learning about the country of 5 million people. Rasmussen took time Wednesday morning to talk to members of the Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club about her time in Europe.
While in Denmark, Rasmussen said she lived in the small town of Maribo, which is on an island located southwest of the country's largest city, Copenhagen. She added that although the community is made up of only about 7,000 people, it seemed like a larger town than Sunnyside.
One of the reasons the small community seemed so much larger is because Rasmussen said there were so many things to do in Maribo. She added that because the population of the communities around Maribo were also small, the town became the center of activity for the entire central portion of the island.
While on exchange, Rasmussen didn't get out of her studies. Instead, she attend Maribo Gymnasium, a school that took students from all over the central part of the island. She explained that in Denmark students are only required to attend school through the age of 16. After that point they can either choose to stop going to school or they can attend a gymnasium school, which serves as way to get students ready for college, or a technical school, where a student learns a trade.
Rasmussen said the curriculum at the gymnasium school she attended was more difficult than classes in the United States. She explained that students don't take exams and aren't given homework, but since the students have chosen to be there they seem to work harder and the teachers expect more. Rasmussen said one of the most difficult assignments she had to complete during her year at the gymnasium school involved writing a report in Danish.
When the now high school senior wasn't attending classes she was busy taking in the sites around Maribo, as well as the rest of the country.
She said there are several very unique attractions in the small community of Maribo, including a safari park. Rasmussen explained that the park is surrounded by a large wall, but once you drive through the gates all of the animals are roaming free. She said driving through the park it is possible for a giraffe to nuzzle its head up against the car window and that visitors can even drive through the tiger enclosure to see the large cats up close.
Maribo is also home to one of six cathedrals in Denmark. Rasmussen said the church carries with it an historical significance, noting that the daughter of one of the kings of Denmark is buried at the cathedral.
Rasmussen said some of the other interesting attractions she got to take in are located outside of Maribo, but still on the island. She said she got to visit the middle ages center, which gives visitors an opportunity to see how people lived their lives in the middle ages. She also had a chance to visit a large windmill factory. Rasmussen said the factory makes windmills with wings as long as 100 meters.
"They're huge," Rasmussen said of the windmills. She added that wind farms can be found all over Denmark.
While in Denmark, Rasmussen said she also had a chance to visit another small island in the Baltic Sea. She said the island is famous for its round churches.
"No one knows why they were built," Rasmussen said of the churches, which were built in the 1100s.
Rasmussen was also able to visit the birth place of Hans Christian Anderson. She told Rotarians she was able to go to his house and look over some of the different translations of his stories. Rasmussen explained that the author has had his books translated into just about every language in the world.
Rasmussen also shared some little known trivia about Denmark with the Rotarians. She said Denmark has one of the oldest flags in the world, and added that with a population of just more than 5 million it's similar in population to the state of Washington.