I have been here, in Denmark, for about a month and a half now. I was expecting there to be a culture shock and a very slow adjustment to getting even remotely comfortable. It has proven to be quite the opposite. From the moment I walked into my home here, I have been welcomed with open arms. I was picked up from the train station at Bramming, a town close to Nordenskov, by my coach (an Australian) and two of my teammates (an American and an Australian). Nordonskov is a town of about 700 people. So by town, I really mean, an intersection with a grocery store/gas station, thrift store, hair salon, and grill. surrounding this is a cluster of homes that make up the town. There is a small school as well, just across the street. Our house is big. It contains five bedrooms on the first floor, one bathroom, kitchen, living room, and laundry. Our coach has his own apartment on the second floor of our house. The driveway wraps around the side of the house where our cars are parked. We get three sponsored cars for the six of us. It is a comfortable set up. We are sponsored by several businesses in the area, and the staff has been so kind and accommodating with anything I have needed while settling in here.
The two main things standing in the way of me jumping right on the court was getting my work visa and FIVB player transfer. We thought it would take about a month to get all of that paperwork done and approved. Which would have me cleared right as we went into our winter break, so I would not be able to compete in a match until after the new year when we come back from winter break. That gives me about a month of training with the team and then a two week vacation for the holidays. Which, to me, seemed like a nice time for easing back into training and getting used to the community I was entering. I had not trained to be competing on a team in 8 months, and I did not really have a good idea of what the weight room, practice gym, and game gym was going to be like. I would consider myself fairly good at maintaining a somewhat healthy lifestyle even when I am not training, at least physically, but you never know how a coach or team expects things to be done. Somehow, the paperwork came back from the government regarding my visa and work permit much sooner than expected, and I was able to suit up for the last three games before our winter break. I substituted in to serve in the first two matches and set the last two sets of the third.
It was clear when I was brought on that my role in coming in was to provide support to the team. They have a solid starting lineup and bench, but felt they needed to deepen the talent in the setting position. I am not expected to see much court time; which provides me with the opportunity to get a feel for international environment and the team without a lot of pressure. The season started in August for them, so I was entering the team at about the halfway point of the season.
The transition was fairly easy for being in a completely new environment halfway across the globe. The people at the club have been so kind and accommodating in helping me set up my lodging, banking, food, and etc. The volleyball level is fairly similar to where I was at in college at the states, but there are definitely differences in the style of play and overall energy that goes into the sport. They say that Americans are loud and over the top, which may be true (LOL); and the difference is definitely felt on the court. Since the seasons are long here in Europe, the pace of the training here highly prioritizes not burning out and making sure we are tracking the amount of times we jump, lift, and train. So, I did not feel a shock or huge increase in activity. Plus, since my job is to play volleyball, the rest of the day is up to me. I am able to work in lots of rest, writing, watching netflix, reading, and practicing my Danish. The Danish language is proving to be, honestly, difficult to learn, and I already have proven to not be great at picking up language. My Spanish 101 grade from high school would prove this fact. I am enjoying giving it my best, though.
The second week that I was here, my fellow American teammate took me to the city of Aarhus on the east side of Jutland. It is only about an hour drive from our home on the west side of the peninsula. We went to the art museum there that houses the famous sculpture, BOY. It also has a circular walkway on the walk encased in rainbow tinted glass. It was a BLAST! I will include some photographs of our adventure here:
We had a few house guests for the holidays (Australians that are over here for volleyball as well). We had several big meals, opened presents, and enjoyed the fireworks on New Years Eve. Sadly, we could not practice the Danish tradition of singing and dancing around the Christmas tree; because our Christmas tree didn’t have a stand and had to lean agains the wall in the corner of the living room. We were very taken care of by our sponsors, who provided us with the funds for our holiday feasts.
I have done a little exploring beyond Aarhus: seeing the famous “Men at Sea” sculptures facing the North Sea in Espberg, thrift shopping in the small towns that surround us, and traveling with the team. We were able to take a trip to Berlin to train with the German Youth National U20 team for a couple days. While we were in Berlin, we were able to see the CEV 2020 Tokyo Olympic Qualifier Final between France and Germany at the Recycle Volley Stadium. We, of course, had some schnitzel while we were in Germany.
Just this last week I was given my coaching assignment in the club, per my contract. I will be coaching the second women’s volleyball team while I am here, which is gonna be a lot of fun. Especially, since it is the perfect time to practice and get tips on my Danish. The only other weird thing about living here is the measurements. I have no understanding of how tall I am, how much I weigh, how far away something is, or how much of an ingredient to add to a recipe until I get out my google conversion application out.
P.S. I will try to be better about taking photos to give a visual in these letters. But, in my defense, it is always overcast and/or raining here. So, the lighting is not ideal.
Edited by: Rachel Kater