19-year-old Flóra from Slovakia muses on the differences between Slovak and Danish schools, and reveals her alter ego from the Harry Potter novels.
I was born and raised in Slovakia, but I am Hungarian. I come from a small town called Veľké Kapušany in Eastern Slovakia, close to the border with Ukraine and Hungary. Until World War 1, Slovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and that’s why there is a considerable Hungarian minority in Slovakia today. In my hometown, Hungarians actually outnumber native Slovaks.
I love learning new languages. I speak Hungarian with my family and Slovak with my Slovak friends. At school I was taught English and German. Being familiar with a range of languages is an advantage for me now that I am learning Danish. There are many similarities between Danish and other European languages, especially German. That’s not to say I don’t struggle with Danish pronunciation, though! Sometimes when I listen to a Danish person speaking, I wish I could put subtitles on them. It’s much easier for me to understand Danish in writing.
I always liked the idea of studying abroad. Some students from my high school went on to study at university in Aalborg, and they talked very warmly about Denmark. So I looked up international teaching courses in Denmark online, and UC Syd came up. I applied and settled in for an anxious wait.
When I received the letter of acceptance to UC Syd I was thrilled. Then, two seconds later I was seized by panic. It dawned on me that I would be leaving my family behind and going abroad on my own. But my family spurred me on. They reminded me that training as a teacher and studying abroad is my long-held dream, and that I should pursue my dreams. I’m glad they encouraged me, because now that I am here, I couldn’t be happier.
I have wanted to be a teacher since I was very young. I have been lucky to have had some brilliant teachers who have been role models for me. My English and Hungarian teacher in primary and secondary school, Edit, is my main inspiration. She was an extremely capable teacher, but what made her stand apart from other teachers was the fact that she cared about her students as individuals. She took an interest in our home life and how we were feeling.
The Danish culture is such a contrast to what I am used to. Take the school system: In Slovakia, teachers tend to see their students merely as numbers. The relationship between teacher and student is more or less impersonal. In Denmark the approach is totally different. Just two weeks ago, one of my teachers pulled me aside and asked me if I had managed to find accommodation yet. I was amazed! In Slovakia, generally speaking, teachers don’t care about such things. I love the fact that Danish teachers seem to genuinely care about their students.
Years ago, I listened to my Slovak friends enthuse about life in Denmark, but I must admit I took their accounts with a pinch of salt. It all seemed too good to be true. In Slovakia we are used to working very long hours and generally leading quite stressful lives. Having experienced Denmark for myself, I realise my gleeful high school friends were in fact being truthful about what life here is like. The work-life balance and quality of life here is indeed remarkable.
A lot of my free time is spent escaping into literary worlds. Harry Potter is a big favourite of mine. I was introduced to the films first, and then I took up the books when I was around 12. I remember getting the fifth book in the series as a gift for my birthday and reading it from start to finish in one week! The character I identify most with is Hermione Granger. We share a passion for studying and learning new things.
My mum sends me Slovak sweets in the post. There is this one chocolate bar with rum flavouring, ‘Deva’, that is so delicious, and you can’t get it anywhere outside Slovakia. My mum has taken it upon her to ensure I have a constant supply of my favourite sweets even though I live abroad. She sends me massive 10 kg boxes of the stuff.
My future is wide open. I don’t know yet if I will stay in Denmark or go back to Slovakia when I finish my teacher training. Or if I will end up somewhere completely unexpected. Anything could happen. All I know for certain is that I will teach.
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