​Preparing Danish students for exchange

Marianne Vittarp Holt is a significant member of the MyEducation team at our office in Denmark. For years Marianne has worked closely with the many, many students that they send overseas on exchange, preparing them for the experience and managing their expectations. Marianne has taken the time to talk to us about her work, the benefits of exchange and why she likes the UK as a destination for her students

Tell us about yourself

​I have been working with student exchange in MyEducation Denmark for 8 years. Before joining MyEducation I was a Human Resource Manager in the IT industry for 7 years and before that a Product Manager for Xerox and Ricoh products in Denmark. I have always worked internationally - travelled a lot and met a lot of people from different cultures.

What is your role at MyEducation?

​I am Program Manager which means I’m responsible for MyEducation Denmark’s High School programs to all countries. In this role communication is very important. From the first meeting where a student and their parents come to the office and get information about the program and rules before their final decision to participate in an exchange; to the student's departure and returning back home again, I am involved with them and ensuring that their exchange runs as they hope.

To me, the first information meeting and interview is extremely important. The purpose of the meeting is not to sell the High School program but to give people the information needed to make their final decision about the program and of course also decide if MyEducation is the organisation they want to work with. It is important to me that no matter where in Denmark people come to these meetings they get the same information. This I have secured with a presentation and bonus information to our people working in the field and yearly conferences.

​I have many different roles during the process. Advising is another important role in relation to the student’s application packages. Problem solving is another role. Homesickness can for example be a challenge for some students and maybe even more for parents. In that case it is good to have many years’ experience so we can ensure it will pass and the students and parents are supported.

Can you describe a normal day?

When dealing with people there is no such thing as a normal day. Anything can happen and that is maybe also what is interesting. Predictable days are for sure not what I experience. These last months we are already busy with applicants for the school year 2017/18 so I have many information meetings with students and parents. Sometimes three to four days a week. I spend 2 hours on these meetings, and families get individual service as I mostly only have one family at a time and never more than three families. The reason is that I want people to have a personal experience and feel free to ask questions. It also means that MyEducation Denmark can offer these meetings when it fits into families’ plans.

Emails take quite a lot of my day. Emails from students, parents and partners around the world. And of course telephone calls.

​​​Marianne at the Gala Dinner at the 2013 Peru conference with Nicky (MyEducation UK) and Sissel (MyEducation Norway) and Gabriel (Fit Intercambios Brazil)

How many students do you send overseas on exchange and which are your popular destinations?

​MyEducation has experienced a growing interest for student exchange since our start in 1995. The reason for this positive development is probably that in Denmark we put a lot of emphasis on having an international experience. Danish people also travel a lot and all over the world so students are used to seeing the world and are curious to learn more.

Student exchange is a fantastic experience both academically and on the personal level. Students will be fluent in a foreign language and they become more independent and mature. These are all skills that pay back when they continue in the Danish education system.

​​Our most popular destination is the US. I think students get so much information about the US from the news, films, etc. that automatically the country seems like the obvious choice. And in fact it is a country that influences the rest of the world and is therefore interesting. English speaking countries are in general most popular as Danish Students have had English in school from second or third grade and in the future they will have English already from first grade.

​​Marianne at 2016 conference in Venice and Stresa, Italy with Nicky and Sissel and Valeria (Mondo Insieme Italy)

Why do you think your students choose the UK for exchange?

Students who want to go to the UK have for one decided to be fluent in British English. They call it “the real English”. They also have a feeling the UK is a very nice country with a beautiful countryside and kind people who maybe act and think not so different from Danish people. And finally many students have been to London and think it is a great city with a special atmosphere. Many Danish families take a short stay in London over a weekend to shop and watch a musical. So they feel they know already something about the country.

Why is high school exchange such a normal part of life for Danish students and how does the school system enable them to participate?

Students know they have to be skilled in foreign languages to have success. No matter what they want to do in their future life, the English language is inevitable. So with support from schools, counsellors and parents they take a year in another country. Also Danish High Schools are happy to welcome a student who has been on exchange as they have gained other competences than students who stayed in Denmark. Danish students can go on exchange after 9th, 10th or 11th grade as long as they live up to the host country's age requirement. It is no problem for a Danish student to step out of the Danish school system for a year. They just go back and continue where they left.

What kind of relationship do you have with the MyEducation UK office?

​We are working very closely from when we get an applicant until the students return home. I cherish the cooperation. From my part I make sure to give the necessary information about our students and make also sure their applications packages are as requested. If there any challenges, we communicate. Finally, we receive reports about our students so we know how they are doing.

From your experience, what do students gain from completing an exchange?

​They become fluent in the host country’s language. They grow as a person. They become more independent and more mature. We send a girl or a boy and the parents get a young woman or man back. It is a life changing experience.​

​​Marianne at a MyEducation conference with the team of office staff and Area Reps.

If you could do an exchange, where would you like to go and why?

​If I should do an exchange it would definitely be in Europe, and the UK or France would be my choice. I love Europe with it's old history and culture. I would love more students to learn more about Europe.

Why should students go to Denmark on exchange?

We are judged to be the happiest people in the world according to United Nation's World Happiness Report. The reason is supposedly because we trust each other and when we stick together we succeed, and also we have a strong belief that we decide ourselves about our lives. We are known for our work-life balance.

​We are laid back and you can communicate with us as most of us speaks English quite well. ​We can also offer a nice countryside, Danish design and also a well-known Nordic cuisine. Restaurant Noma is among the 50 best restaurants in the world – number 5 this year and earlier the best three years in a row.

You can bike everywhere also in Copenhagen and it is possible and common to bring your bike on the train. ​There are many other reasons but come and judge for yourself.

MyEducation (UK) welcomes students from Denmark every year and we are looking for host familiesto host them from September 2017. You can also choose Denmark as a destination for high school exchange and you can meet Marianne personally!

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