Gribskov Gymnasium: Turn school into an Arctic adventure
By Signe Hanse | Photos: Gribskov Gymnasium
T hree years in four different nations – Gribskov Gymnasium’s North Atlantic class gives adventurous and independent students the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Launched last year, the course brings together students from Iceland, Greenland, Denmark and the Faroe Islands, in an ambitious programme that sees students living and learning in each other’s home countries.
Designed to give students an authentic, challenging and eye-opening experience, the North Atlantic class is structured like no other ‘gymnasium’ (Danish upper secondary school). While the students spend their first year in Denmark, they then travel to the Faroe Islands and Iceland for their third and fourth semesters and finish with a year in Greenland. This structure gives the youngsters a unique chance to use their time in secondary school not just to prepare for their further education, but also to broaden their cultural and social horizon, says one of the founders of the course, Kristoffer Høy Sidenius, the principal of Gribskov Gymnasium. “The students get a completely different experience than on a traditional exchange programme, where they might stay in one place for a few weeks. Here, they will get to experience everything in the North Atlantic, from the vibrant life of Reykjavik to the midnight sun and dark winter in Greenland.”
With around 50 applications for last year’s first class, the programme succeeded in grabbing the interest of many youngsters. Furthermore, the concept also got recognition from the Danish Royal Family, who invited representatives from the schools to attend a special event celebrating the Danish Commonwealth.
Academic and social skills
Despite the historic and current connections between the four nations, the North Atlantic class is the first of its kind. This means that students have had to take a bit of a leap of faith, but those who have done so have no regrets. Having previously visited Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland, Danish student Caroline Thermansen Willumsen has been in love with the North Atlantic cultures since she was child. “Before I started, I was really looking forward to going on adventures in the three other countries. I sort of thought the first year in Denmark was just something I had to get through first, so I was surprised to realise that the adventure actually already starts here – in Denmark. Life at the school feels wonderful and safe; it’s an amazing class, and the teachers and principal are brilliant,” she says.
To apply for the North Atlantic class, students are required to submit a personal statement, and though the course requires no special qualifications, applicants should be both academically and socially strong. “Our students show a great degree of independence; they’re courageous and ready to stand on their own two feet, all the while adapting to new things and places,” says Sidenius. “Now, our students have gotten adjusted to life here in Denmark, but next year it’ll be something completely new; some students will all of a sudden be on their home turf again, while others will have to adapt to an unknown environment, and that’s also one of the points of the programme – that the students work together and support each other knowing that in the next term, they might be the ones who are a little lost and need a helping hand.”
No need for a gap year
As part of the programme, students will study biotechnology as well as Arctic technology, a subject borrowed from the Greenlandic curriculum. Furthermore, on top of the regular subjects, non-Danish students will have lessons in their native language while Danish students will be able to choose from French, German and Greenlandic as their third language. However, while students will leave with a full Danish Upper Secondary School Leaving Examination, students feel they get much more. “You get an experience that you won’t get anywhere else, an experience that also prepares you for life after school and helps you build bonds for life,” says Icelandic student Anika Ingvadottir.
Facts: - Students in the North Atlantic class will spend their first year in Denmark, at Gribskov Gymnasium; the first semester of their second year in the Faroe Islands, at Miðnám á Kambsdali; the second semester of the second year in Iceland, at Verzlunarskoli Islands; and the third year GUX Sisimiut in Greenland. - The North Atlantic class gives students a Danish Upper Secondary School Leaving Examination (Almen Studentereksamen – stx) with the majors biotechnology, Arctic technology, physics and mathematics. - All classes are taught in Danish. - When possible, students can live at home. - When in Denmark, students live in newly erected student accommodation next to Gribskov Gymnasium. In the Faroese Islands and Iceland, students stay with local host families. In Greenland, accommodation is provided in student halls. - Students pay the cost of accommodation (2,500-5,000DKK per month) and flights (15,000-20,000DKK for the whole programme). - The application deadline is 1 March 2020. www.nordatlantisk.dk
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