Bringing sports, community and people into focus
TEXT: JOSEFINE OLDER STEFFENSEN | PHOTOS © GYMNASTIKHØJSKOLEN I OLLERUP
In 1920, Gymnastikhøjskolen i Ollerup, on southern Funen, opened its doors to its first students. At that time, it was the first højskole – a Danish folk high school – focused on gymnastics, and today it continues to inspire, teach and engage students from across the world.
Gymnastikhøjskolen i Ollerup is home to 200 students every year, aged between 18 and 30. There is a spring and an autumn semester, with the choice to stay for one or both. The school also offers an international programme, with students coming from 25 different countries to live and study alongside the Danish and Nordic students. “We think of it as an experiment in international living. We’ve had incredibly positive experiences, and our students gain a lot from living with each other across cultures,” explains Uffe Strandby, principal at the school.
The students bond over their interest in sports and gymnastics. They can choose from a variety of core subjects within the fields of gymnastics, dance, parkour and fitness, as well as preparation for the Danish police academy. However, a typical day is filled with much more than just these subjects, as students are also engaged in talks, teamwork and lessons where they learn more about Danish, Nordic and the wider global society, ultimately helping them to become leaders in a globalised world.
An experience that lasts
“We actively encourage our students to become members of organisations and to try to make a difference. Throughout their time here, they learn to work with new people, have open discussions and partake in their own well-functioning community across interests. That’s something our students take with them, and many of them end up working in national as well as international organisations and institutions,” explains Strandby.
He has become used to getting messages from alumni now on the other side of the world. “It’s fantastic to see the impact the school has. Whether it’s students simply going to visit one of their school friends who lives in Brazil, or working with an NGO in Australia, it’s nice to know we’ve helped to give them that interest in the world.”
Gymnastikhøjskolen i Ollerup has a lot to offer. Its facilities are modern, boasting the latest equipment. The school is accommodating and ready to give the students an experience that will have a lifelong impact.