Sorø Akademi: Four centuries of new thinking
By Signe Hansen | Photos: Sorø Akademi
Sorø Akademi may be one of Denmark’s oldest boarding schools but its history is not one of dusty dogmas, but rather a will to renew, challenge and explore. Situated on the grounds of an old monastery, the upper secondary school, which today takes both day and boarding students, comprises not just a historic on-campus environment but also a world-class natural science centre
“At Sorø Akademi, students get the chance to strengthen their proficiency so that, when they leave, they can participate in academic discussions, use subject-specific terms and write theoretical essays in Danish.”
Already at its foundation in 1586, Sorø Akademi broke with the norms of its time by allowing commoners to study alongside noblemen. “We’re a school that is more than 400 years old and, of course, we have plenty of traditions, but we also have an important heritage which is to break norms, go new ways, and think new thoughts,” says principal Kristian Jacobsen and adds: “When you first come here, you immediately notice this special atmosphere. I think it’s the knowledge that we’re all part of an institution that has made a difference, where people have thought new thoughts for many centuries – it’s inspiring to our students.”
The stately buildings of the old academy have been complemented by several new boarding houses, a new canteen for day students and, most recently, a world-class natural science centre. All are stunningly located facing the natural scenery of Sorø Lake, a popular area for running and biking and the location of the school’s rowing activities. But despite the school’s many obvious attractions, the main pull is something you cannot see: its strong academic profile. “When we get applications from students from outside our local area, it is primarily the seriousness with which our school is associated that they mention,” says Jacobsen.
Life as a boarding student
As the only state-run upper secondary school in the country, Sorø Akademi has a unique status, emphasised by the fact that it accommodates both boarding and day students. Out of the school’s 570 students, 135 live at the school. Boarding students live on campus, the youngest students in six adjacent halls housing 12 students each. Each student has his or her own room, and each hall also has a flat for a resident teacher with family. The older students live in a larger, older building, the Principal’s House, where the principal also has his home. This arrangement provides a safe structure for study, socialisation and sports.
On a typical day students get up, go to breakfast together and go to school; after school a range of sports and leisure activities are on offer, but the two hours after dinner, which students must spend in their own rooms or the homework café, are dedicated to homework.
But though the structure and the permanent presence of teachers create an organised and safe atmosphere, students also learn to stand on their own two feet, stresses Jacobsen. “You build up a lot of personal and social competences at our boarding school. You have to get up and out of bed and manage your day on your own. If you don’t learn to do that, you simply won’t graduate. That’s a process many young people don’t go through until after they leave home for university.”
Building a network in Denmark
Approximately ten per cent of boarding students at Sorø Akademi are young ex-pat Danes attracted by the school’s strong academic profile. Jacobsen says: “We have quite a few young expats who are considering pursuing a Danish University degree. Many arrive having never used Danish as their educational language, but here they get the chance to strengthen their proficiency so that, when they leave, they can participate in academic discussions, use subject-specific terms and write theoretical essays in Danish.”
An extra bonus for students without family in Denmark is the fact that it is pretty much guaranteed that they will leave the boarding school with a strong network. “When you are a boarding student your friends become your family, and that means that the students who build good memories do so to a degree that will affect generations to come,” Jacobsen says.
This is also reflected in the school’s society for old alumni which, with its more than 1,700 members, is one of Denmark’s largest school societies. It also owns and runs a centrally located residence hall in Copenhagen exclusive to Sorø Akademi alumni.
Facts: Founded in 1586 by King Frederik II Total number of students: 570 Boarding students: 135 Number of teachers: 64 Special facilities include: state-of-the-art science laboratories in the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Science Centre and outstanding outdoor facilities for sports and leisure activities, such as a football field, canoes, kayaks, mountain bikes, tennis courts, a basketball court, and a cricket field. For more information, please visit: www.soroe-akademi.dk or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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