So much in common, yet with so many contrasts

A cultural exchange trip to Kenya. Nine students from Grenaa Gymnasium moved beyond their comfort zone.

Towards the end of January, nine students and two teachers left the winter temperatures in Denmark for much more comfortable degrees in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya in East Africa. Here they visited Nairobi Academy and stayed with students and their families.

Kind and considerate host families

“To me it was a bit challenging that 30 minutes after leaving the plane at the airport, I was in a car with a family I didn’t know yet, 6,000 kilometers away from home and my comfort zone,” Sidsel Krog Hübbe, 2.kb, says. The journey to Kenya was the first outside Europe. Jane Birk Hansen, 2.p, agrees and adds: “But at the same time it was a fantastic experience. The family I stayed with were very loving, kind and open-minded.” Like Jane, Sidsel feels that her homestay has been very rewarding: “I will always remember my stay at Stephanie’s. I learned a lot and now I have a friendship with a family in a different part of the world.”

Sidsel’s and Jane’s very positive experiences with their host families are shared by the other students, as is the insight that geographical distance is not necessarily matched by cultural distance: “The students at Nairobi Academy are into much the same as students at Grenaa Gymnasium,” Ida Thommesen, 3.u, remarks, and Jane gives a specific example: “My host, Tiffany, and I had a really nice time together. We share common interests, like football and baking. We actually baked a cake together one afternoon.”

Students from Nairobi Academy visited Grenaa Gymnasium in 2016

A short distance between the rich and the poor

Most of the students at Nairobi Academy come from well-off families and have comfortable lifestyles. However, a large part of Kenyans struggle with poverty. On the last day of the trip, after having attended not only regular school days but also a vocational event day at Nairobi Academy, as well as visiting the Bomas of Kenya, the Giraffe Center, Karen Blixen’s farm, the Kazuri bead factory and Nairobi National Park with a very dedicated guide, the nine Danish students and their teacher visited Kibera, which is considered the largest slum area in Africa and only 5 kilometers from the center of Nairobi. Local guides took them through some of the streets of Kibera and they visited one of the schools. Stine Blok, 2.u, explains: “Within a very short distance there is this big difference between rich and poor. It was sad to visit the school in Kibera and knowing how their future will most likely become, and to see little kids playing in the garbage. However, it was also optimistic to see them being joyful in spite of their miserable living conditions.” Line Fredhave, 3.u adds: “It makes a great impression when the contrasts are right in front of you. All those problems that you realize people here struggle with that I never even think about at home.”