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The Scarlet & Black

HWCS plan Trip to Denmark

Grinnell’s Hall Wellness Coordinators (HWCs) are planning a nine-day trip to Denmark to learn about the healthy lifestyles of the Danes next January.  The students will stay at Aarhus University, as well as with a Danish home-stay family, to learn why the Danish are rated some of the happiest people in the world.

“We are not very good at being good students and healthy young people; we are not very good at balance,” said Chinar Verma ’13, HWC for Loosehead. “[The HWCs] don’t want wellness to be a burden.  We want it to be incorporated into your everyday life.”

The trip is funded by the newly established International Co-curricular Travel Program, which supports Grinnellians who are travelling internationally as part of campus courses or organizations.  The program hopes to take advantage of Grinnell’s international connections to make a meaningful impact on the participants.

“We like to think of this as a service trip, and the service that will happen will be the semester we come back,” said Wellness Coordinator Jennifer Jacobsen ’95. “We [are going to] look at places where college students have more rigorous academics, but who are leading balanced lives. The Danish are known for working hard, but setting a limit on how long they work.”

The trip was inspired by the Blue Zones Project, which aims to make Iowans happier and healthier by studying other cultures.  Ten Iowan communities will be chosen for the project, which is sponsored by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Healthways.  The town of Grinnell is currently a candidate community.

Milton Severe ’87, Director of Exhibition Design at Faulkner Gallery, will serve as the co-leader for the trip, along with Jacobsen. As a Grinnell student, Severe studied abroad in Denmark, where he stayed with a home-stay family. Severe has remained in close contact with his host family and is working with his connections in Denmark to set up host families and other opportunities for next year’s trip. During his stay in Denmark, Severe noticed how much happier Danes were than Americans.

“Danes can appear to be a little reserved,” said Severe. “But they are very contented; they’re very happy. Everyone worries a lot about everything over here. I always felt like Danes [are] always enjoying the moment.”

As part of this happy lifestyle, Severe emphasized the phrase “hygge,” which roughly translates to coziness.  “Hygge” is a Danish way of life, in which wellness is part of day-to-day routine. Biking and walking are the preferred modes of transportation in a country where 9 out of 10 people own a bicycle, and healthy eating is the norm. The group hopes to learn from these practices and bring back what they learn to apply it to campus life.

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