A life at Herlufsholm12/1-2018
Ann K. Hansen tells her story of first being a student at Herlufsholm and later coming back as a teacher and a part of the senior leadership team.
Growing up an expat Dane, I yearned for the country of Dannebrog, bacon and fresh strawberries – not believing my Mother who insisted that the country of my birth was filled with boring, cold and slushy days.
When I finally emancipated myself as a 17-year old, it was to Herlufsholm – an imposing boarding school standing on the banks of Susåen in Næstved.
Growing up at a boarding school in a foreign country
At Herlufsholm, I came into myself – beginning to understand my personality as a unique blend of American and Danish. This was possible as Herlufsholm provided me with a solid Danish tradition of a certain brand of Danish nurturing, food, morning chapel, hygge and an education focused on independent and critical thinking.
I still remember the first day in the boarding house (Pernille Gøye Gården) where I gathered the other first girls together for an awkward meeting and some saftevand – many of those girls I still count among my best friends today.
A network that lasts a lifetime
For that more than anything – is the gift of Herlufsholm. Yes, I planted my roots by the banks of Susåen and fell forever under the spell of this beautiful school that helped me find my way back to my Danish heritage, but more importantly, the school provided me with a network of friends who have become family – friends who have played a central role in my life ever since.
Out of the 9 godparents my children have, 7 are from Herlufsholm.
We play an active part in each other’s lives – both in the daily and mundane, holidays and in the big picture days.
Living in a dorm with peers
I came from a home with my own section of the house, own car and essentially was in charge of my own life. I nearly stalled when I realized that attending Herlufsholm would equal sleeping in a dormitory! With open windows!! And 24 other girls!!!
Today, neither I nor any of the other students at Herlufsholm would give it up – for the experience of living so closely together is a strong antidote to the rising individualization we experience with smartphones in today’s society.
In the dorms, there are no smart phones – but rather a real friend with whom one can whisper about the day – all that went according to plan, and all that didn’t. Our dormitories breed a kind of closeness you can’t find other places – and combined with dorm teachers who live on site 24/7- Herlufsholm provided a window to eachothers true personalties that is rare today. Moreover – I think we sleep more than most other teenagers as the dormitories provide a certain number of cell phone free hours!
Why do we come back to Herlufsholm?
Last year one of our former colleagues returned to participate in a celebration of a 25th work anniversary for another colleague. One new colleague looked on in wonder and asked why he would travel 3 hours with a newborn – to which I answered “Because we love each other”.
Herlufsholm is like a family – and If you were to arrive at our Fugleskydning event in August you would see former students seeking out their old teachers for a hug and time to update them on what they’ve been doing since graduation.
As a graduate, this interest in me helped move me through university – and for me personally, it was provided not only from former teachers, but also from members of our alumni society who saw that my parents were far away and provided a support network for me thoughout my university studies that helped ensure that I ended up with my degree!
Engaging with International children
Today I have, as you might have guessed, moved full circle.
At one of my earlier jobs, I told my boss, the director of an up and coming on-line Auction house, that it was my dream to return to Herlufsholm and keep the school moving in the right direction. She told me to return to her at any time for a new job, stating that I would die in the still-moving waters of a Danish Gymnasium.
16 years in – that hasn’t happened.
Today, I am responsible for ensuring that all students at Herlufsholm have the opportunity to evolve as global citizens, learning the competencies that will be necessary for them to navigate smoothly in the 21st century.
Herlufsholm has a certain blend of tradition and new initiatives that keeps it fresh and interesting – yet remains true to its identity. I can’t imagine a place I would rather see my children be educated – both in terms of academics – but most certainly also in terms of a strong character education which provides them with adults and peers that hopefully will help create a network around their lives as well.