One Year at Boarding School Amounts to Seven Years of Growth

Mads Joakim Rimer Rasmussen

2019 - 2020


Danish Boarding Schools are heavily inspired by the values of Danish theologian and philosopher, N.F.S Grundtvig. He believed in the importance of educating and including the working class in order to help people become active members of society. The aim was to excite the students about life before he could excite them about information. But this also gave his boarding schools a reputation for schooling troublesome teenagers - either mischievous children or children whose parents were tired of them. Throughout the years, diversity has flourished in the mentality of the schools. Boarding schools have become popular amongst various social classes and are now considered a privilege that many wish to attend. In fact, it has never been more popular to attend boarding schools in Denmark. In the year 2019, there were 30.069 students enrolled in 240 boarding schools. I went to Fjordvang Efterskole on the first day of the school year, to see how the new batch of students would welcome the life of a boarding school stay. A stay that enables teenagers to engage with each other, as the school becomes a world of their own.

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  • 100 students are about to move into the boarding school in the afternoon. They will meet their roomies, as they collectively enter a year with few rules and a lot of freedom while completing one of the final steps of middle school.

  • The students are in the ages of 14-17 and come from all over Denmark to live at the school for one year.

  • Fjordvang is located on the west coast of Denmark, in a small village named ‘Velling’ with under 300 inhabitants. The students are allowed to leave the school in their spare time, but the nearest town is several kilometers away where they only have a short amount of time to spend. Luckily, the small village has its own local grocery shop where the students can buy candy.

  • A normal day at Fjordvang begins with a morning walk at 7.15 a.m., just before breakfast. At 8 a.m. the students meet for the morning gathering where they sing and receive information for the day. Then, classes are on until lunch, during which the teachers check if the students’ rooms look tidy and acceptable. Classes continue until 5.20 p.m. and dinner is served 6 p.m. after the students’ evening walk along the coast. After dinner, the students are required to spend an hour in their respective rooms during “silent hour”. The students are free to spend the rest of the evening as they like, besides a brief gathering where they watch the daily news and receive information from the teachers if needed. Bedtime is at 10 pm.

  • Fjordvang offers different study directions alongside the elementary school program, such as outdoor programs, global studies, horse riding, or mechanic skills. The school strives to offer lessons to students who may already be advanced in these subjects or to those simply curious to try out different paths.

  • Every day begins with a morning walk before breakfast, and later a walk along the west coast before dinner is served. This is one of the mandatory rituals of Fjordvang.

  • According to the principal, the first couples are always noticeable after the first week of the school year. This is Benjamin after the first weekend.

  • The students at Fjordvang come from different backgrounds and social layers. The first weeks are full of new impressions and new personalities. Some students jump right into it, while some require a bit of space to adapt. Attendance during the first weekend at Fjordang used to be mandatory, but this has changed as some students prefer returning home after the first intense week.

  • Mads and Casper settle who is the strongest, while Simon carefully spectates. It is almost bedtime, and they are about to get ready for bed in the student house they live in.

  • There is no tolerance for sexual activity at the school, and if caught, those involved are at risk of being expelled.

  • Emilie and Camille wander around the school at night.

  • The students gather for the last time at the end of the school year. During the last songs of the party, the students have gathered in the hall exchanging hugs and cries, as they say goodbye to their fellow schoolmates.