At first glance, the proposal reads like a travel brochure — go to the “Happiest Place on Earth,” where wellness is integrated into daily life and the natives focus on “hygge,” or cozy well-being.
Six to nine student hall wellness coordinators will travel to Denmark next January with Jen Jacobsen ’95 and Milton Severe ’87 to learn about balancing the rigors of daily life and pursuit of wellness.
In return for the College-funded travel opportunity, the wellness coordinators will share their experiences through campus-wide presentations and perhaps a Danish-themed meal — with hygge all around.
Jacobsen, campus wellness coordinator and assistant track coach, co-created the hall wellness coordinator positions with Andrea Conner and Rebecca Don in residence life to bring wellness into everyday life in the residence halls. Severe, director of exhibition design for Faulconer Gallery, first traveled to Denmark as a Rotary Exchange student and has kept in touch with his host family for more than 30 years.
So when Grinnell College’s Center for International Studies and Office of Social Commitment offered a travel grant focused on cocurricular activity with benefits to the campus community, the two of them crafted a proposal to take hall wellness coordinators to Denmark during winter break.
“College students are often searching for wellness in their immediate environment. Wellness in Denmark is part of the fabric of an entire culture and its values,” Jacobsen says. “We hope exposing Grinnell students to a slice of Danish life, through interactions with Danish students and families, will open their eyes to opportunities that people in the United States are missing.”
Severe describes his years of return travel to Denmark as “life-changing,” remarking that the Danes are considered among the world’s happiest people, living in one of the most satisfied nations on earth.
“Their high sense of well-being is reflected in their surroundings. They have an appreciation for daily living, even though they only see six hours of sunlight during winter,” Severe says. “The Danes have movement built into their day. More than one-third of workers in Copenhagen bike to work. It’s a social democracy without the huge separations of wealth we see in the United States.”
Severe will offer a cultural introduction and language tutoring to the student participants next fall.
His host family will facilitate stays in Grenå and Århus, Denmark, the home of Aarhus University, one of the top 100 universities worldwide. Grinnell also has a strong relationship with an off-campus study program in Copenhagen.
“It’s very exciting that the College values and supports cocurricular international travel,” Jacobsen says. “Putting wellness in a global perspective appeals to Grinnellians.”