Faroe Islands Visit Starts

By Abbey Chaver

Today, eighteen students from the Faroe Islands have come to visit Berkeley High School. The visit is part of the students’ three–day stay in Berkeley, which is one stop in a two–week tour of the United States. During their stay, the students will be living with Berkeley International High School (BIHS) families.

Because the culture of the Faroe Islands is very different from Bay Area and American culture, BIHS wants the group’s stay to be an opportunity for BIHS students to learn about the culture of visiting students as well as share their own. “There will be about five students from the islands in each class and they’ll be split up into more intimate groups with the freshmen,” explained BIHS Global Studies teacher Robin Green. “Right now the kids are learning the Seven Aspects of Culture, so they’ll go through those to learn about the [Faroese] students’ culture. Then the BIHS kids will go through and explain about their culture … The point is to have a cultural exchange.”

The students speak Faroese, a dialect deriving from the language of their descendants, but the students are also fluent in English. The other official language spoken on the Faroe Islands is Danish. The nation is isolated, participating in world politics very minimally as a part of Denmark.

An off–island trip is a tradition for Faroe Islands students. The Faroe Islands are a group of tiny islands inhabited by about 48,000 people and located in the Northern Atlantic, about halfway between Norway and Iceland. A part of Denmark, they are a mostly self–governed nation peopled by the descendants of Norse settlers from Scotland. Because of their geographical isolation from much of the world, communities there make an effort to send kids on a trip to see other countries.

The aim of those who organized the BIHS visit was to create relationships between the Faroe Islands students and their host–families and to extend the learning experience and cultural exchange to activities both in and out of school. Some host–families have arranged to take their visiting students to a UC Berkeley football game, an event that would show the students an exciting part of life in Berkeley. Because Faroese villages generally consist of eighty to two hundred people, a full Cal stadium could be a rare experience.

“They worked really hard in the fish factory to make this trip happen,” Daniels said. “The kids range from sixteen to nineteen years old. They’re going to shadow kids, and they’re going to give presentations about it in BIHS freshman classes. I think it’s really interesting that no one knows anything about the Faroe Islands, and since BIHS studies Europe, it seems like a great opportunity for BIHS students and families.”

“[The students] wanted to come here and to New York because public transportation is easier here,” said Matt Meyer, a BIHS Economics teacher who organized much of the visit. “One of the [Faroe Island] teachers has a distant relative who lives in the area, and the relative recommended BIHS. So I coordinated them coming in and shadowing students,” Meyer said. He explained that the BIHS students who would show the Faroese students around will probably be 11th and 12th graders.

“We had them write a couple things about their lives in the Faroes, and apparently the things that go on there are sports, fish and sheep,” noted Meyer. “You know, there’s not a lot of industry, so America should be pretty interesting.”

“Usually these trips are to Europe, but they decided to visit America,” said Thea Daniels, a BIHS parent who volunteered to coordinate host-families for the students. “They’ll be coming in to San Francisco from New York on Tuesday, meeting their hosts on Wednesday and leaving on Saturday.”




Visits like these are truly exciting and fascinating. Most Americans dont know anything about the Faroe Islands, let alone Denmark, so this is an opportunity on both sides. It would be nice to read a follow up on how the Faroe students perceived Berkeley and the US in general. Im sure it will be quite enlightening to hear their reflections upon American culture. Its too bad that there are no American students who visited Faroe in return - that would have made it a true "cultural exchange".