Thea Nissen, a 19-year-old Danish student, will spend a year in Albany and attend two semesters at Darton College. Nissen is sponsored by the Dougherty and Albany Rotary Clubs and the Rotary Club of Blakely.
ALBANY, Ga. — She’s witty and smart, and loves to travel. As she spoke recently while wearing her 17th century Traditional outfit, members of the Dougherty County Rotary Club seemed happy with their choice.
Thea Nissen, 19, has just arrived from Denmark and is the latest foreign student sponsored by the local Rotarians under the Georgia Rotary Student Program, or GRSP.
Nissen delivered a slide presentation of her own pictures, illustrating the snowy Danish countryside and the home where she grew up.
From Nissen and her pictures, Rotarians learned that Denmark has a population of around 5.5 million people — about the same as metro Atlanta — and is not so mountainous as Norway, the country where her mother was raised.
Most Danes are Protestants, but almost never go to church except on Christmas and Easter — “unfortunately,” she said. By some studies they are the happiest people in the world and “the second fastest walkers anywhere.”
Nissen described her traditional garb as something from Denmark’s past.
“Mostly these dresses are worn by folk dancers now. It’s not something you would wear in Georgia,” she said, smiling. “They’re made of wool and they’re very hot.”
The colorful dress and simple hat were made especially for her only a few days before she left for Georgia, Nissan said, because she wanted to show the people here “something about Danish tradition.”
Nissen said she became interested in the GRSP three years ago while in Mexico for the Rotary Youth Program. At that time she was too young to qualify for the GRSP.
According to Nissen, qualification for the Rotary program is competitive, with consideration given to test scores, grades and teacher recommendations. In the Danish scholastic system, 12.0 is a perfect grade point average, but because of her additional courses, Nissen’s GPA is 12.3.
“I haven’t really decided what I want to do,” Nissen said. “I’ve thought about becoming a doctor, but I don’t like needles. With the grades I have I can go to any college I want.”
During her stay in Albany, Nissen will attend two semesters at Darton College, where she will study economics. From time to time, she will speak at local schools and organizations and meet with the other 55 GRSP students in Georgia, she said. She will reside at the home of Caitlyn Cooper.
“She’s my adoptive daughter this year,” Cooper said.
Nissen is co-sponsored by the Albany and Dougherty Rotary Clubs and the Rotary Club of Blakely.