Danish Conversations

Before I forget: this article was posted to the DIS Facebook page.

Although I don’t think I’ve been here long enough to comment on the linguistic differences between Americans and Danes, I think it’s an interesting article and a good explanation of how cultural differences can impact daily life and social interactions.

I’ve found that studying abroad requires a bit of social flexibility. There are a lot of little things (like the conversation patterns mentioned in the article) that influence the abroad experience – sometimes they can be incredibly frustrating and sometimes they just create a “gap”. Dean Lancaster tells a story during pre-departure orientation that has the bottom line of: “Going out to eat in a big group is very American and usually won’t help you learn about another culture”. It’s true, and her story is just another example of how social conventions shift when abroad.

I’ll try to pay attention to Danish conversation patterns so I can comment on the article personally. Since I’m not in a home stay, I signed up for a “Visiting Family” through DIS – I get paired with a Danish family for the semester, who hopefully likes me enough to invite me to dinner and teach me a bit about Denmark.

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Grundtvig’s Church

This morning I biked to Grundtvig’s Church!

The church is about 40 minutes away from my LLC (probably less if you don’t have to stop your cycling to check a map). To get there, I left the historic central city and ventured into the suburbs of Copenhagen. Or what I think must be the suburbs. It was a very beautiful August morning in Copenhagen and I was excited about finding this church!

I found it in a book about Copenhagen – and with a little encouragement from my architecture class, I decided to check if the church is really as incredible as the photos show it to be.

And guess what!?

It totally is.

The little info pamphlet at the church says: “Grundtvig’s Church was built in memory of the priest, hymn writer and educator Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872). His significance for Denmark was so great that he simply had to have an extraordinary memorial.”

So I googled Grundtvig. Turns out, Grundtvig is responsible for molding Danish national identity – more info here. (And he got married three times? WUT?)

The church is (pamphlet quote) “a combination of a medieval rural church from Zealand with its battlements and a Gothic urban church”. The church was designed by architect Jensen Klint and completed by his son Kaare. It belongs to all of the Danish people, as funds for its construction were collected from all over the country and Danes living abroad. Grundtvig’s Church is the size of a cathedral and made out of almost five million yellow bricks.

I hadn’t read the handy pamphlet before I biked to the church. I arrived a little clueless, and I was even more intrigued after I saw the building. The church is in kind of a remote area of Copenhagen and it looks like a prison from the Lord of the Rings. If facades could be scary, this one is.

I gathered all the courage I had and entered. And I was the only one there!! I had the whole church to myself this morning. The interior of the church is gorgeous – open and airy and very serene. The use of natural colors and clean lines is calming, as is the exclusive use of yellow brick. All decoration (and there really isn’t that much) is masonry.

I poked around a bit and took some photos before biking back to the city center. It was a great morning adventure, and I hope that I can go back again before I leave Copenhagen.


Daunting exterior.


I counted; the church has 1,440 seats.


Standard bricks were used in the construction of the church – but in many places they were cut into a specific shape and polished to produce the silky surface that reflects the light so beautifully.

The architect also designed the surrounding buildings and residences - the whole complex looks like it should be in Shrek.

The architect also designed the surrounding buildings and residences – the whole complex looks like it should be in Shrek.

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Seen in Copenhagen

We went on a bike ride around the city! It was so much fun, even though we got horribly, horribly lost. We stumbled upon the famous Copenhagen harbor right before we got rained on.

We went on a bike ride around the city! It was so much fun, even though we got horribly, horribly lost. We stumbled upon the famous Copenhagen harbor right before it rained


Copenhagen has a bunch of urban parks - this one, which we found while running around on a scavenger hunt, has trampolines!

Copenhagen has a bunch of urban parks – this one, which we found while running around on a scavenger hunt, has trampolines!

My roomie getting one of the famous Danish hotdogs.

My roomie getting one of the famous Danish hotdogs.

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Danish Update

It’s Day 4!

I’m over my jet lag, all moved in, and starting classes. I’m so so excited to begin academics here – I can’t wait to learn a little Danish and work in an architecture studio!

I’m taking (technically) four classes here: my Architecture core course, which is 6 credits. I’m also enrolled in 20th & 21st Century Danish Architecture, a Danish language course, and Creative Business Thinking: A Nordic Approach. Wofford is transferring both credit and class score. My core course – THIS IS SUPER EXCITING – includes a week-long study trip. I chose to go to Austria-Switzerland (over Finland-Sweden). The DIS program encourages student travel. In addition to the week-long trip with my architecture program to Austria and Switzerland, I am automatically signed up for a 3-day core course trip around Denmark and all students are given two additional 10-day periods to travel.

I’m still having trouble believing that I’m hereIn Denmark. In Copenhagen. Did I tell you that the first morning I woke up here, I had no idea where I was? It’s a phenomenon that’s only happened twice in my life, but it happened in Denmark.

We’re all starting to get more familiar with the city. Settled in? Maybe not quite yet, but we’re starting to develop a rhythm. We are still figuring everything out – currently Travis, who lives in my LLC, is watching a YouTube video on how to work the darn Danish oven. In the name of efficiency and cheap college lyfe, our floor has decided to do group meals a few nights a week. Tonight is Travis & Julia’s night – they’re making some classic Minnesota bratwurst and vegetables. Connie & Kelsey made stir-fry; Anthony and I made spaghetti. We’ve oriented ourselves in the Danish grocery store – which is no small feat. (At least I could kind of read the food labels in Spain. Here, the yogurt cartons look like the milk cartons and there’s absolutely no telling the difference unless you get some kind Danish person to translate.)

I’m really loving my housing – and I’m learning a lot from my floormates! A bunch of them are The Real Deal, architecture students who actually major in architecture. Others are graphic design students, science students, or even pre-Med gender studies students (my roomie Connie).

Last night our SRA Nina made pizza with us, and she created hygge (hugh-guh) with soft music and a bunch of candles. Danish hygge, which resists translation but could be interpreted as coziness and snug-ability, is a large part of the Danish culture. The concept of hygge makes me really excited for Christmastime here in Denmark. Doesn’t a candlelit hot cocoa sound amazing?

SPEAKING of Christmas – it’s already cold here in Copenhagen. I’ve bypassed all of the summery clothes that I brought. I’m bopping around in jeans, boots, sweaters, and (very often) my coat. I’m already thankful that I’ve got rain boots with me. It has rained every day so far. Sometimes it pours, but other times it’s simply a matter of what street I’m walking on. Down this street, a little rain, turn the corner, all sunny again!

Life is good in the land of the Danes. No complaints – and so many adventures to come!

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Day 2

textbook pick-up at the DIS offices

Textbook pick-up this morning at the DIS offices. Classes start Thursday!

Found these sandwiches at the market. Open faced = very Danish

Found these sandwiches at the market. Open faced = very Danish

Brief moment of sun in the city

The bike store where we got our awesome bikes

Our bike spot!

Me & Connie on our new bikes

Me & my roomie Connie



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Day (?) 1 at the LLC

Arts & Culture LLC: Floor 1 (The Best Floor)

Arts & Culture LLC: Floor 1 (The Best Floor)

Floor 1 Crew. Fighting sleep and getting punchy.

Floor 1 Crew. Fighting sleep and getting punchy.

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Day (?) 1

I made it.

Night has fallen in the Kingdom of Denmark. I am safe and cozy inside my Arts & Culture LLC  - the Living & Learning Community that will be my home for the next four months. Located in the heart of Copenhagen, the LLC is a four-story building that houses 32 American students. An old staircase winds up through its center, linking the downstairs entrance to the upper three residential floors. I live on Floor 1 (the second story by American standards) with nine other students. We have our own kitchen and common room. My bedroom, lucky number 107, is a double. I share with Connie, a cutie pie from Indiana.

I’ve been fighting sleep for hours – the gray Sunday sky and drizzling, chilly rain practically begged me to curl up with a blanket on the common room couch. I was the first to arrive at our LLC, at 7AM Danish time (1AM EST). Our Social Resident Assistant (SRA), Nina, helped distract me and keep me awake so I could beat the jet lag.

My other floor members started arriving at 10AM. We’re a pretty varied group, but I can already tell that the ten of us are going to be a tight crew. Although it’s only the first night, we’re ragging on each other like we’ve lived together for weeks. We bypassed small talk along with the much-desired naps.

Our floor took a break from unpacking at around 3PM and ventured out to explore Copenhagen. The Arts & Culture LLC is only a couple hundred feet from the DIS academic buildings (excellent news for morning scramblers like me), and only a corner turn from a grocery store. We hunted rather ruthlessly for a café and then proceeded to meander through the city streets, bundled in all of our rain gear.

There’s a lot to explore here – and so much to learn. Orientation starts tomorrow morning, and in order to prepare, I need to test out my new Danish bed. My sense of time is a little off, but my body knows it’s way past time for some sleep.


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The Packing Wars

I am (currently) sitting in the middle of a small explosion of clothes and shoes. My family has abandoned me in this late hour of the night (it’s almost 1AM) – but my loyal dog remains, hidden among some sweaters. There are a few rogue charging cords and a heck of a lot of stray papers, but hopefully they’ll all find a home soon. In my very trusty, very empty, black suitcase.

In two days (TWO DAYS), I am boarding a plane for Denmark.

Last night I had a dream that I boarded the plane and ended up in China. China looked a lot like Granada – only I didn’t understand anybody and some lady was telling me I “failed study abroad” because I hadn’t explored the city enough. Very upsetting, but only slightly less upsetting than the previous night’s dream, where I forgot all of my winter clothes for Copenhagen and everyone was laughing at me because, really, how dumb do you have to be to forget your coat and scarves and sweaters. Pretty darn dumb.

But right now forgetting all my clothes is looking like a distinct possibility. Because nothing is in this suitcase.

Luckily (thankfully), almost everything else is ready to go. I’m signed up for a fall semester in Copenhagen. I’m registered for classes, I’ve received my housing assignment (and roommate!), my passport is somewhere in my stack of Important Things, and I do actually have a plane ticket.

So I’m going. It’s happening.

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A Kitchen Job & the Fourth of July

Good news. GREAT news.

First of all: I got a job. As a cook! In a restaurant. A SEAFOOD restaurant. I really, really enjoy it – more than I ever thought I would. I am an oyster-shucking, lobster-steaming, salad-tossing, creme-brulee-torching chef, and I LOVE it.

What does this have to do with study abroad, Caroline?

Yes! Here’s the thing: not only am I the only girl in the kitchen, I’m one of the two non-El Salvadorians.

Imagine a huge, gleaming, stainless steel kitchen. With expansive countertops and a wall of gas burners and a long station for dishwashing. Put two walk-in refrigerators in one corner, and then add a mess of knives and pots and pans and spatulas. That’s the back kitchen.

When the restaurant is in full swing, the back kitchen is steamy and noisy and loud. But the chefs don’t shout in English – they yell in Spanish. Rapid-fire Spanish that – THIS IS THE COOL PART – I understand because I just got back from a semester in Spain. (Who said the lessons in curse words wouldn’t come in handy?)

They say, “the lettuce is in the fridge on the right”, and I know where to go. They say, “that lucky son-of-a-gun is getting off early”, and I immediately brandish my knife. They say, “Caro, would you like a glass of iced tea?” And I say, heck yes, because finding good sweet tea in D.C. is like trying to find that missing sock from the dryer. (And let me tell you what, those El Salvadorians know how to make sweet tea.)

The benefits of spending a semester in Granada have carried over, seamlessly, to my summer in Washington, D.C. In a very unexpected way. In a very good way.

Not only that – I’d also like to tell y’all that my friendships from Spain haven’t disappeared.

Julia and Logan are working in the D.C. area. It’s awesome. We have taco nights together, and we stay in touch! It was very strange to see Julia, my Spain roommate, on the streets of an American city instead of the cobblestones of Granada, but I love it.

Alix, a Connecticut gal at heart, drove down to stay at my apartment for the Fourth of July weekend. And since she was here, Logan and Julia stayed over too. The little Spain reunion was much needed and very, very fun.

Becca and I write the occasional letter; Alex and I text each other life updates. Riley and I have a Skype date planned for later this week, and I try to keep up with Nate’s adventures in Chicago.

The funniest post-Spain friendship is the one I have with Grant. During the second week of my internship, I boarded the circulator bus (punctually) at 8 o’clock in the morning. I scanned my pass and glanced around, quickly, for a seat. But I stopped, slightly stunned and very much surprised, when I saw Grant sitting in the back, dressed in a business button-down and sporting a serious-looking briefcase. He waved. Turns out (get this) that Grant and I take the same bus to work. But not only that – we also get off at the same stop and walk in the same direction.

I’ve been on the bus with Grant many, many times. He lives two streets up from me in Georgetown and works one block away from me downtown. We’ve decided that all of the D.C.-Granada folk need to meet up for tapas. (Date TBA.)

The after-Spain adventures are never-ending, and I’m excited to see the continued effects of spending a semester abroad.

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WoCo Lovin’

The Wofford Girls at the IES Farewell Party

The Wofford Girls at the IES Farewell Party

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