Day 103: It has been an education

“Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.”
“Most things don’t. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.”

I refer back to the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the movie that started my study abroad experience on the flight to London-Heathrow one-hundred three days ago. I came into Denmark with wide eyes and no real knowledge about the places I will see and the people I will meet. I had my expectations for the trip. Things I wanted to see, things I wanted to do, places I wanted to go, etc etc etc. However, just as the quote above states nothing quite happens as expected, but what does happen can be more amazing and worthwhile.

I came into Denmark on that surprisingly warm August afternoon tired from my travels but still excited to experience what Denmark has to offer. After getting onto the bus and arriving in Bronshoj, I wasn’t exactly sure what I thought. Bronshoj is a burrow of Copenhagen, but to say it is a lively place would be lying. I was initially disappointed with my housing assignment. I thought it was too far away from the actual city. I thought it was too boring of a town. I thought it lacked the adventure that I was craving as a student studying abroad. I had written off Bronshoj right from the start without even giving it a chance. I look back now and just think about how foolish I was then. Bronshoj has become like home, and I’ve learned that its not about where you live but who you live with. From the kebab guy down the street who thought I had cancer after shaving my head to my friends in my kollegium, these people have made my time in Bronshoj so much better than I could ever imagine, and I could never fathom living anywhere else. With only 20 days left I can’t help but get a sense of sadness about leaving this burrow once and for all. It is not a well known place. Heck, I remember talking to some Danes and they laughed when I told them where I lived (either they were laughing at Bronshoj itself of my initial, poor pronunciation, but that’s besides the point). All in all Bronshoj has become home to me, and I know I will miss this place I was so cautious about from the very beginning.

I came into this study abroad experience wanting to see everything. During my travels I have seen some sights I never thought I’d see, such as the Sistine Chapel and the Acropolis. For the most part I am very happy with the places I went to. I say “for the most part” not because a particular place I visited was not up to par or anything like that. No, each place had its unique charm and I’m happy I saw each of them. However, I’ve also learned that its not where you go that’s important but instead it is the people you meet along the way. These are the people that make the memories that you will cherish for a lifetime. Its not about going to the sistine chapel and seeing Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. Its about trying to sneak a picture with a friend while trying not to get yelled about by Italian security guards. Its not about skydiving in Interlaken, Switzerland, but reassuring a friend right before the jump that everything will be alright and it will all be worth it. It isn’t about climbing up to the top of Mt. Lycabettus to get a great view of Athens and the Acropolis. It is about sitting there on the bench at the top and having a conversation about life for over an hour with three of the greatest people you have had the pleasure of meeting. It is the kebab guy down the street that knows how to brighten your day. It is about your Danish friends that tease you about being American and lacking their knowledge on Danish customs. It’s the man at the Greek restaurant who treated you to free dessert just because you came to his hole-in-the-wall restaurant and loved it so much. People make the journey that much more memorable and the rest just goes by the wayside.

My high school chemistry teacher once told me not to let my education get in the way of my learning. I’m pretty sure he took that quote from someone but I’m not sure who, but regardless that quote has stuck with me for a very long time. I’ve always had an idea as to what that meant, but I was never quite sure until I looked back on my semester abroad. Yes, I took classes here and they were all very informative and educational; however, I know I have learned more just through the “abroad” portion of study abroad than from my actual classes. The lessons you learn from study abroad, whether it is about certain places, people, or cultures, all are very important and stick with you. I’ve learned a lot about Denmark and its people, but I’ve learned about things back home as well. I’ve learned to appreciate where you are from because it reflects a lot upon you when you are outside of your home. I’ve learned to appreciate the people that are important, like my family, because they have been there to support me from day 1 and will always be there for me. I’ve learned to value every person that I meet and to give everyone a chance, because your first impression of a person is probably wrong. Even though no one is perfect, everyone has that special something they can bring to the table and it’s important to appreciate them for that. I know I am talking in a lot of cliches and intangibles, but these are honestly how I feel about this whole journey. I look back with only 20 days left for this semester. Did my semester go as expected? Absolutely not. But what happened truly was the good stuff, and I’ll cherish it for the rest of my life.

Don’t worry America. I’m coming for you soon. I just have a few more things to take care of here.

Med kærlighed

Deep

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Day 85-88: Oracles, ATVs, and lots and lots of marble

“Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean sea.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

Through my program we are given about 3 weeks off from normal classes. One of those weeks was dedicated to studying with your core course in another country (Sweden and Estonia for me), but the shenanigans that occur in the other two weeks are up to the student. During my first week I travelled to Italy and Switzerland. Following the same trend of wanting to see the ancient world I made my way to Greece, the land of democracy, gyros, and monumental marble masterpieces.

I packed my bags on Friday night knowing there would be very little time in the morning if I wanted to catch my 9:05 am flight without having to worry about missing my flight. Accompanying me on this excursion were three people from my kollegium. Eric Ong, weighing in at all of 110 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal, Brian Evans, a completely outrageous human being who brings shenanigans with him wherever he goes, and Brianne Phelan, the token mom figure, and I made up this motley crew that would spend the next four days in Athens, Greece. As I exited my room and made my way to the lobby of the kollegium I discovered that Brian had awoken just 10 minutes before. Thus, Brian successfully set the tone for the rest of the trip which entailed getting to most of our destinations by the skin of our teeth.

And the gang is all here

Mt. Delphi: The Ancient Home of the Oracle

We woke up bright and early the second day in order to make the morning bus to Mt. Delphi. Normally when on vacation people don’t want to get up early, especially not at 6:30 in the morning. However, Delphi, from what I had heard and read, was a sight to behold. Early mornings can be hard, but Delphi made it well worth it.

Brief history lesson: Mt. Delphi was essentially the religious center of ancient Greece. The mountain was the home of the Oracle who was the ultimate religious and political authority in Greece, and all ancient Greece city-states had to adhere to the orders of the Oracle. If you’ve ever seen the high-action movie, 300, then you will probably remember the scene with the disfigured priests and the young, beautiful, oracle. Although that scene was great in Hollywood, it wasn’t what it was like back in the day. The Oracle was typically a much older woman who used special smoke to induce a hallucination. The hallucination was interpreted and relayed to the king of the city-state.

Anyway, that’s enough history. We made our way up the mountain on a bus whose driver sped through the mountain curves with very little regard for human life. Once we arrived we were dropped off on the side of the mountain by a café. The food from the café was fine, but the view was even better.

Incredible

Seeing the view was breathtaking. There were mountains all around with a green valley thousands of feet below. Across the horizon was a small plateau just in front of a lake front town. The view had all the majesty one would expect from the landscapes of Greece and then some. What made Delphi even more amazing was the juxtaposition of the mountainous terrain and the ancient ruins that stood at the side of the mountain. These ruins consisted of two large temples with a theater that stood at the very top of the ruins. It was a decent sized estate for the Oracle, making it that much more impressive as it was at the top of this mountain.

Ruins and Landscapes

The Island of Aegina

Our journey to Mt. Delphi was long and tiresome, but that did not deter us from more adventures the following day. We made our way on the train to the port of Piraeus where we took a speedboat to the island of Aegina. We arrived slightly after noon and instantly went to the tourist center. There we learned that many of the attractions were several kilometers away on the island. However, this gave us the perfect opportunity to explore the island by way of ATVs. After a quick tutorial from the man at the ATV rental we were on our way to exploring the island. From here I will let the pictures speak the rest of the story.

They were so far away….


The view from the archeological site


The Church in the center of the island

The view from the road

Playing in the Mediterranean Sea

Athens

Of course, while in Athens we had to explore the Acropolis. First we climbed to the top of Mt. Lycabettus in order to get the best view of Athens. From the top of the mountain one could see the white buildings stretch from the coast all the way to the mountainside with no end in sight. Athens is an incredibly expansive city that fills the valley surrounded by the mountains. From this peak the Acropolis can been seen perfectly lit up in the nighttime.

We climbed up the Acropolis during the day. On our way up we say the Agora along with the old Temple of Zeus. This temple was probably my favorite just because of the sheer size of the pillars. And of course there was the Acropolis itself, which overlooks the city. The most incredible part of this is the fact that these ruins have stood the test of time up on that rock. Sure, there have been restorations on the monument at all times, but that does not take away from how incredible the buildings up on the Acropolis are.

Temple of Athena on the Acropolis.

I spent a grand total of four days in Greece, but I easily could have spent a month or two in the country exploring the countryside from one city to another, hopping from one island to another. It was easily my favorite place in Europe, and I hope that I can come back there again one day.

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Day 65-70: Bjorn Borg and Invasions

Every person in DIS is part of a core course, and everyone will go with their core class on a study tour of a country or two. My core course in Medical Practice and Policy, and for our trip we spend a few days in Stockholm, Sweden, and Tallinn, Estonia. Initially, I was pretty apprehensive about the Estonia part of the trip. It’s this foreign place that I knew nothing about, and if my communism class in high school taught me anything it was that Soviet Russia was nothing to mess around with. However, Estonia turned out to be a blessing in disguise and was an incredible experience. However, that is later in the trip, so let me start in the beginning.

Stockholm, Sweden

As a temporary Danish resident I am biased towards all other Scandinavian countries. Sure Norway, Sweden, and Finland are probably cool in their own ways, but they can’t even hold Denmark’s jock-strap. That being said, Stockholm was a very picturesque city. We arrived Friday afternoon after a 45 minute flight from Copenhagen and took a bus to the Quality Globe Hotel in the Globen region of Stockholm. It was much better than our hostels that we stayed in during our short study tour of Western Denmark, as we got a large buffet breakfast, wifi, a sauna, gym, and other goodies that were extraneous rather than necessary to our time in Stockholm. That night we all went to a vegetarian buffet that looked over the entire city. The food was pretty good, the company was even better, and the view was the best.

The following day we spent a good bit of our time in Gamla Stan which is the old section of Stockholm. This is the side of Sweden you’d see in romantic movie. Cobblestone streets leading to narrow alleys surrounded by colorful, century-old buildings made up Gamla Stan. At this point, in typical DIS fashion, we were split into groups and sent out on a scavenger hunt of a new and unfamiliar place. They made us do it when we first arrived, they made us do it in Western Denmark, and they made us do it in Rome. So naturally, we had to explore the oldest region of Stockholm by ourselves equipped with only our maps and our sense of direction. We started at a large church in the center of Gamla Stan and made our way through the Royal Palace, the narrow alley-ways, and finally the Parlament building.

It’s not all fun and games here in Sweden, and we spent much of our times going to several clinics in Stockholm and finding about their healthcare systems. Our first stop was to a neonatal clinic, which was very different from American systems because it is run completely by midwives. In Scandinavia I have noticed that midwives play an crucial role in delivering a baby and the mother’s health in general. An OB/GYN is only consulted if there is a complication that a midwife cannot handle, but besides these situations the midwife will be there from the beginning to the very end and at every step on the way in between. At this clinic we also saw the two different styles of care. One of them was the typical child birthing room with the machines and the standard hospital beds and what have you. However, this clinic has been experimenting with a new type of hospital room that resembles a standard bedroom, with cabinets and drawers holding all the medical equipment. It is believed that this setting is more relaxing for the mother, and with a more comfortable setting it makes childbirth that much easier. The partner is there at every step of the way as well and plays a very active role during the entire process. It was astonishing to see the differences between this system and our American system, but that has been the overall trend during my time in Europe.

We spent about three days in Sweden. During our time we went to several museums, visited the national forest (which used to be the ancient coastline of Sweden many millennia ago), and explored the city in general. I apologize for short changing Sweden. It really was an awesome place, but it was nothing in comparison to Estonia. I know what you’re thinking. “But Deep, isn’t Estonia just a poor former-Soviet State? How can it even compare to Sweden? I can’t even point to Estonia on a map!” I thought the same thing before going there as well, but upon my arrival all my perceptions of the city changed.

On Wednesday, November 24th, we took an overnight ferry to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The cruise was a much needed break from the constant hospital visits, and we were able to enjoy ourselves as we made our way to Tallinn. When we arrived in the afternoon on the 25th we checked into the hotel and made our way straight to the old town of Tallinn. Here is a brief history lesson. Over the past 1000 years Estonia has been free for less than 100 of those years. Originally, they were invaded by the Danes (good job Danmark). Funny story, the Danes had two groups of soliders waiting to invade Tallinn on one night 1000 years ago. As the first group went into invade the city, the Estonian gave up without a fight, and proceded to celebrate their new overlords with copious amounts of beer. Now this is where the Estonians show just how tricky they are. Once the Danes were good and drunk the Estonians attacked, slaughtering all the soliders that thought they were getting a free beer. However, the second group of soliders came in after hearing the cries of their dying comrades, and at that point the jig was up and the Estonians actually surrendered. From this moment Estonia was passed from one country to another, from Danmark to Sweden to Germany to Russia (and maybe a few other countries as well. I don’t quite remember). Well, 900 some years later Estonia enjoyed their first taste of independence after the Russian revolution, and enjoyed 20 years of independence before being invaded by the Nazis. After WWII the Soviets took control of Estonia, and Estonia was controlled by the Soviets until 1991 where they finally regained their independence and have maintained it since. They have been independent for a record 21 years, but jokingly they are waiting for their new overlords to show up on any given day.

The old city of Tallinn is a unique place with influences from each of their previous invaders. Each building is different in its own way, and because of this mixture of influences Tallinn is one of the most interesting places I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.

I have three more countries to visit, Greece, France, and Ireland, before heading back home. Be on the lookout for those blog posts as well as more on my Danish adventures!

Indtil næste gang!

Deep

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Day 48-51: 15,450 feet in 4:07

So, last week didn’t end with just Rome. I woke up early Wednesday, took a 50 Euro cab (yikes) to the Rome airport, and made it to my flight to Geneva with just 10 minutes to spare. Was I cutting it close? Yes, but that’s what European adventures are all about. If there isn’t a chance of you getting stranded in some European city then you aren’t doing Europe right.

I made it to Geneva around 10 o’clock, and even from above I could tell Switzerland was so much different from both Rome and Copenhagen. In those cities space is pretty limited, and everything is very tight and compact. That is not the case with Geneva. From above Geneva is very spacious and spread out across these amazing green mountains and rolling hills. You could see the boats sailing around in the lake by Geneva from one side to another. It was a pretty incredible sight, but unfortunately I could not enjoy it for long because I was on a tight schedule was I made my way to a different Swiss city, Interlaken. After getting my baggage I made my way to the train station which is conveniently located right beside the airport. However, at this point I was having another “stupid American” moment and couldn’t find the ticket station. I went up to this Swiss man and asked him where I should go. He immediately shrugged me off after I said two syllables and walked away. I guess I’m just THAT obviously American. Thankfully, his kind, European conscience kicked in and he came back and showed me where the ticket station was (thanks Swiss guy!). Once I made my way through the queue I popped a squat in front of this woman who began spouting something out in French. Of course, I once again had to play the “I’m American, I’m sorry” card, and she kindly switched to English. I paid my 150 Euro (double yikes) for the train tickets I needed to get to Interlaken. I was at most westward point in Switzerland, and I had to get to the middle of the country. Luckily Switzerland is a relatively small country, so the entire train experience was only about 3 hours long.

I arrived to Interlaken after almost missing the stop due to my hardcore slumber. Luckily I didn’t, and I made my way out to the fresh air of the Swiss countryside. I was thoroughly enjoying the view when a dark realization overcame me. I had no clue where I was living in Interlaken. Sure, I was there with friends who had been staying in a hostel the day before, but there was a few problems with this situation. 1. I didn’t have an international phone, so I couldn’t get a hold of any of them. 2. Interlaken is small city, but at the time it was very new and I had absolutely no clue where to even begin looking. Luckily, just as I began my hostel-hopping adventure in search of my comrades I found a cafe with WiFi. Stealing WiFi, or anything for that matter, is a wrong thing to do. However, I was a tired American who feared that he was stranded in a small Swiss city by himself, so please excuse my action. I finally got onto facebook, where I was able to find out where my friends were staying (Thanks Zuckerberg!).

Finally, after a 20 minute walk from the train station I made it to the hostel…but lets skip ahead to the good parts. To be honest, most of my time in Interlaken was filled with relaxation and being lazy. Nothing really worth mentioning…except bungee jumping and skydiving.

Skydiving

The whole purpose of this trip was to go skydiving in Interlaken, Switzerland, because apparently it is one of the best places in the world to go skydiving. After jumping out of a plane almost 3 miles above the ground I have to agree with the experts, this place is definitely a great place to go skydiving. We got onto a van from our hostel which took us out to this airplane hanger 30 minutes outside of town. Once we were there we suited up in our skydiving suits and were given a quick and easy orientation. Newbies like me have to do tandem skydiving, so basically the other guy gets to do all the work and I just am there for the ride. We were strapped in and ready to go, and as we were boarding the plane I realized that I was the last one to get on. By being the last one on board, and therefore the one closest to the door, I was going to be the first one to jump out of the plane. Now, I have this problem with exciting events in life. I don’t really get excited until the event is seconds away from happening. Thats how I felt about going to Denmark in the first place. That’s how I felt about bungee jumping later. I don’t really understand the magnitude until it is staring me in the face. Let’s just say the reality hit me when the door opened and I got to look down…wayyyy down. At this moment I replayed every bad decision I’ve ever made that led me to that very moment. Before I could even say anything my jumping partner let out a quick “whooo!” and we made the leap of faith. We made the dive, and suddenly it got quiet. I couldn’t hear the propeller from the plane any more. I couldn’t hear anything for that matter. I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking. I looked around for what seemed like forever. Its a funny feeling up there because you can’t really tell that the ground is getting closer as you fall. Everything looks so picturesque that the fear completely evaporates. And then the 45 seconds of free fall ends, and the parachute is deployed. At that point you are just trying to figure out what exactly just happened. My partner did some cool parachute tricks to show me everything around me, including Bern, a major city in Switzerland that was in between Interlaken and Switzerland. Eventually we made it down to the ground. The adrenaline was rushing through my veins well after the fact. Its almost as if I could do anything at that point, which is why we then did what we did later that evening…

The airplane hanger as we started climbing


First jump!


I was gone…

The view was incredible

Bungee Jumping

Remember the whole excess adrenaline thing? Well we had so much that we decided to go bungee jumping right after our skydiving adventure. Are we crazy people? Yes, yes we are. There is no denying that. Was it a good decision? No, it wasn’t. It was a GREAT decision. Once again, we were boarded onto a sketchy van that took us 30 minutes outside of Interlaken. Once we got off of the bus we went onto one of those mountain carts (I don’t really know what they are actually called, but they take you up mountains in these big box things). Once we got up the mountain we had a great view of the mountain range, but the beauty of the range was diminished by how absurdly cold it was up there. Maybe it was because I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, but regardless it was cold. We took another cable car (seriously, what are those things called?) over this lake where we stopped midway up. It was a 450 foot drop to the bottom. I remember hearing that falling into water from over 150 feet is like hitting concrete, so basically jumping out of that box in the sky was the equivalent to falling to your death…

Once again, I was the last one into the car. By being the last oen in the car I once again was the first to jump out. Now, one might think, “Oh Deep, you just went skydiving. Bungee jumping will be a piece of cake.” Wrong. While skydiving you have a partner that does everything. Bungee jumping means you do everything yourself, including jumping to your death. So bungee jumping is much more terrifying than skydiving. However, I had to put on a tough face and get down to business. Everyone around me began counting down from five, and at 2 I made the leap. At that moment I was surprisingly at complete peace. When you are 450 feet over water about to fall you have absolutely no control over what is going to happen next, and at that point you just accept what happens next as fate. It’s a way of just letting go, and just letting nature take its natural course. Of course, this fall only lasted about 7 seconds, and the bungee caught me and took me back up for another, much smaller fall. Eventually I was lowered into a small dingy below me and taken to shore where I watched the rest of the people in the car plummet and scream.

The view with the cables

The lake and the dingy

Deep, before the fall

Sorry about not having any pictures of me falling. I’m pretty sure you guys get the gist of it from the picture of the lack though.

Med venlig hilsen

Deep

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Day 43-47: All roads lead to Rome, so why shouldn’t mine?

“We call it “dolce far niente”, the sweetness of doing nothing.

It has been a while since my last blog post. Since the recap nothing substantial has happened while I was in Denmark. I spend most of my day commuting from one end of the city to the other, people watching, and the occasional cup of coffee. Oh, and I guess I do homework from time to time, even though the whole “study” portion of study abroad has been on the back burner. I have done better about immersing myself in the culture around me and have made a few Danish friends. It has been an interesting and enlightening experience going to football matches, playing reverse limbo and twister, and celebrating a birthday Danish style. However, at the end of this past week there seemed to be a bit of a lull. This is partially because it was the period of time between the newness of Copenhagen and our upcoming weeks off from class, but the other part is probably because of us settling into our roles in Copenhagen. But, like any lull they do no last long, and after my past few days in Rome I’ve developed a fonder appreciation for Copenhagen for what it is and what it is not.

I feel like Lizzie McGuire right now

At this moment I’m sitting on a train rushing through the Swiss countryside (I’ll have a separate blog post about my Swiss shenanigans) trying to put my last few days together in a concise manner. I’m having trouble finding words at this point. Is it because of the 2 hours of sleep I had the night before my flight? Probably. However, I think my inability to communicate my thoughts is a reflection of the splendor that is Rome. I’ll do my best to hit some key points and not ramble.

The Beginning

Let me explain first why I was in Rome (besides the fact that it is Rome and that should be reason enough). I am taking a 1-hour course called Classical and Renaissance Rome where we learned all about Roman culture during the time of the Roman empire and the resurgence of Roman and Greek thoughts during the Renaissance. In this class we focused on many of the major sites of Rome such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Forum Romanum in order to gain a better understanding of the quotidian Roman life. After completing this crash course on Rome we were given an exam and finally, we go see the real thing. On Saturday morning I left my kollegium, and of course in typical Danish fashion there was a chilly rainfall. Normally this type of weather would even dampen the mood of an eternal optimist, but seeing the forecast in Rome made my temporary time in the rain much more bearable. We flew into Rome during the early afternoon, and just as predicted the weather was wonderful. It was warm and humid and it reminded me of South Carolina. We arrive to our hotel which was much more posh than I was expecting.

Sons of Zeus

What was once a large Roman villa was converted into a cozy bed and breakfast with all the amenities a spoiled American could even want. Once we were settled in we quickly made our way into the city for a couple of sites and then dinner (I’ll go over those in the sections).

Classical Rome
When talking about Classical Rome one imagines the typical marble statues of gods and goddesses usually wearing absolutely nothing, or they think about large ornate buildings covered in marble and gold.

Dude…

Of course, there is a bit of truth in both of these, however I’m sad to say that most of the marble and precious metals have been stripped away for other uses sometime after the decline of the Roman Empire.

Oh hey there Pantheon

However, the brick and cement body of these major buildings/broken remnants of the sculptures have survived to give us a glimpse of its former glory. It was incredible to see the juxtaposition of the new Rome and the old Rome, and you could definitely sense that the Romans of today are quite proud of their history. Classical Roman artifacts and architecture include buildings like the Colosseum, the Forum Romanum, the statue of Emperor Marcus Arelius, etc.

If only I could have seen it when it was in its glory days

Renaissance Rome.

Classical Rome is cool, don’t get me wrong, but seeing the buildings built during the Renaissance period was absolutely thrilling. Pictures honestly do not give buildings such as the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica any form of justice. These buildings are incredibly large that the magnitude simply cannot be captured in photos. As I walked through the Vatican museum I was blown away by the major fresco paintings such as the Academy at Athens and the depiction of the fall of ancient Rome to the newly dominant Catholic Church.

This statue was my favorite.

Once you go through the Raphael portion of the museum you find yourself going up these steps into the Sistine chapel. The only way to explain the sensation one has when walking in is breathtaking. Everyone looks up at amazement at Michelangelo’s creation, which is as clear as they are in any picture one has seen yet at the same time much more astonishing. In the center you can see the Creation of Adam, the most famous fresco Michelangelo created in the chapel. Now I hope my amazement for the chapel is coming out pretty clearly. I am incredibly impressed, right?

Raphael painted himself into this painting. Can you find him? #Where’sWaldo #RenaissanceStyle

No jokes this time. This was too breathtaking for jokes.

Right, I am, but the Sistine Chapel pales in comparison to St. Peter’s Basilica. I literally have no words to express how impressive that building is. I first got there one night in my attempt to meet up with Christopher Novak (WOCO NAME DROP. MORE ON THAT LATER). Of course I was horribly lost, but eventually a priest-in-training from Nebraska found me and lead me to the square. That has to be a sign right? Divine intervention? Anyway, I finally meet Novak in the square, but not before I revel in the wonder that is this building. The square consists of a colonnade of 284 Doric columns, two fountains, and an Egyptian obelisk in the center.

Amazing.

The following day I went inside and up to the cupola, which was even more impressive. Inside St. Peters are famous sculptures such as the Pieta and the statue of Pius VII, and of course the bronze baldachin in the center. None of the pictures I post will give anything any sense of justice as they are much much larger in person.

I can see my house from up here

From the top of the basilica one can see all of Rome, from the Colosseum to the “Birthday Cake”. Of course, one cannot leave the top without making a trip to the holy gift shop located conveniently on top of the church.

Life in Rome

Now that I’ve gotten through a bit of the artsy stuff (I saw so much in that city it would be quite the task to describe all of it), I can talk about life in Rome. Two things, food and transportation. Food is, of course, one of the best parts of Rome. On our first nights in Rome we went to a square with the statue of Bravo, a famous monk, where we had an authentic full Italian dinner.A full Italian dinner consists of an antipasta (appetizer), a pasta, a main course, and finally a desert. The dinner was a borderline religious experience, which if one were to have one it would probably be best to have one in Rome. Over the past few days we went to many authentic restaurants. Some had angry Italian grandmothers forcing us to have her lasagna. Others had accordion players on the outside, giving it that perfect Italian ambiance. Our final meal was a more contemporary meal, but to be honest it reminded me of the traditional meal (which is fine. It was still delicious). Also, gelato. That’s all I can really say. So good and so cheap. I ate an embarrassingly large amount of gelato while in Rome, and I’m going to leave it at that.

So much Om Nom Noms

150 gelato flavors…oh my…

Now, where the food was absolutely amazing, the transportation was dreadful. The bus system in Rome made me miss the one in Copenhagen. Where the one in Copenhagen is organized, clean, and orderly, the one in Rome is chaotic, irregular, and frustrating. A typical wait for the bus is normally around 30-45 minutes, which I must say was incredibly frustrating when I was going to the airport this morning. Once on the bus the driver whizzes you through the city while hitting each curve with increasing ferocity. While my knees did a good job of absorbing the shocks from the maniac driver, there were a few times I stumbled into the Italians around me. While the buses flew through the city, the tram took its sweet time all around, mainly because cars would casually chill on the tram track. It was a sight to behold really. And of course there are taxis.

Well okay there Roma Bus…didn’t think this was an issue…

Taxis have been the bane of my existence here in Europe so far and I will not take them at all costs. However, I had to take one this morning to the airport because the trains and buses were not running. After a 50 euro taxi ride, I made it to the airport safe and sound. While the transportation made it a bit hectic, it was the only part of this Rome trip that was negative. The city is incredibly vibrant and beautiful, combining the culture of today with the pride of the glory days of the Roman Empire. If you ever have an opportunity see Rome with your own eyes. You will not regret it.

Til next time.

Deep

PS. GUESS WHO I FOUND

REUNITED AT LAST.

Also, shout out to Emma Kellum for being on this trip with me. Too many shenanigans.

Wofford pride…with a little bit from American University (thanks Andrew!)

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Day 32: Let’s Recap

I’ve been here for more than a month now, and things have slowed down. Classes are now in full swing, and the daily routine has been set. Of course that doesn’t mean the excitement and wonder of Copenhagen doesn’t get to me from time to time. No, it just means that I’ll have to balance the “study” and the “abroad” more efficiently now.

So I’ve been here for a month, and a lot of my posts have been about my perceptions and thoughts of the whole study abroad experience, and I have been neglecting what I have actually been doing. So, its time for a recap of my first month in København (koo-ben-hown). And what better way to recap than with pictures? So let’s begin.

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Day 22: Darwin’s Finches

“Day 22: Like Darwin’s finches, we are slowly adapting to our environment.”

This quote comes from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a movie I mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts, and I’m sure you have all watched it by now. When I first watched the movie in that cramped seat in the back of the plane, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the movie and my own life. In the movie there were a group of men and women travelling to a country with an unfamiliar culture, and although they all faced their troubles they began to adapt to the society. An elderly man would go and play cricket with the young Indian boys that played in the streets, and another woman would work in an office teaching young adults the nuances of the English language. They were essentially adapting to their surrounding. Let me make clarify this point. The point of adapting isn’t to cope with the situation and hope for something better. No, the purpose of adapting is to thrive and to find a way to flourish within a new society.

Let me try to tie this back to what’s going on here in Denmark. I remember the second day when we (my entire kollegium and I) finally went to the DIS front office. We walked the old cobblestone streets of Copenhagen amazed by the juxtaposition of centuries-old buildings and the modernization occurring throughout the streets. It was awe-inspiring, and at the same time it was daunting. I remembered thinking to myself, “I will never be able to get used to living in this giant city.” However, that isn’t the case anymore. I walked down that same street today, and I just thought how quickly we have adjusted and adapted to living in this city. No longer is it daunting to walk from one end of the city to the next. No longer is it wild and foreign to hang out with Danes. The once unfamiliar lifestyle of Copenhagen has no become the ordinary day-to-day routine. We have adjusted, we have adapted, and now we are thriving. So in that way we are like Darwin’s finches, adapting our beak sizes in order to feed on the various nuts Denmark throws our way (am I a complete dweeb? Maybe. But at least the Wofford Biology Department is proud).

I promise not to make these retrospective blog posts and every time thing, but I do find it interesting to note the changes that have occurred in such a short period of time. As part of a kollegium we have this sense of family. We look after one another, and no man is ever left behind. As part of this large group I have witnessed the changes that have many have gone through. In the beginning we all wanted to experience the finest that Copenhagen has to offer. Of course, the finest is also the priciest, and so we have adapted to find more feasible entertainment. When travelling in buses we were the typical loud Americans, but after a few weeks we have become more quiet, blending in with the crowd of Danes in our daily transits. Many of us have also gotten bicycles, a very Danish way of travelling. Even then there was a bit of a learning curve, but now we ride along with any ordinary Dane in the most inconspicuous manner. We have even curbed our jay-walking which is apparently a very American thing to do. Its as if Denmark is a tall glass of water, and when we all arrived it was like a minute drop of red, white, and blue dye was dropped into the glass. Initially the dye stands out, but eventually it diffuses, and the homogeneity of the water remains intact.

Even though the water in the glass remains more or less the same, the dye makes a difference. It is not exactly the same as it was before, and I feel like that can also be said for our presence in this city. I have seen countless “Cool Story Bro” hoodies and sweatshirts on the city’s youth, and just the other day we played a pick up game of American football with our Danish RAs. The immersion process has been a two way street. Even though we will primarily be learning what it is to live like a Dane, we are also showing many people how we do it in the U S of A.

Everyone is adapting. We Americans are adapting to the private and quiet life of the Danes, and the Danes are adapting to the infusion of insanity and fistpumping from the Americans. It is a perpetual learning process, but the rest of this semester is looking more and more promising by day, and I have a feeling by the end of it we will all be better than when it all began.

Alas, that’s enough for this retrospective post. Time for me to go thrive at a Danish soccer match. We are playing the Czech Republic in a World Cup qualifier. Til next time.

GO DANMARK!

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Day 13: Friday Night Lights

As I mentioned in one of my earlier blog post I may be joining a Danish American football team, the Herlev Rebels. I have been talking with one of the coaches via email, and finally today I went out to one of the practices. Me and two other guys from the kollegium, John and Dylan, rode our bikes to the small town of Herlev. Herlev is located north-west from Bronshoj, and it was only about a 20 minutes bike ride from the kollegium to the practice field. After riding around for a bit and checking out the maps along the side of the road we arrived at the practice field.

Once we locked up our bikes we made our way to where the coaches were standing. I was pretty nervous because I didn’t know what to expect or know how good their english was going to be. Quickly, all of my qualms disappeared. The coaches were incredibly friendly and helpful, and they wanted us practicing right away. I expected to talk to the coaches and then them tell me to come back next time. Nope. Next thing I knew I was following a man to a storage unit filled with football pads and helmets. After selecting my gear I made my way down to the practice field. I told the coach I wanted to play defense, so instantly I was put into the linebacker group. There I met Jens, the starting outside linebacker/defense coach. Jens was a life saver. He guided me through everything from play calls to feet placement. After a while I was getting used to the 3-4 defense and the natural flow of the game. Don’t get me wrong. I was out of position quite a bit, and other times I felt like I did a good job. On one play I made it passed the line on a blitz, and I felt pretty good about myself. Then the head coach looked at me and said, “Hey, don’t touch my quarterback!”. I was about 5 feet away from the QB, but I’m not one to argue with the coach on the first day. I said yessir and kept on with practice.

Overall it was a great experience. The whole practice was tough, but playing on defense was a lot of fun. In the end I heard the most motivational speech on the planet. It was incredible. It was touching. I didn’t understand a word of it because it was in Danish. However, in the end of it I felt part of the team.

In the end of the day I am tired and slightly sore. Even though the season is almost over for the Rebels, I am happy to be part of team and glad to play.

Until next time world.

Deep Sangani

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Day 7: Scenes from an Afternoon Run

I’m not exactly sure when the feelings of homesickness started creeping in. I’ll take that back. I don’t believe I’m homesick, but then again I’m not exactly sure how I feel. Most of the time I feel rather comfortable in my new surroundings, like a puzzle piece placed in the correct spot. Most of the time I can embrace my foreign surroundings and appreciate them for their differences. I don’t know. There was something about today that didn’t set well with me. My unfamiliar surroundings no longer seemed attractive, but instead seemed foreboding and unwelcoming. As I sat in my dorm room I had thoughts of home. After spending the past 19+ years of my life in one location I had become comfortable, and now being in Denmark had taking that comfort away. In Denmark there is a word, hygge (hugh-gah) that truly has no English translation. If it were to be translated it would be close to “cozy”. Now I believe I understand what that word truly means. Although I have loved my time here in Denmark, I had lost my hygge at home. As I sat in my dorm these thoughts began rushing in to the point where I couldn’t really take it anymore.

So I ran.

Whenever I am stressed about something at home or at Wofford I like to workout. I have no workout equipment with me, and my room is too small for any sort of calisthenics. So I ran. I put on my headphones and began playing my workout mix. At that moment and old familiar tune started playing

‘Cause sometimes you just feel tired,
Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength

People can have their opinions about Eminem, but I think he should be a motivational speaker. At that moment I ran straight out of the kollegium and straight for the street. I’m not sure where I was going, but I knew I had to move. I recall my RA mentioning not to take a left out of the kollegium and run in that direction. I’m not sure why, but I decided to run that way anyway. I had been to the right side of town, but if I wanted to find my hygge I needed to be familiar with all my surroundings. I run to the left and embrace the sights around me. In fact, its not much different from home. I see a mother and her two kids walk across the street with a double stroller. I see a man outside of a restaurant cleaning tables, getting ready for the dinner crowd that were about to arrive. I saw a Netto, a Danish grocery store, to my right filled with people buying groceries for dinner that night. All of these sights helped calm me down. Running through the streets and looking around I see that we are not that different after all. All these people are hard working people trying to make an honest living and provide for their families. Bronshoj began resembling home more and more, and I felt much more “cozy” in my surroundings.

Of course, nothing ever goes completely as planned. I had ran for an unknown amount of time. Even though my surroundings were familiar in that they reminded me of home, but they were not familiar in that I knew where I was. In other words, I was lost in Bronshoj. Normally, a man lost in a foreign city would immediately have a panic attack. However, I was in the middle of a wave of hygge and confidence. I could either ride this wave to the shore, or I could cut back and stay in the sea. I wasn’t going to go back to where I was about an hour before. Embracing this city and going strong was my only option. I kept running down the sidewalks, determined to explore this side of Bronshoj. I was in a suburban area which was strangely reminiscent of some neighborhoods of Marion. I couldn’t revel in this similarity because those are the neighborhoods of Marion that one shouldn’t frequent if they don’t absolutely have to. I picked up my pace significantly, and eventually I made it back to the main road. This section of the main road was very different from the area around the kollegium. Around me there was a park and what looked like swamp. I notice some running paths up in front of me. The soft ground was a much needed relief after running on the cobblestone roads, and the sounds of nature all around me were enrapturing like a warm southern night. After running for a bit I stumbled upon a small creek. Although smaller, the creek looked like Glendale Shoals. There was a bridge and a dam and opaque water. The only thing missing were college students playing in the water and people walking along the sides. I guess they don’t do that here in Denmark.

After leaving the forest I was back on the main road. My way home was simple, and I had found some peace at mind. My surroundings were familiar yet different, and the people, although culturally different, were the same as the people back home. I walked back into my room and collapsed on my chair. I was physically exhausted, but I couldn’t help but smile.

I had found my hygge.

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Day 4: And they will blame YOU for cargo pants!

It has been a wild few days here in the great city of Copenhagen, and I have learned so much about the city already. I’m going to cram the entire orientation experience into one post, so please bear with me.

I live in a Danish dorm building called a kollegium (ko-lee-gee-um). Each dorm is rather small (almost as small as Marsh dorms) and have two beds, two desks, a bathroom, a kitchenette, and very little space. I’ve done poorly with the whole unpacking thing, but in my defense I’ve been pretty busy running around from the city and back. My room is located at the end of the hall and has a door that leads to the outside lawn. Out in the lawn somewhere is a rooster. I have yet to see this rooster, but it makes sure everyone in the building is aware of its presence. My building is located in Brønshøj (bronze-hoy) which is a burrow of Copenhagen. It is a decent distance away (just about 30 minutes away by bus), but you quickly learn which buses will take you where you need to go and where to get on them. On the first day of orientation everyone from the kollegium was up and ready to go at 8:00 am to go to the opening ceremony. We all piled into a bus and made our way into the city. Once we had arrived we entered into an opera house where various speakers, including the director of DIS and the Mayor of Employment and Integration, spoke to us about our semester in Copenhagen. The speakers were also accompanied by the DIS Strings, and group of musicians from the University of Copenhagen that performed various musical pieces, including a riveting version of Jalousie. Once the ceremony was completed we walked over to the DIS center which is located on a small street alley known as Vestergade. Here is where the real fun began.

Once we arrived at the DIS center we split into groups. In these groups we were given 5 locations on a map, and our assignment was to go see each of these Danish landmarks, listen to the speakers about the area, and then come back and give a small presentation on a site. As if the thought of going about a relatively unknown city wasn’t daunting enough, we had to go around accomplishing a task. We set off on our journey and went to the Church of Our Lady (the head church of Denmark), a square with several shops and cafes that used to be a monastery, the Palace of the Royal family, the old harbor (and of course the new harbor), and lastly the Parlament building. It was an exhausting tour, but it really helped me find my bearings about the city so that it is much more manageable to navigate. I could easily go into explaining each stop we made, but I could go on and on about each stop individually. I’ll spare you the reading, but if you really want to know about any of the stops just message me.

Fortunately, the following day was a much more relaxed version of Monday. I woke up that morning from a night of limboing with Danes in downtown Copenhagen scrambling to get myself together. I was already late, and one thing I have learned is that the Danes are a very punctual bunch. If I want to immerse myself in the culture, I’ll have to learn to be 100% punctual as well. I arrived in the classroom to another group scavenger hunt assignment. This time, we were assigned 3 restaurants to go explore. We must find out some food prices and see if they have a student discount. The exercise is meant to make us find discount food in downtown Copenhagen where it everything is incredibly expensive. However, we were given more than ample time to complete the task, and we spent an hour at the Student House sipping on coffee and enjoying the fickle Copenhagen weather.

Speaking of which, I want to stop right here for a second and share my love for two things; 1. The Student House and 2. Coins. The Student House (or Studenterhuset (Stew-den-ter-hyoo-seh)) is an amazing place where we can get coffee and pastry items at a very cheap rate. It also doubles as a venue for local bands to play on weekends. This place is definitely going to be mentioned many times in the future. And coins. Everything in Denmark is taxed already, so if you pay something for 60DKK, you pay 60DKK. Not 61.24DKK. Just 60 DKK. That brings me to my next point. If you pay for an item worth 60DKK with a 100DKK then you get 40DKK back (sorry for the math lesson folks, but I promise I’ll round this up). 40DKK is two 20DKK coins, and these coins are actually useful. They are not like pennies and dimes that sit in your car for months on end until you decide to round up all your change and take it to the bank. These coins actually have value in this country.

Back to the story, so the food portion of the orientation was over, and I returned once again to the kollegium in Bronshoj. The kollegium roof has become a popular hang out spot for the Americans in the building, so I spent much of the night on the roof conversing with my new-found friends about life back home and about our next four months in Denmark.

Finally, we have today. Today our orientation event was the do’s and dont’s of being a DIS student, which includes what to do in emergency situations and so forth. The next portion of our orientation was the immersion aspect of our trip. It is has been preached to us that immersion into the Danish culture is the best way to make the most of our four months in this country, and to do so we need to meet Danes of all ages and to “be Danish”. There are several stereotypes about Americans that people from Europe have, and many of them are probably true (we are loud, obnoxious, and arrogant. Sounds right to me). It is not out of the ordinary for a Dane that and American is talking to to start pointing out flaws and issues with our country. In the words of my orientation leader,

“They will blame YOU for the war in Iraq, and they will blame YOU for obesity because of McDonalds, and they will blame YOU for cargo pants!”

Much of my wardrobe is considered to be “American” and not suited for the life of a hip European student, and it probably would have been a better idea to invest in a pair of skinny jeans. While I won’t be breaking out the cash for those skinnys (yet…) I will have to change up the way I dress just a bit in order to assimilate more. Another way to be more Danish and to enjoy Copenhagen is to bike everywhere. I’ve almost been run over by so many cyclists, and it is very clear to me who runs the roads of this city. Therefore, I must invest in a bike rental while I’m here. Finally, we all went to an “immersion fair” today to look up activities that will help us meet Danish people from the city. One of the activities was joining the Danish-American Football Federation team, the Herlev Rebels. Now this isn’t futbol. This is 100% American football played by Danes. Needless to say, I signed up and could end up playing amateur lead football with some Danes. Exciting? Possibly terrifying? Yes to both, but how could I possibly deny an opportunity to potentially hoist the Mermaid Bowl cup in the end? Its too tempting.

After the immersion fair we all went back to the kollegium and had a potluck dinner. It was sorta like getting the Hoffmans Minde family together for a small feast. Tonight was a slow night as classes start tomorrow. So now I’m going to finish my reading for the evening, get some shut eye, and then get ready for my semester to officially begin.

Indtil senere

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