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.