Quick Update: Weather and Final Days

I know its typically a bore to talk about the weather…but I just can’t resist. Yesterday and today a winter storm lashed through Copenhagen taking out public transportation across the city of Copenhagen and throughout other regions of Denmark as well! I cycled home with ease around 4pm but if I had waited another hour, I probably would have ended up like the falling cyclists: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=151_1386280417

In any case, I am safe and sound and had a cozy night of preparing for finals, drinking hot tea, watching Wallstreet (the Charlie Sheen version), listening to the wind whipping outside, and realizing that I had just finished my last and final day of class at DIS. It was sad saying goodbye to teachers I will probably not get to see for a long time, if ever. I was ready to say goodbye to the city, but I forgot I have to say goodbye to the people who made it special for me. I guess that’s the nature of studying abroad though. You never think you have to leave and then suddenly, departure is days away.

I still have a few adventures to look forward to. Finals, if that counts as an adventure, and a trip to Vienna, Austria next week to visit my friend Ashlyn Keightly. It truly is whiplash (without being too corny with weather puns) here in Denmark.

(Oh and a final comment on the weather–the sun is out from around 8:30 am until 3pm these days…that will not be missed when I return to the states. I know the sun sets early in the winter, but 3pm?!?)

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Christmas in Europe

Although missing Thanksgiving is probably the hardest thing a fall semester study abroad student will do, it is made just bearable by the magic of Christmas in Europe. Thanksgiving I spent at a restaurant called Gorm in the glass markets of Copenhagen. It was beautiful with Christmas trees all around the markets and lights inside and outside the building. Although it was pizza, it was a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner.

Black Friday I have to admit was not missed too much by myself as I was in Brussels, Belgium on the opening night of their Christmas markets. To celebrate Christmas everyday from 5pm, every 30 min they have a light show in the main square of Brussles. Click Here for a YouTube video I posted of the show.

Christmas Market Light Show (first night of the season

I also did a little honorary “Black Friday Shopping” at the markets. I won’t say what I bought–in case those I bought for read the blog. But there were rows and rows of little shops all throughout about 6 blocks of streets. The markets all lead up to the skating rink and Ferris wheel. The rink was closed but I went on the Ferris Wheel to get a view of the city. 

Finally, Christmas in Copenhagen has not disappointed… not at all. I went to Tivoli with my classmates and we said over and over that we felt like we were at the North Pole. It was probably the most magical place I have been at Christmas time:

Tivoli Gardens

The actual Christmas markets in Copenhagen open on December 6th. Thought I should give you a taste of what Christmas is like so far! I have noticed that there are some cultural differences in how they celebrate the holiday season here in Denmark:

  • they put their Christmas tree in the middle of the room so that they an dance around it on Christmas Eve
  • they exchange gifts Christmas Eve and Christmas day is much more casual
  • they never say ”Happy Holidays”, what they say always translates to Merry Christmas which perhaps is a reflection of the fact that there is greater demographic difference in the US and more homogeneity her in Denmark
  • they use giant red hearts as decoration, evidently symbolizing the heart of Jesus Christ
  • on the tree they use real candles instead of lights in family homes frequently which seems dangerous to me since they dance around it, but I’m sure they keep it safe.

They also have special Christmas beer and wine and (like we do) special Christmas baked goods. Looking forward to my last few weeks here. Still cannot believe my time is almost over.

 

 

 

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Get Out of the City

I am over halfway through my program abroad. It is unreal! I cannot ignore the fact that I am moving through the semester because the season change is like a red alert. The temperature is dropping and the daylight is getting less day by day. Europe is painted with colorful leaves in every country I have been in. It is beautiful and cozy. Tivoli in Copenhagen is a Halloween and autumn dream with the whimsical decorations, hay-bell maizes and orange twinkling lights. With cider and my knit gloves, I am loving the new season here!

The main focus I want to share today is a huge take-away I have gotten over the past few weeks. When your’e in the city if you have a chance go see the country side.

Getting out is important because you can see the heart of a culture in a different way. In some sense, cities are cities. But when you see beyond the city, you better understand the people. As Wofford students, we can understand the value in smaller places.  

While with my class in London, we went to small town England–Totnes.

A view of Totnes, Great Britain

My classmates and I learned about the city which was buzzing in the 15th century because it was a major port city. We got to experience true English weather (it would rain with almost no notice, and then be sunny the next moment) and eat traditional English meals like Sheppard’s Pie and Sticky Toffee Pudding which is the most amazing dessert I have ever tried. Both were much better than the version’s that we ate in London. It was something I was not necessarily excited about at first because it cut my time short in the city, but afterwards I would not have traded it for anything.

 

My parents inspired me to leave my sweet neighborhood in Copenhagen and travel outside of the main city center. We saw residential homes much like where people would live in Spartanburg. I was not expecting that at all because I am so used to the apartment style living of the city center. We also saw no cows, which kind of surprised us because they are everywhere in the country back home. There were also a few famous landmarks I would have missed out on if I had never left my comfortable home:

 

Me and my Parents at Frederiksborg Palace

My parents outside of Hamlet’s Castle

 

 

 

 

It really opened my eyes to how big the city is and how much I could be missing out on by staying put.

 

That being said, our amazing experience going out of the city in Copenhagen inspired us to leave the city of Prague while we visited the Czech Republic. We went to the city that has now become a very sleepy town, but was once the buzzing hub of silver mining, making the area rich. What we found in Kutna Hora was beautiful scenery, delicious food, and a peculiar church. The Bone Church of  Kutna Hora was established because so many people wanted to be buried there. The grounds were said o have holy dirt scattered on the property. There was a surplus of people, so they decorated the interior with the bones of 40,000 people. Here’s what it looked like: 

By the end of the tour we all agreed it was one of our favorite days. Don’t fear leaving the city. As much as there is to see inside the business of Europe’s favorite places, there is plenty to see beyond them!

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Study Abroad–The “Study” Part

Reading through my previous blogs I realized that so far I have only talked about extracurricular activities… mainly because they feel most notable. But retrospectively, some of the most memorable parts of being  abroad happen in the day to day life as a student. So I figured it was due time to talk about what it’s like to be a Sustainability in Europe student at DIS…

Field Trips: Wednesday’s there are often field studies planned with different classes. In my How Plants Changed World History class I took a tour of a vineyard and did a wine tasting. Next week I will be in London with my Sustainability in Europe class studying transition initiatives that we have been learning about in class.

Grades: This week I had an exam and I have a paper due… But luckily teachers here are as  helpful as those at Wofford!

Favorite Things: I read the Little Mermaid this week by Hans Christian Andersen–totally different than the Disney version–and I fell in love with the story all over again. It doesn’t make me not enjoy the Disney version, but I have an appreciation for both, which are really two different stories. Second I have loved studying about how plants changed world history. Each class we discuss a different plant and how it has changed the course of history. In case you were wondering… America would likely not exist without tobacco, cotton, sugar, and wood. And without spices, the Age of Discovery probably wouldn’t have occurred.

What do I miss that I didn’t expect to? Peanut butter… They don’t really eat that here.

So while perhaps less full of adventure, the study part of studying abroad is rewarding in a different way than traveling. It’s what makes my stay here valuable, and what truly makes cultural immersion possible!

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“To Travel is to Live”

 

“To Travel is to Live” Says the famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.

This weekend I had the opportunity to live according to HCA. I spent a solid 2 full days touring the wonderful city of Amsterdam, Netherlands. I have to admit that I have never been anywhere like Amsterdam in my life. It is such a cool and unique city; that is the only way I can describe it. The Dutch architecture makes the city feel charming and historic, yet the liberal elements of the culture make the city edgy and contemporary.

For a virtual tour of my time in Amsterdam, let’s start from the beginning!

  1. Canal Tour… the classic clichéd tried and true. Get a feel for the city in the best way possible. They don’t call it the Venice of the north for no reason.
  2. The I Amsterdam letters and iconic symbol for the city. If you’re planning to visit there, try and avoid when big tour groups are there. I had the best luck going early in the morning(not too early though…around 9am)

    Joyful Jump at I Amsterdam Letters

  3.  Checked out the Van Gogh Museum with his largest collection—four floors of some of his most favorite works. Including Sunflowers, 1889; The bedroom, 1888; and my favorite Almond blossom, 1890.

    With my Favorite Van Gogh Painting

  4. Quickly visited the de Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam from 1638—the Botanical Gardens of Amsterdam. It was originally a medicinal herb garden, and during the 17th and 18thcentury the Dutch East India Company ships brought exotic plants and spices to Hortus. Today there are greenhouses and an enormous diversity of plants to look at from 7 different climates.

    Inside the South Africa plants Greenhouse

  5. Day 2…the Heineken Experience: since its founding in 1864 Heineken has been an important part of Amsterdam. Also, as a side note, Heineken has a long term reputation of being sustainable in its production which is relevant to my program!
  6. Of course I checked out Westerkirke and The Anne Frank House. Unfortunately I could not tour either of them. Westerkirke was fully booked and the Anne Frank House was closed for Yom Kippur. It was really cool to be there though, and learn about it later in the day at the museum
  7. For lunch I went to what I think must be the absolute best pancake house in Holland and I assure you there are dozens. I ate at (appropriately named) The Pancake Bakery. It claims to be the most famous Dutch Pancake and omelet house in Amsterdam, situated in an historic warehouse on one of the main canals. It was absolutely delicious
  8. I probably could have spent a week in the Amsterdam Museumbut I got to spend about an hour. The most interesting parts for me were about the Dutch East India Company, World War II and Anne Frank, and the contemporary legalization of marijuana and prostitution within Amsterdam. I got a sense of the depth of Holland’s presence as one of the biggest influences in European history. For example, between London and Amsterdam was the first plane flight within Europe.

    Outside the Amsterdam History Museum

  9. I completed my journey eating at a local student diner called ‘Skek. It was another great meal, and a really awesome way to end out my time in Amsterdam!

Like I said, it was a fully packed 2 days, but I checked off everything on my bucket list and actually saw additional places in the city that I did not plan on seeing.

Unexpectedly coming back to Copenhagen gave me the sigh of relief that you get when you come home after travelling. I guess Copenhagen really is becoming my home away from home. Everything about this city is becoming more familiar to me and I feel a sense of belonging here. That being said, I am starting my volunteer work for Energy Crossroads this week, and will be touring Christiania and a Kelleris Vineyard with two of my classes on field study trips. Friday, I leave for Oslo, Norway on a 2 night cruise with about 30 other DIS students. Looking forward to another packed and exciting week..!

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The Happiest City in The World

Once again Denmark has been named the happiest nation in the world… guess I studied abroad in the right place! A few things that I have gotten to do in Denmark that are truley remarkable include seeing the Little Mermaid sculpture on her 100th birthday:

Historical Landmark in honor of Hans Christian Andersen’s the Little Mermaid tale turned 100 Years Old

And enjoying a Danish tradition of jumping into the 17 degree Celsius harbor water. Glad I took advantage of that because the harbor is already closed because of danger to health when it is too cold outside. about 15 feet--conquering fears

A lot has happened here for me since I last blogged, so I have a lot of filling you in to do. For starters, I have gone twice to Sweden through study tours provided by my program. The first trip was to Jonstrop, Sweden. First impressions were that it is similar to Denmark in many ways, but very different from Copenhagen. Jonstrop was more of a small rural town. I had the opportunity to canoe on the Ronne, which was really incredible. I love to canoe, and I do it all the time when I am back home. Here there were more plants lining the waters edge, and unlike Tennessee, I saw no mountains. It was very flat.

A view of the Ronne from my canoe!

Everything was so green and clean. It was incredible to watch the landscape while canoeing change from rural, to neighborhood, and finally to park. After canoeing my group went on a hike at Nimis. Nimis is a driftwood structure on the Kullaberg Peninsula started by Lars Vilks 27 years ago. The Kullaberg Peninsula is part of a preserved area in Sweden. I have never seen anything like the sculpture. We were able to climb up inside driftwood tunnels high up into the air and then back down to the coast of the Baltic Sea. I would never have heard of this part of Sweden without enrolling in the optional study tour, so I am so glad that I did it.

Inside one of the driftwood structures at Nimis

High up in the sky!

My final adventure on this study tour was repelling of the side of a cliff on the Kullaberg Peninsula. Just a little information about me I’m pretty afraid of heights. Not terrified, but I avoid them. Anyway I conquered the big and the small cliff at Kullaberg, so that was an incredible experience. To be honest it was really scary going down the big cliff. I kept thinking I was at the bottom and then I looked down (bad bad idea) and I was no where near. I don’t have very epic pictures of the big cliff because it was too dangerous for someone to lean over and take a picture so these are from on the small cliff. Just imagine triple that or so!

Repelling by the Preserved Marine Life

So my second trip to Sweden was less adventurous and more academic. But not less exciting! The highlights were learning about Swedish renewable energy. In Sweden, the company Sysav that is responsible for most of the trash in Sweden only puts 2% of their trash in landfills. The rest is either incinerated and then used for electricity in homes or it is burned for biogas to fuel public transportation. Sysav is a hybrid company as it was explained to us. It is partially an independent company, but also partially run by the state. Just a few interesting tidbits from my study tour that I thought were worth sharing. Looking forward to this weekend to be spent in Amsterdam! Cannot wait to let you know all about my time there.

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Copenhagen Bound: Endeavoring Across the Pond

I made it safe and sound (and with great excitement) to Copenhagen! My journey to this amazing city began in none other than our nations Capital, Washington, D.C.; probably the most fitting city for my final night in the United States until December. What does a quick stop over look like before leaving the country? What can you do with about 5 hours in D.C.?

Visit the new World War II Memorial

And of course drive by the White House and the Capitol. All are beautiful places at night and I have to say I felt quiet patriotic afterwards.

After a very brief, but packed, run through the District of Columbia, I was all set for my trip which, thanks to my incredible packing tips, went seamlessly.

OKay. I confess. No it didn’t go smoothly, not even close. Does it ever? If your flying Air France and want to save yourself the headache then read your weight limit restrictions twice. And then read them again.

TAKE NOTE: Your carry on luggage (together–both pieces) must be less than 12 kilo. And yes they do weigh it. And they will require you to get it down to 12 kilo or you will be fined for it as a checked bag.

So basically you can have your computer and maybe a camera and some shoes and that’s it. All air lines are not created equal. I learned the hard way that the American airlines have different rules so just be sure to double check that before your’e in the airport scrambling trying to decide what stays and what goes.

Now for Copenhagen, my new home! It is one of the most spectacular cities I have lived. I’m living in a DIS Residential community with over 100 other students from my program in Tasingegade (pronounced Toe-sing-ale). It is about 20 min away from downtown. The neighborhood I am living in is Osterboro, which is very family oriented. We live across from a small bakery, around the block from Copenhagen’s park that hosts 11 million visitors a year, and about two blocks from a gym. It has been so great living with American students because meeting people from across the United States while learning to live in a new country together. My roommate is from San Francisco, and other people from my building are from Boston, Richmond, New York City, and so many more cities. We’ve gotten a lot of opportunities to get to know one another and enjoy the city.

So far my experience with DIS could not have been better. My favorite part has probably been walking around downtown with some of the girls from my residence building. We got to eat some Shwarma (a popular dish here because the Danish love Turkish food) and sight see a little.

Here are some of the girls from my program and myself in downtown Copenhagen today!

Finally, I’ll let you all in on my newest decision for cultural immersion here in Copenhagen. I decided to enroll in a program that matches up DIS students with visiting Danish families. The family will take me out on dates essentially–either to dinner, or an afternoon in the park, or pretty much anything that we decide to do together. I cannot wait to meet the family I am paired up with. Secondly, I was accepted into the DIS Sustainability Volunteer Program. I’ll keep you updated on both of these new developments as they come. I cannot wait to get both started as well as my classes.

Tomorrow’s mission is to get a bike, because København is Europe’s most bikeable city:

20130820-091904.jpg

I also have to get my residence permit tomorrow on a less exciting note. Until next time!

Michelle

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The Final Week

Hello again!

Today I woke up and realized that this time next week I will be in Copenhagen! It’s unbelievable that since my search for the perfect program, to the application and acceptance to DIS, the time has finally come. Although I have thought a lot about actually being abroad, I hadn’t thought much about the days leading up to it.

Today I get to meet some of the Wofford freshman from our region at the introductory party for them; they’ll be the only new Wofford students I meet until 2014 so that’s fun! It’s also my last time seeing my church family, so I’ll be saying some bittersweet goodbye’s to them. And as for the rest of the week… okay I may be alone in this but I am going to miss American food. I admit it. I’m making a list of where and what to eat including

  1. Chick-fil-a (which I miss on Sunday’s so it will be dearly missed for 4 months)
  2. Pal’s (you probably should be from east TN to understand this one)
  3. Moe’s (Welcome to Moe’s! an irresistible option)
  4. My mom’s chicken dish

And I am certain more things will pop into my mind as the week moves along.  More practically speaking I’ll be converting some American dollars into the Danish currency (the krone), making copies of my passport, and securing all my packed bags. On Friday I will be in route for Copenhagen. More to come on that soon! As the Danes would say, farvel indtil næste gang!

Oh and also, for the record, I had an amazing weekend with family and my Wofford friends. Here’s a snapshot of my time with them:

 

Tubing on Ft Patrick Henry with my cousin Arden

Theta’s Reunion with Annie (London traveler), Sarah Grace (Arica, Chile traveler), Kathryn, and Meredith!

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Beginnings of an Adventure–Pre-departure

The countdown is on! Thanks to my T-Zero app on my phone I can keep up with the days I have left until I leave. 15 days out and I cannot believe its 2 weeks away. Cue the excitement…It’s like leaving for college for freshman year except probably more exciting. Not only is it a new city with new friends–we’re adding a new country and a new culture to the mix. As the days tick off, my preparations kick in. And panic mode (just a little bit). About a bajillion questions come up when you’re packing for 4 months. Thankfully it was not hard to get answers and fast thanks to the Wofford International Program. They set me up with past students who are more than happy talk with me about Denmark especially since everyone who went there loved it (a great sign that its a great program!!).

What sorts of things pop into the 20 year old traveler brain? Well for starters how am I going to pack for 4 months in 50 lbs? I found some great ideas through Pinterest actually. Like this pack list that helped me stay concise with what I brought.

Then I started wondering how to shed the pounds off my luggage…A luggage diet if you will. Shout-out to my friend Wofford DIS Alumnus Jordan Hardy who helped a lot with that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  •  Leave behind the hair dryer and similar appliances–it will blow the fuse and ruin your hair dryer likely so you’ll have to leave it there. Might as well buy a cheap one in Copenhagen.
  • Thankfully, no need to bring books. DIS supplies you with all books as a part of your tuition I found out today (I mean how cool is that? Books are so heavy and expensive!).

Finally I read that you’re more likely to be able to get in all your stuff, if you

  •  Lay it all out BEFORE putting it in the suitcase, that way you can arrange it best and easily see if you have too much to fit.
  • Also, I’m bringing 2 coats and several sweaters and long sleeves so that I can layer when it gets cold. Helpful tips.

Did I mention that I’m excited?

So now that I’ve unpacked my packing tips, what else am I doing to prepare to leave? First my family is coming in to visit this weekend (YAY) and then some of Wofford’s greatest gems are visiting including  study abroad-ers Annie Currin who will be in London and Sarah Grace Keaveny who will be in Arica. Sad to part ways, but its part of what makes study abroad at Wofford so special…so many people go and return with amazing stories to tell and share! Still though.. I have to admit one last hoorah is necessary.

 

Michelle

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