Hardest Goodbye

As my days left in Denmark can now be counted on one hand, it’s probably a good time for a  reflection post on the amazing four months I have spent here.

I have had an absolute blast living in Copenhagen the past four months. The ability to open myself up to new people, points of view, and cultures has changed my life. I can definitely say that my mindset and overall well-being have changed since the beginning of the semester. I can attribute a lot of the changes in well-being to my core course positive psychology, but also to the overall open-mindedness of the people here. My mindset has become much more positive and I look forward to the future rather than fear the outcomes. Being in this situation where not everything is set in stone and having to improvise in a crisis has also boosted my confidence in my ability to overcome an obstacle. Sure, there have been times this semester when I have craved the simplicity and normality of back home, but I am so very grateful that I have had the chance to push myself outside of the box I keep myself in at Wofford. Dealing with crises and managing stressful situations has not always been my strong suit but I feel like if the past four months have taught me anything, it’s that there is no challenge I cannot overcome if I apply what I know and open myself up to new opportunities.

My sense of independence has also increased and I feel like I’ve actually grown into a functioning adult. By living in an apartment setting I have had a taste of what it will be like to live on my own after I graduate from Wofford. I am so grateful for this experience because these kinds of skills and life experience cannot be obtained on campus back home. Something else I have cherished while here that probably sounds cliche is public transportation. I come from a small home town, and Wofford is tiny so I have never really had to rely on public transportation taking me where I need to go. I see myself one day living in a big city and this experience I have gained will undoubtedly serve me well in the future. Other skills I have gained include the ability to cook. I have never been able to cook anything other than breakfast foods (aka pouring cereal into a bowl) and I’ve never really had the chance to apply myself other than helping out in the kitchen at home. Living in a residential apartment in one of the most expensive cities in the world taught me that groceries and home cooked meals are your bank account’s best friend while balling on an abroad budget. I’m sure this sounds kind of ridiculous to most people, but learning to cook has been one of the most valuable lessons I can take home from Copenhagen. I actually enjoy making my own meals now and I can forever attribute this to being a skill I picked up while studying abroad. I’m excited to be able to share this once I get home.

I think what I am most going to miss about Copenhagen is the rich history and beautiful scenery. I love the fact that I can ride my bike five minutes to Tivoli one of the world’s oldest amusement parks or to Nyhavn to see where Hans Christian Andersen once lived while writing his famous fairytales. There are so many beautiful palaces and architectural features all around the city that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. I am still in awe of all of the history that lies in this city. I love being able to see visible reminders of history through landmarks, statues, and buildings. There aren’t many opportunities for me to experience things like this back home. At least not many options close by. I think I will also miss the busyness of a larger city than I have ever been used to. One of the things I have learned about myself by spending four months in Denmark is that I can definitely see myself living in a big city one day. There’s something about all those lights at night, and the hustle and bustle of a million people going about their day.

I have had one of the most amazing experiences of my life in Copenhagen and I will forever cherish my time here. It is bittersweet to be leaving so soon, because I am ready to be home to see my family and friends but a part of me will always long to get back to the city where I really grew up and learned many valuable things about myself in the process.

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Core Course Week

Something that sets the DIS program apart from other study abroad programs is the unique scheduling.

Classes are set up so that they only meet twice a week (either Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday) with some options for once a week classes, which leaves Wednesdays free every week. This is done to allow for field studies which are basically class field trips to different exhibitions or museums in Copenhagen having to do with the topics of the course. This is completely unique and something I found extremely enjoyable because it broke up my week and gave me a bit of a break to incorporate a different type of learning through visible and interactive methods. One of the other great things about having a day for field studies is that there is not going to be one every week! It was really great having a free Wednesday sometimes to catch up on work or get ahead on assignments yet to come.

One of the other great things about DIS classes is that when you sign up for classes you pick a core course. The core course is basically the major topic you are interested in studying, so in my case, being a Psychology major I chose to study Positive Psychology for my core course. There are two traveling opportunities with the core course throughout the semester. The first is during core course week at the beginning of the semester. This involves going to areas of Western Denmark and having group activities, lectures and visits to various museums or exhibitions having to do with your course. I really enjoyed this week because we spent the first few days in Copenhagen learning from locals about different organizations that are shaping people’s everyday lives and helping them achieve a better quality of life. I also enjoyed our travels to Western Denmark because it gave us a chance to learn about Denmark outside of it’s bustling capital. It was an overall great opportunity to experience Denmark as a whole, and widen our gaze outside of just where we had been living.

The second traveling opportunity is during one of the two week long travel breaks. There are two breaks during the semester (for spring semester there is a week at the beginning of March and a week at the end of April), one of which serves as a spring break and the other serves as a core course travel week. I had the first week of March free to travel where I wanted and then the end of April for my core course travel. Every core course travels to a different place, my class in particular had the chance to go to Budapest for a week to learn about the well-being of Hungarians.

During our week in Budapest we had the chance to visit major tourist spots some on our own and some with the class, as well as talk to locals and learn from them about how different things affect their levels of happiness. We also were able to hear some amazing lectures and talks about initiatives being started in Budapest to help the citizens become happier and feel safer. I absolutely loved my core course trip. It was informative and really opened my eyes to the situations going on politically and in the health care system in a different country. I most enjoyed learning about this by actually talking to the locals and hearing their perspectives.

 

The way that classes are scheduled in the DIS Copenhagen program is one of the major factors that influenced my decision to come here because there is a great opportunity to focus your academic efforts on a core class that aligns with your area of study. I love that I was able to travel several times to learn about Positive Psychology from different sources, different people and even in a different country. It is an amazing experience and I really encourage prospective students who are considering Copenhagen to factor these opportunities into their decision.

It was a bittersweet trip to Budapest because I loved everything we did so much but it also marks the nearing end of the semester and my time abroad!

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My Experience as a Woman in Copenhagen

Women’s History month has just come to an end and what better way to wrap it up than with a reflection post about how I have experienced Copenhagen as a woman living here.

Denmark has a rich history of equality between men and women and while there are always differences that can continue to be improved, I would have to say that in comparison to most countries I feel much more empowered being a woman in Denmark than I would in other places.

Copenhagen is one of the safest cities you can study abroad in and I have definitely noticed this in the differences between the culture here compared to the US. One of the biggest threats to a woman’s safety in the US is catcalling because it is often degrading, humiliating and can even extend to the point where one can feel unsafe. I have not once experienced any form of harassment or catcalling while here in Denmark which makes me feel very safe and empowered when walking down the street. The ability to have a positive experience when simply walking home after class or downtown to a cafe is so precious because I really feel that sense of empowerment and accomplishment in navigating this city where I’m living.

There is a really high level of respect in this country for working women which is something that is so foreign to me. I have learned through my courses about several of the major differences between the European and the US societal view and treatment of women. One of these is maternity leave. In Denmark women are given a full year of paid maternity leave that can be split between the mother and father so as to encourage men to also take time off work and look after the children. This is so excruciatingly different than the US policy that only allows women 6 weeks off (usually unpaid). There is an actual incentive in Denmark for women to have both a family and a job! I find this so fascinating because these kinds of policies allow women to really have it all in terms of building a family and pursuing their dreams career wise. As a woman, I feel so inspired by this equality based forward thinking that allows both genders to have what they want.

My advice to any female students considering Denmark as your choice of destination is to do it!! I have had such a wonderful, positive experience in Copenhagen not only as a student but also as a female. I could not have made a better choice in terms of gaining a new appreciation for all the women in this country who are being accepted as they are and being given the chance to further themselves beyond just the occupation of being a mother if that is what they want to do. My hope is that the policies here in Denmark and other European countries that represent inclusion and acceptance would be spread to the US.

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All Around the World I Go

Traveling to other countries while studying abroad is one of the greatest perks in my personal opinion. Its so much cheaper to buy a plane ticket from one european country to another, than to cross overseas from the US. My mentality going into study abroad was that this was going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity that I would be spending this much time overseas with the opportunity to take advantage of this. I knew going into this semester that I would want to be spending a lot of my free time staying in Copenhagen and exploring my own city rather than traveling every weekend, but I also knew that a big part of my abroad experience would be to visit other countries as well and expose myself to as many different cultures, peoples, and climates as I could (because let’s be real here…. Denmark is colddddd).

I had this very opportunity for my spring break in which I split up my week off going to three new places!! I had the chance to go to Belgium, Austria and Spain. My experience was amazing to say the least, and it was the perfect opportunity to visit friends studying in these places and get their inside scoop on the best things to do and see. I enjoyed spending time getting to know these other places and observe the differences between the cultures there compared to back home in Copenhagen. I definitely learned a lot!

There was also a new level of independence associated with all of this traveling, because I had to navigate foreign airports on my own, figure out how to get to my living situations, and tackle all different kinds of public transportation that I was not used to. It was a bit nerve-wracking at some times but left me with a feeling of accomplishment once I had figured it out. My overall experience was positive and I feel like it was a growing and learning opportunity for me.

I would recommend gaining traveling experience as well as taking advantage of this amazing opportunity to be able to go to other places while abroad because it is interesting to observe the difference not only between the US and your country of choice, but also between your country of choice and other european countries! It was honestly quite surprising how different each place I went was from the one before. You will gain exposure to various languages (and language barriers), get to try new foods, meet new people and experience cool landmarks! I will say that the “trying new foods” portion of my traveling experience was definitely the highlight (other than getting to see my friends of course). I can now say with certainty that Belgian waffles, fries, and chocolate live up to the hype (:

I attached some pictures of my experience! Check them out below ↓↓↓

 

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Free Time While Abroad

When you hear about college students what normally comes to mind? I’ll tell you what I thought of before I got to college…. LACK OF TIME! I had always heard that college kids would spend crazy hours in the library studying for exams, and pulling all nighters to finish a paper, and I thought this would be my reality for four years when I got there. I will say that college requires A LOT of work and time, but its not necessarily true that there is no free time!

At least, thats what I thought before going abroad. The amount of free time here though, is incredible. I feel like its a necessity! Obviously no one just goes abroad to take classes, though they are very important. Another major part of studying abroad is being able to explore a new place and immerse yourself in a new culture. If I didn’t have the amount of free time that I do, I feel like I wouldn’t have a chance to do this!

Got to see the lights at Tivoli the other night

I’m one of those people that would rather get up early for class so I can be done early in the afternoon and have time to do other things. I purposely scheduled my classes in this way so that I wouldn’t be stuck in a classroom until late in the afternoon. This was probably the greatest decision I made before coming here! In Copenhagen we lose sunlight around 5 pm (crazy right?) so I wanted to make sure that I would have time to see the city before the sun goes down every day.

I have loved being able to ride my bike to class and then go out and just spend my free time exploring, getting lost and finding myself in the process (:

Found the Danish museum of art and deign after class the other day

There is definitely more free time while abroad than there is back in the states but I also think this is because of how courses are taught here in Denmark. We have mandatory field studies on Wednesdays which is basically a field trip with one of your classes for just a few hours in the morning or afternoon instead of class. The best part? Not every Wednesday will have a field study (aka free day to go do anything)! This really breaks up the week nicely and provides an opportunity to catch up on work or go out and do something new.

I would say the free time while abroad is definitely a blessing because when else am I going to be able to do this in my life? I love that I can find a museum, art show or cafe to go to after class and have the time to really enjoy myself in this incredible city.

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Random Acts of Kindness in Aarhus

Phew! What an eventful week I had last week! It was core course week here in Copenhagen which meant I spent the whole week with only my positive psychology class. We spent the first two days in Copenhagen and then travelled to western Denmark Thursday-Saturday. It was an action packed week full of activities, laughs and good memories and upon reflection I wanted to share one of my favorite things we did.

While in Aarhus we were given an assignment called “random acts of kindness”. Our professor gave each group a little bit of money and told us to go out around the city and commit acts of kindness. The requirements? Some acts needed to be anonymous, some non-anonymous, some with money and some without money.

I was immediately so excited thinking of all the possible things we could do. My group decided to buy a couple bouquets of roses and hand them out individually to random strangers we encountered while walking around the city. It was so much more fun than you can even imagine. To see the smiles light up people’s faces when they were handed a flower was incredible. I found myself smiling the whole time from contagious joy.

It was very interesting to interact with the Danish culture in this way because not every encounter was successful! Some people were skeptical of us trying to give them a flower. In fact, in most cases we had to lead with saying “its free” so people would actually accept the flower and even then some people still wouldn’t take it. That was a bit disheartening, but did not take away from the mutual happiness that was expressed when someone did accept the flower.

I find it a little bit sad that today’s culture perpetuates the idea that nothing is for free and that even kindness comes with a cost. Obviously we were strangers handing out flowers and it is always good to be cautious of strangers but I found myself getting discouraged when people would actually recoil from my outstretched, rose containing hand simply because they did not know me and could not trust my kindness. I hope that one day we live in a world in which people can feel safe enough to accept kindness and generosity from one another without expecting repercussions or something in return.

It was a truly eye-opening experience and I enjoyed learning the value of kindness and how a simple and kind interaction can create gratitude for and acceptance of one another.

Below is a short video of our experiences with this assignment, feel free to check it out!

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Biking in Denmark

Public transportation is a way of life in Denmark and most countries in Europe. For Copenhagen in particular, biking is a huge part of the culture. I knew that I wanted to rent a bike for the semester so I could fully immerse myself in that aspect of the culture here. For the first few weeks I just took the bus and metro so I could get acclimated to where my classes were and just to gain a general sense of direction about the city. This week though, I decided it was time to go pick up my bike! The day I chose was perfect because the sun was out and the weather was warmer than it had been in weeks.

My bike

I spent the afternoon after class biking around the city and exploring. I ended up biking along the Nyhavn canal and found my way to the Amalienborg Palace square at exactly 2pm to see the changing of the Queen’s guards. I had wanted to do this but never knew where to go and just happened to bike there. It was such a different perspective seeing things on a bike rather than taking the bus or walking. I got to experience bike lanes and practice using the various hand signals to indicate turning or stopping.

Amalienborg palace

I will admit that I got lost trying to find my way home. I rode my bike all the way across the bridge to the other side of the city and turned a 20 min ride home into and hour long venture. It was worth it thought because I rode along the canal and got to see the sun set on the water. Getting lost on a bike is honestly kind of fun in a way. It’s a face paced environment in the bike lanes and there is not much room for error. Having to figure out how to navigate home in this manner made me really reflect on enjoying what I was doing in the moment, rather than getting worried or upset.

I made it home after a long and intense biking session through the city. I definitely recommend stretching outside of your comfort zone with these types of experiences while abroad. I am enjoying putting myself into new situations and immersing in the culture here in Denmark (:

 

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Residential Living

To anyone reading this that is considering going abroad, first of all I most definitely recommend this even if it requires you to stretch outside of your comfort zone. I have only been in Copenhagen for a few days but I am already in love with the independence and self-reliance that comes with going abroad and living on your own.

I wanted to post about the type of living that I chose for the semester and what I have already learned/am enjoying about it! I chose to live in a residential community which is basically just an apartment that resides in a neighborhood where other Danish people are living. I live on the fifth floor of the apartment building and share a spacious room with one other girl! There are three total bedrooms on our floor along with a bonus room (tv, couches etc..) and a fully equipped kitchen. There are six people on our floor and we all share the common spaces and a bathroom. Here are some pictures of the apartment!

So far I have been having a great time in this living arrangement and have been getting along with my flat mates really well which is super comforting being so far from friends and family back at home. DIS did a really great job matching up personalities when assigning roommates. When we first arrived we went through the guidelines of living in this community and also came up with certain rules for our own floor to abide by so as to keep everyone happy. We talked through the issues that arise when sharing a kitchen and worked out a system for sharing, cleaning, cooking, etc… There hasn’t been a single issue yet and I think that the systems are working really well!

In terms of the independence of living in a residential community, there is a need for cooking. Unless you have the expenses to go out to eat for every meal (most people don’t do this) you are going to have to shop for groceries and teach yourself basic cooking skills, or learn from a flat mate like I did! This kind of independence is actually really fun because I have had to force myself to do things I wouldn’t normally do! Before getting to Copenhagen I had basically never cooked a real meal (mac and cheese/breakfast foods don’t exactly count) but I looked up simple recipes and figured it out myself. Another plus to cooking is you can make healthy alternatives! I often get sick of eating out after a while and crave veggies or lean meats which is why this is a great option. Here is a picture of the first meal I cooked myself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figuring out public transportation in a major city like this is also super necessary but fairly easy! I have picked it up quickly and am comfortable riding the bus (as long as my citymapper app is working). I highly suggest going to a city where there is major bus or metro systems as it is so different from Spartanburg and is helpful knowledge to have in the future if you were to move to a city that does require you to know how to do this!

I start class on thursday and am very excited to begin learning and connecting what I learn to new experiences but I hope this post is helpful for those looking to study abroad and trying to figure out living arrangements!

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T-minus 48 hours!!

This is totally insane. In two days I will be leaving the US to study abroad in Copenhagen for four months. I mean, I’ve travelled abroad before, and by myself quite a few times, but never for this long.

I am both excited and nervous. I think the pre-departure jitters are starting to kick in as I am currently packing. Man it is hard to stuff four months worth of clothes into one checked bag. I mean look at all of this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I even had to use those space saving vacuum sealed bags to make room. In my defense, I will be living in an extremely cold country for four months and thick sweaters take up a lot of room (:

I am super excited to be able to go on this adventure. I cannot wait to meet new people, experience a new culture, and have to navigate public transportation in a major city (also a little nervous about this). I’m ready to tackle this test of independence and really delve into the warm, outgoing, and friendly culture of the Danes that I have heard so much about.

I am nervous about culture shock though. I try to tell myself that having travelled before, and already being a pretty independent person will spare me from the brunt of culture shock, but the reality is that I won’t be spared. I will probably get lost in this new city at some point, and I am sure I will experience some kind of homesickness, but this is okay. I have to remember that this whole adventure is a learning experience for me to grow as a person away from the confines of my small Wofford community, and away from the guidance and support of my parents and family. It will be a true living and learning experience. The mistakes I make, the people I meet and the boundaries within myself that I put to the test will all help to determine how memorable of a trip this will be.

I can’t wait to begin my life changing experience in just two short days, and I am excited for the endless possibilities that accompany me as I embark on this new chapter in my life.

Stay tuned for more posts about my experiences across the pond in Denmark!

Vi ses senere! (See you later!)

Rachel

 

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