Entertaining Adventures

Well now it is publicly known why I am incapable of keeping a journal or diary- I forget to write things down every day! As Hagrid would say “Sorry ’bout that”. This will probably be a long(ish) post so I will be using sub-headers so that if you feel so inclined you may skip over parts, however most of what has happened has apparently been a bit funny so you may miss some shenanigans. Without further ado, here is a whirlwind recap of the last month!

Transportation:

I did not plan on being about to say that I have experienced and nearly mastered every form of transportation in Denmark. Yet I think I can now claim that prize; in fact I could nearly claim that all in one day! You have cars (they drive pretty much like us except nearly all cars are stick-shift so I couldn’t drive even if my license covered me here), buses, s trains, normal trains, the metro, taxi, bike and walking… I don’t think I missed any… The only one I have not used is a taxi and honestly I hope I don’t have to because of my public transportation pass that DIS provided (this means I don’t have to pay as long as I stay in my zones). Thankfully I have not had to “ride in the black” or without a valid pass although some of my friends have, either by accident or the ticket booth wasn’t working *cough, cough* Meggie *cough, cough*. However my near mastery of the transportation systems here has not come without it’s mishaps…. actually quite a few… but more on the best one later.

One more note on the public transportation here: it is so clean and nice! Holy cow! Can we please copy this??? The one thing we need to change is the rush hour time management of the trains. There was a period that I swear every train in the morning was running between 10-50 minutes late. Not only was this super inconvenient but I have literally watched a train come… and go… without stopping at all at a scheduled stop because there were too many passengers! That was an interesting morning. Yet the Danes don’t seem too bothered by this… perhaps it is merely because they recognize there is nothing they can do about it and know that their bosses probably won’t say anything because it was out of their control or because they are still asleep has not been confirmed but either way they keep their cool in the hot trains.

 

Field Studies:

I have now had five (fem) field studies! I’ll pull a Dr. Bass here and say “You may be thinking to yourself ‘Self, what is a field study?'” Well a field study is when my class takes me out into Copenhagen or the greater Denmark area and gives us some experience in the things we have been studying about in the classroom. To make this easier to read/skip I will list them here and go into detail below: 1) Danish Jewish Museum, 2) Harbor Seal and Porpoise visit at Fyn, 3) Skull measurements at the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen, 4) The Copenhagen Zoo, and 5) Whale safari in Helsingør.

1) My first field study was with my Danish class and we went to the Christiansborg castle which is only about a five minute walk from DIS to go and see the Danish Jewish Museum. The walk was not too impressive until we reached the castle. Because I had missed the tour of Copenhagen during the search and find during Orientation I had not yet been to the castle. Let me just tell you, it was huge! And the gardens! My favorite is the Library Garden (no surprise there, huh?). Hopefully I will be able to revive my camera and be able to post the pictures I have of the garden… I’ll explain shortly. Once we made it around to the back we came upon this sketchy looking corner and we waited because the door was closed. After a while it dawned on us that this was the museum. I suppose they are just redoing the facade but I honestly don’t know. When a man walked up to our group and seemed to know our teacher we thought he was the guy that would open the doors and show us in but he was surprised they weren’t already open. After a few minutes someone rushed out, as much as she could considering the weight of the door, and apologized saying that she wasn’t used to getting up so early because normally the museum was closed at this time. DIS had paid to have the museum open early so we could have a private tour! Upon entering I, the overly cluzty person that I am, began to have slight problems walking the halls. Not because of being uncoordinated but because the interior had been constructed in a way that nothing ever lines up and it looks like you are walking sideways or something. In fact people had been known to get motion sick because of the building! The man that originally showed up began to introduce himself and proceeded to show us around part of the museum telling us stories about his family and how they came to Denmark (he is Jewish so it fit right in with all the artifacts). After we listened and toured around a few of the cases we headed back to watch a Danish movie about a rebel family that helped the resistance during WWI. It was actually a fantastic film and was very sad. If you are interested in watching it just let me know and I will find out the name.

2) My only Saturday field study took me over an island to Odense and Fyn where we went and saw some harbor porpoises and seals train as well as talk to a researcher/professor/trainer about the work that they do with the porpoises and seals. It was actually really cool! And the harbor seal pups were so cute and funny! The training was a little different between the porpoises and seals but the purpose behind the training was the same, to keep them engaged, to feed them, and to collect data for the research staff. Some of the things they investigated was how the porpoises used their echolocation when they were effectively blinded. No, they did not actually blind them permanently, they actually used suction cups to cover the eyes and then they made up games for the porpoise to go through to identify things. The harbor seals were mostly just getting data collected on them by weighing them and getting the two sets of pups ready to go to Sweden. After our visit at the University and Aquarium we went up to Fyn, which was at the tip of the island and a shortish drive away and went up to the cliffs to see if we could spot any wild porpoises. We actually did spot one or two but it was also such a beautiful day that most of the class ended up heading down to the water to either swim or stick their feet in the water. Definitely worth getting up super early to head into Copenhagen for our meeting spot!

3) Last week we went to the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen to make skull measurements with my Marine Mammal lab class. The day before we left there had been discussion about what time we were meeting because the online site said two different times. When it came time to leave I was confused and of course the train was running a little late and I just missed my class. I then had the pleasure of finding my own way to the museum. Oh joy. I first had to find a bus, so I went over to the board and with the little travel app that they use here found the bus I needed and saw when it would next leave. I then plugged in the place that I needed to get to into my gps since I did not know where the bus stop was and started on my way. Only to get there and see no bus stops. I tried again and ended up where I had just been. Third times the charm right? Wrong. I tried to find the bus 4 or 5 times and finally when I had just about given up decided to walk down near the park and see if it happened to be on that end. Bingo! Finally found the right bus so I hoped on and prayed my teacher wouldn’t be too mad since I would be about 30 minutes late if the bus stayed on time. Which it did, however they have this deal here that if no one is at the stop and no one on the bus had hit the stop button they just continue on. I did not know this trick and the bus driver got to my stop… and kept right on trucking. I finally got off two stops ahead of where I needed to be so had to backtrack 15-20 minutes so the stop I should have gotten off at and then keep at it for another 10 minutes to find the museum. I arrived flustered and sheepish since I felt like a crazy tourist and just wanted to get up to speed with the class. Because they were already in measuring the skulls they had to call the head of the group up and have him come to let me in. I certainly was not expecting a Danish Hagrid but when Daniel showed up to take me back that is what I found! I also did not expect a huge room of all kinds of bones! I walked in and there was a freaking massive skull! To put that in perspective it was over 2 meters long and probably 1.5 meters high (or in US terms over 12 feet long and nearly 9 feet high)! Turned out to be the skull of a very old sperm whale. I have pictures of this on my Facebook that I will link to at the end. From there I headed over to my group and began trying to help with the skull measurements. We had to measure 10 porpoise skulls and had 11 characteristics to measure. It was a very… interesting process… I was in a group of 6 girls and by the end had named our group the Porpoise of Hamlet… yeah we were tired and hungry and smelled of skulls so give us a break. Once we finished that though our teacher Astrid had a surprise for us. She had talked Daniel into showing us around his collection! Come to find out, they have the biggest collection or polar bear skulls in the world! It was actually really cool! They also showed us all the reptiles they had (they smelled so so so horrible) and the stuffed and preserved animals they had from over a hundred years ago!

4) Two days ago we took our lab group up to the Copenhagen zoo. This was so cool! However between leaving my phone in the classroom and not having enough time, I did not get to enjoy it fully, so I am hoping to go back this weekend to recollect some data for our group project. The lab was split into three groups and were were to study either the polar bears, seals, or sea lions and collect data on their behavior for 10 minutes. I felt so bad for the poor polar bears! Their enclosures were so small! And certainly not realistic at all! Luckily we were able to observe the more active of the two. The male likes to play around, but he kept doing repetitive motions which made us think that he really did not enjoy his life, and was bored and perhaps sick. The female refused to look at anyone and just stared at the wall and didn’t move in her enclosure. As for the data, we took a while to figure out how to collect it since we were to pick certain behaviors and see how many times they occurred…. this was only difficult because one, we had to define the behavior, and two, during the observation period came feeing time. Now you know how males are with food- single minded. That polar bear was so happy to get some food that he went and grabbed it up and then sat on his butt half way in the water and half way out for about 8 minutes just munching on some stuff that looked like bamboo. Once it was time for us to go he started playing with a giant ball but we had to leave because some of my group had to go to another class and I was meeting someone so I unfortunately did not get to explore the zoo for free like a few of my class mates.

5) Yesterday we went out on a whale safari in Helsingør! This was also with my marine mammals lab (yes I know, its a pretty fantastic class). We met up around 1 to head up north to Helsingør and once there we just took a hop, skip and a jump across to the aquarium that we would be visiting. I went with the first group out on the water and once we were fitted up with life jackets we went to the boat. I was so extremely excited but I did not expect to get so wet! The waves were so choppy and we kept cutting against them that nearly everyone in our boat got soaked… this is also why my camera died… I think… that or the bouncing around/being smacked against the console when the waves got rougher…. however! We did get to spot some porpoises hunting for fish! And it was great weather to be out on the sound! At first they had thought they would need to cancel it but the sky cleared up just long enough to give us great weather for our ride and then it started to get stormy again. While we were out on the boat the other group hung around the aquarium or they went up to Helsingør castle, which is better known as Hamlet’s castle! Unfortunately we did not get to go in and tour but we were able to walk around and get some pictures once we got back. The ride home was a bit long though because we still hadn’t quite dried off so I was still dripping from my head to about my knees (I had on tall rainbows that prevented the water from trickling down to my feet). I was so cold that by the time I reached Birkerød I just wanted a hot shower and hot chocolate. Both of which I did get get and it made my night.

 

Core Course Week:

Since I last wrote I have also had core course week! My Biomedical Drug and Development course took us to both Odense and Århus. During that time we had 5 presentations by different companies about their research into drug development and other biomedical breakthroughs. During this time we stayed in two hostels which actually were not bad at all. Granted the first was much better than the second, not least of all because at least there the bunk beds were not bad and I got a bottom bunk (the night I had to sleep on the top bunk at the second hostel I got stuck for several minutes and could not get down- thankfully no one was around to see me struggle and eventually partially fall off the top bunk to the floor). We also had some fun around the towns, for example the first fun thing we did was the whole class, including the teachers went bowling! I ended up coming in second in our lane which was pretty interesting! It was also funny because a lot of people thought it would be fun to drink and bowl… now for those who can’t hold their liquor I would not suggest doing it again… just saying. The other cool thing that I was around for was when we went to the ARoS museum! This is the one with the rainbow room on top and had the statue of the lonely boy! It was such a cool museum and if my camera decides to cooperate later I will post all the pictures from this trip!

You may have caught on that I said for when I was around… well getting to this trip was an absolute fiasco! That morning I was all ready and upon arriving at the train station waited patiently… and then not so patiently… and then panically… The train ended up being 50 minutes late because the trains were all stopped because someone had jumped in front of a train earlier that day. So I ended up showing up late to my normal stop. Yep my normal stop- not the one I needed to be at though! So I then had to scramble to find out what to do. Luckily someone from DIS had been in contact with me and realized I may or may not make it in time. They tried to wait for me but because it was so late they went ahead. Again I was lucky and another girl in my class had also been delayed and we ended up going down to the main station and getting train tickets for the big grain that goes under the channel and up to Odense. We spend 3 fricken hours trying to find our meeting spot. We walked all around friggen creation on the University of Southern Denmark at Odense’s campus and ended up being late yet again once we got out of the fields and woods and down to the right spot. It was one heck of a day. I am still bitter over how it went but I suppose it was an interesting adventure and in a few years I will be able to laugh about it but that is not this day!

It was during this week however that I realized I really do not want to go into biotech development. Good to know I suppose but slightly annoying that I am kinda done with this class already when we still have a little over two months to go. Oh well, at least it is still interesting, but I am now back to searching for what I plan to do with my life… no pressure!

 

Friends/Danish/classes:

I have actually been making more friends and have even met a few danes! One of which has shown me around some of the less seen areas of Denmark such as a really pretty lake, and even up to where is parents live where I met everyone including his twin 5 year old sisters! They were so precious but unfortunately they do not speak much english yet and I can’t hold a conversation in danish yet but I am getting better! I can read some of it now and my pronunciation isn’t so horrible! So I suppose I have made some progress! My classes are going well so far, in fact so far I have made all A’s on my assignments that I have gotten back. Hopefully this will continue and I will also be able to travel more!

 

Things to look forward to: Long study tour week, my parents visiting, my Czech Republic trip, a trip to Sweden with my host family and hopefully some other trips thrown in here and there! Plus all that Cope can throw my way!!

Facebook pictures:https://www.facebook.com/shelby.stewart.121/media_set?set=a.1241161112615563.1073741839.100001650581422&type=3

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Observations

My first week in Denmark is almost complete and already I know this will be an experience that not only will I never forget but I will never be the same from again. And that’s a good thing. From coming to terms with walking around a ‘big’ city by myself and navigating the train system from central Copenhagen out to the north to Birkerød, to finding my way through three blocks of winding staircases to classes to so many more wonderful and different things. I have already begun to notice some cultural differences as well. Here are some of my top 5 so far:
1) People here don’t freak about bugs as much. Seriously they have some massive bugs called crane flies or daddy long legs. Not completely sure if it is a spider or not but it is massive and looks like a spider with a mosquitoes body plus wings. That’s right it flies. Oh goodie. And they are stupid to boot. I was trying to get one out of my room (it has been such good weather here since I arrived we pretty much have to keep my windows open but more about that later) and I couldn’t catch it so I was batting it toward the window and it would just fly right back toward me. I was getting a little overwhelmed with them coming into my space that I ended up killing about six one night. Not everyone is so chill about it though. My host sister Helena hates spiders! So not all Danes are super chill about bugs but one thing is for certain they don’t wig out over them like we do in the states.
2) There is no bloody AC in this country. It is hot and there is no AC. I have been told its because they rarely have many good sunny and hot days in a season but so far there have been nearly seven in a row. Not sure if I am buying their story so far. Another thing that frustrates me about the no AC thing is everyone here seems to not sweat. They all look like freaking models after running to catch the train and then get off and run through the city and not a hair is out of place yet I’m over here sweating off my makeup and trying to not soak my shirt because it is 70ish degrees out and I have a 10 minute walk to my train station with my backpack on radiating heat back at me. It’s just not fair how model-like the Danes are.
This issue also feeds into the open window thing. If you don’t keep your windows open all day it will be sweltering when you get home at night. It helps that there is very little crime here because otherwise people would lose things right and left. So keeping the windows open is a must! I learned that the hard way when I took my first shower here. Yep, I had to open the window in the bathroom while I was showering. Perhaps not so embarrassing if not for the fact that there is only the ground floor so anyone walking by could have just popped their head in and seen me showering. The flip side being that if you do not keep the window open you will walk out into a room filled with steam with no way out and within two minutes of stepping out of the shower you will be sweating bullets. So much for being clean.
3) People here don’t sweat the small stuff. The Danes pride themselves on being punctual and that their public transportation is that way too. Well so far I have had three train mishaps one of which took my normal 25 minute ride and changed it into nearly an hour and a half ride into the city. Every few minutes the train would slow and then stop and sometimes a voice would come over the speakers and say what was going on but it was always in Danish so I couldn’t understand. I knew I should ask someone but I was nervous of singling myself out as foreign because other big city training took over. Jane (my host mom) told me Americans are a bit like celebrities here though so I shouldn’t worry about someone not being nice but still… I tried to ask one lady that kept glancing at me but she would glance away every time that I opened my mouth and finally I just asked. Thankfully the man sitting next to her took pity on me and answered my question. Apparently the stop that was just ahead that has several train lines run through it had a train docked and was waiting for an ambulance so no train could get through and we were waiting in a cue to get around on another line or something. He was very nice about the whole thing and when the voice came back over the speakers a few minutes later he leaned forward and tapped my shoulder to ask if I had understood that time and when I replied I didn’t speak any Danish yet he translated again.
When I think back to the train ride that day and looked around it amazed me how the people were so calm. No one was freaking out that they would be massively late to work or school they all just continued listening to music or reading something or preparing for their day. If this had been the New York subway people would have been losing their minds but not the Danes.
4) The Danes seem to be a very quiet and reserved people. When I am riding the train into Copenhagen everyday it is certainly packed but it is nearly quiet as well. No one really talks to each other, they all just ride with ear buds in or read stuff on their phones/iPads. Yet if you engage in conversation with any of them they are glad to speak to you. Someone told me it was because in Denmark you don’t intrude on someone else’s personal bubble. Especially if you don’t know them. It just amazes me that they are all so… docile on the train.
5) Danes are very accepting and helpful once you actually ask for help. They are also unassuming. Nearly every shop I have been into they have thought I was Danish at first. Perhaps because I can say hello in Danish just like any other Dane but then they try to speak to me and I know I get that deer in the headlights look on my face because until in Spanish I still have no idea what they are saying. Danish is not intuitive all the time so some of their sounds blend with other words and it gets a little crazy. Not to mention the letters they have that we don’t (ø, æ, å)!

The first day of class for all my classes is now complete. I am super excited for my philosophy classes! They look fantastic but curiously in one of them it is nearly all guys. 75% of my abroad class is girls so this is really odd, however the other one sort of makes up for it. I am a little nervous but excited for my danish class. I get to sit next to my new friend Courtney so it’s not too bad but unfortunately it is at 8:30 in the morning so we are not quite awake yet! As for my two biology classes… I am excited for them but I am also a bit anxious about them. One seems very cut throat while the other is just intimidating. However the professor for the former is awesome! The one I have met is a 4th year resident at one of the local cancer clinics and is super friendly (I also thought he was a student when he first walked in…. oops).

Next week will be my first full week and they have some extra things planned for us as well as a field study for one of my classes as well. On Monday night I have a social for my core course class (the cut throat class), then on Wednesday they have some sale for us where past DIS students have left some of their stuff and we can come and use it for the semester, and also on Wednesday I have a different schedule. So how the class schedule works for DIS is that you have Monday and Thursday classes (my schedule is that I have an 8:30, a 1:15 and a 4:15), and Tuesday/ Friday classes (I have an 8:30 and a 10:05). Wednesdays are reserved for field studies though. I won’t have one every week but when we do any of our classes can plan something. For example one of my philosophies is taking us to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (I think its like the Danish MOMA in New York). We also have two weeks dedicated to travel. One of those weeks my core course class is taking me to Edinburg, Scotland and the second week I am going with DIS to explore parts of the Czech Republic so I am super duper excited for both of those opportunities! I can’t wait to start exploring Europe too! This is going to be one heck of an adventure!

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The Beginning

It is now day four and has it been one heck of a ride since we got here! To start when we were checking out luggage in at the airport I had to redistribute the weight of my big bag… In the middle of the airport… During which I decided to change my shoes because my boots weigh about 5 pounds whereas the shoes that I was wearing were only 2 pounds. Once that got sorted out we had to go through the *cue immense sarcasm* wonderful and helpful TSA check. Pause for a second. I flew over with Meggie and she and her dad bought the tickets so we could sit together on the plane. So when we get up to the TSA check Mggie goes first and then they look at my ticket and see that I have a TSA pre check on my ticket… But Meggie doesn’t. So she has to go through the whole check while I only have to walk through the detector and I even get to keep my shoes on! But poor Meggie, once she was through she then had to empty her bag because the alarm went off.
When we finally landed in Dulles, guess what we found? A Chipotle! We immediately knew where we were going to eat lunch! I mean it was the last time we would probably see until December! And then of course came the waiting game. We did find Patrick though (he’s also from Wofford) so it wasn’t so bad. In fact he and I went down to the NASA table because it was National Aviation day and they were giving out free things and because I couldn’t eat any of e cupcakes they sent us back with a full box to give away!
Once we were on the plane we settled in for an average flight- but we soon figured out that we were not on an average plane. First we actually got decent headphones and soft blankets (that we kept cause they were so soft and warm! ) and they actually had really good food! The plane also had an interesting feature that lets you see what the pilot see by streaming video feed from cameras attached to the plane. The only two complaints I could make were that it took forever for them to load the luggage so it took an extra 20ish minutes to take off and that their temperature control was lacking. Just before take off people were frantically looking for the ad but we didn’t have any air vents so we couldn’t do anything to lower the temp. Once we were on our way though it was a nice ride and the pilot executed one of the softest landings I think I have ever felt.
Once we deplaned we had to get our luggage. Well I had so much (only two checked bags and two carry ons but still) that I needed to use a luggage cart and I felt a bit like Harry when he goes into the train station. Then we had to go and get our arrival packages. Now the fun starts. And nerves! Once I got my packet I tried to switch out. My SIM card so I can message my parents we landed safely but I first couldn’t get my case off. Then I couldn’t get the cover off of the SIM holder. That was a blast figuring it out! Then the torture of waiting for our families to pick us up. They had us all in one room and would walk in and call someone’s name and every time they came in everyone tensed up not knowing if it was their turn or not. On the bright side we got to meet new people this way because as our numbers dwindled we wanted to sit closer together… Downside of that is I haven’t seen any of them since. Oh well. Since then I have settled into my new home in Birkerød, met the dog Figo, the family, Jane, Erling, Helena, Nicolena, and Andreas, and gone to some arrival workshops. Oh and yesterday we got lost only a few times…. And I met some older Iranian guy that hit on me for a while until I escaped to the student union… But now I know how to get to the train station from my house and then to DIS from the train stop that I get off at so there is a bright light. We don’t start classes until Thursday but with all the meetings it is flying by already!
Tonight we are actually going down to Copenhagen to celebrate Helena’s birthday! I think she and I are friends already- which I am really glad about because she is so nice and sweet! She even came yesterday to celebrate my birthday with the family! We had a traditional Danish meal and Jane my host mom, made me a gluten free cake that was delicious! And th conspired with my parents to get a bouquet of gorgeous flowers to me! Fun fact: they used the best flourish in Denmark- in fact it’s the one the Royal family uses! Later I will post pictures of some of the things I have done/seen.

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