A home away from home in Copenhagen by Andres R.
As my time in Copenhagen, Denmark comes to an end I will definitely be incorporating new practices in my daily life back home. Back in Madison and in my hometown of Chicago I have already been accustomed to using public transit as my main form of transportation. Although the Danish metro is infinitely more efficient than Chicago’s ‘L’, I did become even more aware of the way riders perpetuate a fluid passage of movement while boarding the train. Whether this means being prepared ahead of time with train fare tickets, standing on the right side of the escalator, or entering/exiting in an organized manner, I will continue to make sure that I am more cognizant of my actions.
Another aspect of Danish society that has been raised to my attention is the crucial need to incorporate recycling in my own life. Although Madison and Chicago don’t have great recycling programs, I can continue to do my best to separate residual waste from paper items in my own apartment; as well as educate my roommate on the importance of being a part of the solution. Since back home in the States doesn’t offer me many options, another initiative I plan on incorporating into my daily life is being more aware of food leftovers and waste. This will begin by buying groceries in less bulk in order to avoid the possibility of it becoming spoiled and cooking in smaller portions.
The places that I will miss the most include my favorite food and study spots. Reffen is a collection of various street food vendors located in an area of Copenhagen that is its own peninsula surrounded by a view of the city. The experience of walking past all the vendors and not knowing which to choose is the best kind of inconvenience there is. I found it very comforting to find food of my own culture and even more satisfied when I found out it tasted extremely authentic. The communal aspect of the vendors and customers creates the perfect atmosphere for lunch or dinner as you look out into the harbor during sunset with friends or loved ones.
Last, but not least, I will miss most of all the kebab/shawarma places located all throughout the city. The convenience of all the locations, affordable prices, and delicious food will definitely be hard to leave. During a previous trip to Germany I fell in love with the Turkish meal called a Doner Box and to find it in Copenhagen was very fulfilling.
The study spot that left its mark on me was The Black Diamond Library. This uniquely shaped library offered very comfortable spaces to complete homework, work on my personal film, and read a book with a cup of coffee. Besides the amazing view of the canal that runs adjacent to it, The Black Diamond Library is filled with a cafe, art installations, and a mini museum as well. It’s definitely the closest study spot that reminded me of College Library back in Madison.
Local interactions by Jayla T.
Throughout my time here, I have been able to cultivate meaningful memories and conversations with the local Danish people. This was surprising for me since I did not know what to expect from the local culture before arriving in Copenhagen. My initial impression of the local environment was that people kept to themselves. This reality made it challenging to spark new relationships with people outside of the program participants. However, I was determined to gain more insight into what it was really like to live here and learn about the experiences of people of color in this country. This curiosity inspired me to step out of my comfort zone by initiating conversations with people I crossed paths with, and I began to see a different perspective.
I found that we shared similarities in our interests despite the cultural differences and even had the opportunity to pick up on some Danish sayings (which I definitely will use when I get back!). One of my most memorable experiences with the local people was our group excursion activity of dining with a local Danish host family. We were separated into small groups and sent to spend dinner with a host family in a nearby neighborhood. Once we arrived, we were warmly welcomed by our host. She introduced us to the rest of her family which included her husband, son, and the star of the house Chico, their adorable dog. She gave us a tour of the house and insisted that we make ourselves feel at home, which happened naturally. We engulfed ourselves in conversations about our experiences here versus at home and highlighted the differences in lifestyles. For example, we asked them how they viewed the concept of the hygge lifestyle compared to the American hustle culture and how they incorporated hygge into their daily lives. They responded that throughout the years, they recognized the benefits of living at a slower pace have allowed them to allocate more time to their family life by not putting so much emphasis on the need to overwork oneself to reach success.
I thought this was one of the biggest takeaways from this experience because it gave me a new perspective on the importance of work-life balance and how we as Americans can promote the importance of enjoying the simpler things in life. I plan on incorporating some aspects of the hygge lifestyle into my daily life once I return and look forward to sharing my findings with my family and friends.
An Impactful Moment by Nasra H.
During my time in Copenhagen, Denmark, I’ve had many impactful moments and experiences. But some of the moments that stood out to me were my dinner with my host family, specifically, the conversation we had, and the trust Danish people have in each other and their Government. And when I learned about the harsh policies that Denmark has on immigration and their overall views on the topic. And when the topic of all the differences between America and Denmark came up, I realized how much America lacks compared to Denmark. From healthcare to education and just a generally better way of life. At the same time, I had moments where I learned that Denmark has its issues like any system with a history of colonialism, especially with immigration.
For example, in Denmark, you get paid to go to school and get a degree giving everyone an equal chance at an education. In America, many people go into debt to get a degree that will not even set them up for life. Because most of that time you’re working, you’re not working to live your life, but instead, you’re working to pay off your debt. Another is the healthcare system in Denmark; the healthcare system serves the people and is there to provide any kind of help they may need. Whereas in America, the Healthcare system is a corporate system that only serves the corporations and not the people. Having these conversations with my host family and other Danish people has been very eye-opening in how the world views us and how as an American, I am not being afforded the same benefits as Danish people and many other Europeans. Living in Copenhagen, I’ve encountered firsthand all the things people praise about Denmark. But the most impactful moment or observation I’ve had in Denmark is witnessing the amount of trust between the Danish people and government.
An excellent example of this is how I’ve seen so many babies left outside in Denmark in front of restaurants and cafes while their parents are inside. Something that in America would be seen as not only dangerous but a ludicrous idea. Danish people do this because they know that no one will take their babies and because their government goes out of its way to create a safe place for the parents and children. Which is something that America lacks, as seen sadly in the many instances of school shootings or just general lack of gun safety.
Denmark has many benefits and overall is a beautiful country. But it also has its downside, and one example is its immigration policy. In class, we talked a little about how immigration is viewed in Denmark, and just like any predominantly white country, their views on the issue are not very optimistic. For one, the Danish government believes that breaking down communities that are mainly immigrants that they call the “ghettos” will help with the unemployment in that areas such as Norrbro. A city in Denmark that has a high population of immigrants. The Danish government denies that these policies specifically targeting immigrants are racist and instead says that it’s a way to integrate these families into Danish society, which sounds like forced assimilation, something they have in common with America. Learning about this and the color blind method in Danish society has created this new side to a country used as an example in American politics of what we should strive for as an American society.
Denmark is a beautiful country with many things to see, explore, and learn. And with the rich history, it is undoubtedly a place to visit. It’s also a place that has provided a safe “haven” for many people, including its citizens. And although it has its fair share of rightly deserved critiques, it also has its many praises. And my time here has been beautiful and very eye-opening. It has provided me with many unforgettable memories and experiences that I will cherish forever.
A New Experience by Jaiden R.
This program has been one to remember. We have been lucky to go on numerous excursions that have enhanced our learning. We explored many different parts of Denmark including Amalienborg Palace, Tivoli, The National Museum of Denmark, Horsens Prison Museum, and more. My two favorite excursions have to be Frederiksborg Castle and Dining with the Danes. These were unique experiences that I will never forget.
The Frederiksborg Castle was built by King Christian IV, which embodies the powerful status he held. There are a ton of elements from his era that captivated our attention and eagerness to learn. This castle is now a museum of national history. This is close to five hundred years of history worth of clothing, furniture, art, and more. We started by taking a train to the castle and arriving in Hillerød. We then walked to the castle while observing beautiful greenery and a different part of Denmark. The beautiful first look of the castle was breathtaking. We were standing before an important part of Danish history.
At the castle, we had a guided tour. It was a perfect opportunity to fully enrich ourselves in history. We were able to hear stories and interesting facts about the place and people. After the tour, we went outside to see the garden outside of the castle. This was my favorite part because we were able to see the true beauty of the surrounding greenery. It was breathtaking to even look at the view and was the perfect opportunity to take ample pictures. Being able to say I went to a castle in Denmark is amazing and I loved everything about it.
My second favorite excursion was a little different. It was a later activity called dining with the Danes. We were all split up into groups and transported to different local Danish homes and the families prepared homemade dishes for us. We were able to learn more about each other as well as their experiences in Denmark.
As we arrived the first plate was prepared. It was an open-faced sandwich called Smørrebrød, it is a very common dish in Denmark which consists of pieces of meat or fish and dark brown bread. While enjoying it, we were able to hear about her work as a nurse as well as her experiences with raising her kids in Denmark.
Then after some time, the main dish came out and it was a salad with salmon. This was very delicious and unique because of the way the salmon was cooked and the dill pickle dressing. Next, they brought out cheese, crackers, and grapes. During this time we were engaging in more conversation and she was learning a bit more about us and our journey in Denmark so far. Finally, we had a beautiful assortment of ice cream, it was vanilla and strawberry with fresh strawberries on top.
This was an amazing opportunity to be able to meet Danish families and learn more about their cultures and lifestyles. After the dinner, they even showed us their little garden in the back that had strawberries, grapes, and more. The hosts had many stories to tell about their unique experiences around Denmark. This study abroad experience has been everything and more and I am forever grateful that I have been able to experience this with such amazing people. The excursions made the classes more engaging and I believe that they also provided special memories that will last a lifetime.