Do you remember the moment that DU stopped feeling like a new strange place and started feeling like home? Maybe you went away for a weekend and texted your friends that you would be home in a few hours, but were referring to campus. Or maybe you finally figured out the quickest exit to take or the best short cuts around Denver. But I think I can safely assume that at some point, DU shifted from just your school to your home. Well that happens abroad too. Its one of the greatest feelings: you finally know the lay of the land and you can roll your eyes at the tourists like the rest of the locals do when they do silly things like walk in the bike lane or get confused on the metro. You did your time as the foreigner, and now you feel like a member of the community.
However there is something about this shift is equally as dangerous as it is beautiful. You are comfortable. You have a routine, favorite places, and a schedule. The city starts to lose its grandeur and becomes a little less exciting. I am a creature of habit, and I love getting a routine and being familiar with my surroundings, so I would have let my comfort in Copenhagen happen without complaint. Luckily for me, my parents showed up just in time. I absolutely loved showing them my new city and all my favorite places, but I knew I couldn’t entertain them for an entire week on my favorite coffee shops and parks, so I signed us up for the “Urban Bike Tour” by Cycling Copenhagen. This bike tour wasn’t the typical tourist attraction – instead it was an exploration of some of the areas just out of the inner-city. It wasn’t until this tour that I realized how much more there was to discover in Copenhagen! Our tour guide pointed out a tiny shop under a clothing store, declaring it was the best coffee in Denmark. He snaked us through a cemetery that people use like a park, then led us to a gorgeous, quiet canal crowded with dainty boats with hand-painted names peeling from their sides. He showed us the wealthy district with roads three times as large as in the city and some of the world’s best ice cream.
I realized had developed my own bubble consisting of my apartment, school, and favorite study spots and parks – but this tour expanded my awareness of the city and re-lit my excitement for learning more about the city. There were bike bridges and paths I didn’t know existed, a remodeled meat-packing district of new restaurants and bars, a street with unique shops and flee markets on the weekends, and more. That day I challenged myself as I am about to challenge you, to explore at least one new place every week, because even when you think you know someplace like the back of your hand, there are still undiscovered nooks and crannies just waiting to be discovered. You might find the world’s best bakery or an astonishingly beautiful cemetery, a fantastic coffee shop or a stunning running trail. Take a friend, or go alone. Spend an entire day somewhere new, or just stop by for an hour or less. Whatever you do, never stop exploring. Your time abroad is limited, so you need to savor every second of it. When you feel comfortable or find yourself talking about your abroad city like home, appreciate your accomplishment of making it your own, but take on the challenge of continuously finding new places.
Will has shared his fantastic blog with us, and we want to share it with you! He is studying on the DIS program this semester, and apparently people there won’t believe he’s American. Read on… williambsherman.blobspot.com
The first thing that caught my eye on the program flyer for the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) was in the housing section of the flyer where it said one could live in a folkehojskole (or folk high school) “a distinctly Danish rural educational institution for young Danes.” To me, this sounded amazing. I investigated the program further, and eventually decided that this was the place for me (between the folk high school housing option and the opportunity to get a number of classes for my Sociology major including a class called Migration and Conflict which took a week long study tour to Istanbul and a class called Holocaust and Genocide that took a weekend trip to visit a concentration camp near Hamburg, as well as the opportunity to volunteer while abroad).
I was delighted to get accepted into the program, and as soon as DIS housing opened online, I applied to be put in one of the three folk high schools that were offered. This was in March, but I did not find out until the summer which housing option I actually got. I was told that I signed up early enough that it was likely that I got my first choice. In the meantime, I started researching all the different folk high schools that were offered: Grundtvigs and Krogerup (which are both Danish folk high schools) and The International People’s College (which is a folk high school for international students). I found the most information about Grundtvigs folk high school, which was supposed to have weekly costume parties with both Americans and Danes, and the building almost looked like a greenhouse. I even found one video from past Danes who had lived there, and even though it was all in Danish, the video and photos that were shown just made it look like such a blast!
In the summer before I left, I found out that I was going to live in Grundtvigs folk high school! I was worried that I had built it up too much in my mind and that the reality could not be as good, but I ended up having a fantastic time there! We did have themed parties each week, ranging from Pirate Party to Jersey Shore to Gangsters and Dinosaurs (the last of which was a little hard to dress for). I got to eat dinner with Danish people my own age each night, and see what kinds of things they were interested in doing with their free time. I also got to go to cultural events within the folk high school including concerts, talent shows, plays, and photo exhibits presented by the Danish students.
I later found out that many of the American students at my school were too intimidated by the sound of the folk high school housing option to choose it, and ended up settling for something less intimidating such as a dorm. While home stays and Danish roommates were two other housing options at DIS that were perhaps equally immersive as my folk high school option, I would definitely recommend to future students going abroad to choose an immersive housing option when it is available. It made my own experience so much more rewarding!
All of the photos are mine: showing the outside of my folk high school, the common area/lounge, and the main interior hallway.
At first, I thought it would be sad to be away from home for Thanksgiving and the build up to Christmas because of being so far away from home and because Thanksgiving generally isn’t celebrated in Denmark. However, my Danish visiting family helped me make (or I helped them make) a very traditional Thanksgiving dinner so it was not so sad to be away from home. Also, there is so much Christmas spirit here in Denmark now, it is hard not to enjoy it even if I’m not with my family yet. But at least it’s late enough in the semester that everyone has friends and Danish ‘families’ to spend time with.