By this time next week, I will have arrived in Copenhagen. I have repeated variations of this phrase since I found out I would be spending my Spring semester in Copenhagen, Denmark. Two months ’til I am in Copenhagen… One month ’til I am in Copenhagen… Three Weeks ’til I am in Copenhagen … you get the idea.
I know this repetition might seem extreme, to say the least, but I’ve known I wanted to study abroad since high school. After spending my freshman year in a Swiss boarding school – where I met people from all over the world, pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and learned about myself – I was eager to live somewhere foreign again. I love discovering new places and learning what makes a city unique – the geography, the people, the customs, the architecture, the food, etc. Since I’ve had the opportunity to study abroad, this won’t be my first time living in Europe. I can imagine that this might set me apart from other DIS students, but I anticipate facing the same culture-shock and challenges as my peers in the initial weeks. Therefore I want to use this blog to share the tips for overcoming this adjustment period and to make the most of life abroad.
I’m also compelled to write this blog since I started a journal while at boarding school. I recorded my experiences, insights, and struggles – like missing home for the first time and feeling out of place in a new environment. Although my entries are messy and full of grammatical errors, I enjoy reflecting on my past experiences to see how I’ve grown. So when I found out I was studying abroad in Copenhagen, it made perfect sense to bring my journal online by starting a blog. And when I was applying to DIS, I stalked the various bloggers and couldn’t help but wish that I was in their shoes. Now I finally am!
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been checking off my to-do list before I leave (get rain boots, meet with doctors, back up my computer, etc.). A few days ago, I got my housing assignment where I virtually met my new roommate and found out where I’d be living (the location is amazing!!). While I’ve completed this physical checklist in preparation for abroad, I’m wondering if I’m actually ready to leave. Because being prepared to leave and being ready to leave are not the same, I am using this blog to help mentally ready myself for life abroad by setting goals.
As someone who loves to be prepared for everything, I’ve accepted that I’ll face unexpected situations – and that is okay. Rather than letting that discomfort consume me, I want to embrace it: like a social situation in which cultural customs might interfere, or not over planning trips and leaving room for spontaneity, and not being afraid to ask for help when I am lost or confused.
In addition, I know I’ll face discomfort in my classes. I’ve chosen some electives in areas I’ve never studied before, such as Fashion and Creative Writing. I hope to take this as an opportunity to grow my intellectual curiosity, while challenging myself academically.
Make Copenhagen a Home
I want to make this place a home. But what does home feel like? For me, being at home means being able to navigate the city effortlessly. As a self-proclaimed public transportation fan, I want to utilize the city’s many forms of transportation, as well as bike around like a true local. I know that I’ll have to consult google maps for a couple weeks, but the day where I can get from point A to point B without looking at my phone will be a successful day.
Another part of feeling at home is having routines. I’m excited by the idea of having my go-to coffee shop and favorite study spot in Copenhagen. I already located three bakeries on the route to campus, so I envision my daily commute with a fresh baked good in hand. From my experience in New York City, it’s comfortable to stick to a routine and never venture off campus; so I want to leave room for the unexpected and not limit myself.
Lastly, I want to meet and befriend local Danes. One reason I think studying abroad is so different from traveling is that with traveling, you don’t always get the chance to interact with locals. With studying abroad, you live alongside people who’ve called Copenhagen home for years. This means you can immerse yourself in the culture and gain insider knowledge from locals. However, one cannot obtain this benefit unless they make the conscious effort to connect. Since I’m living in an LCC comprised of other DIS students, I cannot rely on my living situation to offer such connections. Thus, I hope to join clubs, like soccer, and as well as utilize my SRA, who is a Danish student, to discover local hangouts.
Travel, Travel, Travel
Unsurprisingly, I hope to travel around Europe while abroad. The list of places I hope to visit is ambitious, impractical even. While I know I won’t be able to visit all of the cities, I do hope to make a dent. Luckily, I get to cross off some of these cities thanks to core course tours, where I’ll visit Vienna and Budapest. This is super exciting since I’ve studied these cities at Barnard and can’t wait to apply my knowledge!
My top five places are:
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Berlin, Germany
- Paris, France
- Brussels, Belgium
- Warsaw, Poland
…But also stay local
It can be tempting to spend every weekend traveling around Europe, but I want to make a conscious effort to explore Copenhagen and Denmark. When talking to a friend who studied with DIS Spring of 2017, she regretted not visiting other Danish cities like Aarhus and Aalborg. I don’t know when else I will get the chance to visit these places; so during my time abroad, I hope to travel domestically. In addition to the many local attractions I intend to visit in Denmark, I look forward to visiting the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, and the Designmuseum in Copenhagen (if you can’t tell, I really enjoy art and design).
Lastly (and probably the most unrealistic), I hope to pack light. This might not seem like a hard task, but for someone who likes to be prepared for every situation, I find packing light a challenge. The practical side of me knows I only need one suitcase – after all, it is cost-effective and my back will thank me. And yet, another part of me is convinced I need to bring four pairs of black boots. I’m going to try to listen to my practical side, because I believe bringing only the necessities will help me discover new things along the way.
Well, I think that covers it. I can’t wait to keep you updated about my adventures abroad, so stay tuned to hear about my classes, attempts to live like a local, and explorations around Europe.
Please check out my About Me page to learn about me and my interests.