Tomorrow marks a whole month since I arrived in Copenhagen and a whole month of crying because literally everything has been so darn great that I’ve found myself shedding a tear some nights because well, life is perfect. It almost felt like it was just yesterday when I nervously boarded my flight to Denmark filled with excitement and a little bit of nausea. Since then, I’ve gotten down a few Danish words, formed a squad that I love, got consistently lost, visited new cities and new countries, bonded with my host family, really felt and lived the infamous Hygge lifestyle, and a million other things. Despite only being here for 30 days, I genuinely feel like I’ve already lived a lifetime of memories. To celebrate a full month of living Danishly, here are 9 things I’ve learned about studying abroad in Denmark:
1. Yes, Denmark is expensive.
You’ve heard the stories about Denmark and yes, it is actually very expensive. On average, every time I go out with friends to grab a meal at a decent restaurant, it usually costs me around 30 USD for an entree and a non-alcoholic drink. Water is also not complimentary in most places. However, there are some cheap alternatives by DIS like the Chinese take-out box right outside F-24. My friend Josh called it “bland,” I call it “you get what you pay for.” At 5 USD per box, it’s a quick and easy food option if you’re in a hurry or forgot to pack your own lunch from home. Finally, studying abroad in Denmark might be a good reason for you to take 4-months off from Starbucks because a Venti caramel macchiato is 9 USD. Stay tuned for a detailed post about dining and shopping in Denmark.
2. You don’t feel homesick as much as you’d imagine.
My best friend Gabby who studied abroad in Hong Kong last Fall told me, “you’d be surprised, you won’t feel as homesick while you’re abroad.” Of course, I doubted her. Days before I had to leave for Europe for six whole months, I was terrified. Even though I’ve spent a lot of time traveling by myself and away from my family, I’ve never been outside of the country independently for more than two weeks. However, time goes by so fast while studying abroad and I feel like I am always doing something. Between going to class, attempting to do homework, and mostly trying to live it up by hanging out with friends, seeing new sights, and spending two hour dinners with my host family, there is simply no time to be homesick. And when I am not doing any of those things, I am often too exhausted to mentally process anything else.
3. Classes are (mostly) stress-free.
I was very strategic in choosing my classes at DIS. As an information management and technology major, I consciously made the decision to take all my core tech classes last Fall so I will have the freedom to take electives while being abroad. I also wanted to take courses that I know will never be offered on campus: Danish Language and Culture, Travel Writing, Virtual Worlds and Social Media, Holocaust and Genocide, and my core class, New Media and Changing Communities. The Danish teaching style is also very different. Instead of a traditional lecture, my classes are more intimate and heavily rely on peer-to-peer discussion, projects, and group work. Until now, I’m actually not entirely sure what I’m being graded on but nonetheless, I’ve already learned so much. Being in a class that does not actively make you want to drop out from school is quite the refreshing narrative for my academic career. Not that I hate Syracuse or the iSchool, I love my school and my major but you can only take so much tech classes until you need a hot sec to just breathe and discover something new.
4. Realistically, you’re not going to learn Danish.
I came with the expectation that I will feasibly be at least be half-fluent in Danish before I leave. I was wrong. Danish is hard. While you do not have to conjugate verbs in this Nordic language, pronunciation is extremely difficult. The word “Hvor” is somehow pronounced as “Vel” and a month later, I am still trying to properly say my hometown of “Hillerød.” I think it sounds something like Ee-Lee and then a vomit noise. Not kidding. My host mom and my Danish professor told me that to learn Danish, just swallow a bunch of blueberries and talk. There is also no rolling “Rs” in Danish, which for a brown person like me who excelled at Spanish and Italian because my accent has always been on point, is quite the lingual setback. Lastly, most Danes speak perfect English so there is no sense of urgency or necessity to learn it. But I still highly recommend taking Danish Language and Culture because you’re in Denmark, so why not? The class also tackles the national culture which in itself is worth the hassle of physically pulling your tongue out to be able to pronounce the “silent D.”
5. Danes love to talk US politics.
On our opening ceremony, we were told that if we came to Denmark to escape US politics, then we were in the wrong place. Danes love to talk about politics. Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump is not very popular in socialist and welfare state Denmark and Danes have a lot to say about the American culture. What do you mean college is not free? How can people afford $60,000 a year? No universal healthcare? Why are your grocery stores so big? Why are you obsessed with your flag? Why didn’t Hillary Clinton win? Conversely, I’m still amazed how they pay up to 60 percent of their income in taxes and most of them seem to be okay with it. This deserves a completely different post but in short, if you’re trying to escape American politics, bad news, what happens in America DOES NOT stay in America.
6. The best plans are last-minute.
As someone who has planned most of my weekend trips until May, I’ve quickly learned that the best plans are in-fact no plans. The past month has been a whirlwind of social events from casual movie nights at our homestay to night outs to the club or a low-key bar. I also spontaneously traveled to Prague on a Wednesday. My friend group usually plans thing last-minute and so far, it has worked out pretty well. We randomly planned a group trip to Krakow, Poland next month and it’s a trip that I would have never imagined taking when I was planning everything in the US. It’s great to come in with no expectations whatsoever because it could only go up. So pro-tip from someone who loves to plan every minute of his life, leave some weekends wide and open, your best memory might just be something that you never thought would happen.
7. Making friends is easy.
Studying abroad with a world partner program was a conscious decision so I could meet new people and form new friendships. It was the right choice. DIS is unique because it’s a study abroad center for American college students but everyone comes from different colleges and universities from across the country, including a sizable group of international students. During orientation week, it was fairly easy to meet new friends through the cultural events DIS organized like the scavenger hunt. I also got pretty lucky with my homestay network, a wonderful group of people who has made my experience even more incredible, so much so that they deserve a separate blog post. Remember your freshmen year of college when you literally walk down the hallway and you immediately bond with people over the fact that you’re all so excited, lonely, and desperate for human interaction? It’s the same thing here. You will find new friends and they will be amazing.
8. Living with a host family was the best decision.
A nice warm house in the suburbs near a royal castle, home-cooked meals, loving host parents, an incredible insight to Danish culture that you won’t get anywhere else? Why doesn’t everyone want to live in a homestay? I will be the first to admit that despite DIS requiring us to write three separate essays detailing our top three options for housing, I refused to write the other two because my heart was set on a homestay. I knew that it will get me the most wholesome Danish experience because what better way to learn more about the language, culture, and everything Danish than to live with an actual Danish family. Of course, this deserves another separate post because I will literally keep rambling forever about how much I love my host family and my homestay network. I take that back, I will make a wonderful video on why everyone should do a homestay. Stay tuned for that and the million other posts I’ve promised.
9. Time goes by so fast.
Ah crap. Has it already REALLY been a month? I think what makes studying abroad so special is the fact that you are only here for a little while. One day, you will wake up and you will be back on your same old routine back home. But here, I wake up each day with this indescribable feeling of excitement because everyday is going to be different. Although I’ve planned all of these amazing weekend trips and week-long adventures to countries I’ve never been before, I’ve made it my goal to simply stop counting the days and just living each day as it is. One month will turn into two, and two will turn into three, and the next thing I know, I will be on my flight back home to the States and I hate thinking about that. I am literally living a life-long dream of living in my favorite city in the world, with a family that is giving me the most wholesome Danish experience, friends that has made my life happier and more colorful, classes that have stimulated my mind in ways I could not have imagined, and a flaming spirit that gets me up every morning because a new, exciting, and Instagrammable adventure always awaits. I LOVE DENMARK. I LOVE BEING HERE. I AM HERE.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for my core course week vlog tomorrow!