Well, a lot has changed since the last time I posted; a lot has changed in the last couple of days.
I am back in the States, away from the place that was beginning to feel like home. What was meant to last a couple more months ended up being cut into a couple more days— Coronavirus, as we know it, has changed life all around the globe.
Wednesday of last week— the 11th— was quite possibly the most emotionally taxing day of this entire semster. DIS, my program, sent out a mass text to all its students requesting that all students keep alert and maintain their phones close for further information about the next steps the program would take in regards to the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
Europe was beginning to shut down: Italy had gone into a national quarantine, the number of infected people in Spain and France were going up, many U.S. abroad programs in Germany had just been cut, and Denmark was holding a national conference to discuss what the country would do to slow the virus from infecting Danes.
By 10:30pm, it had been announced that the U.S. was instituting a ban on travel from Europe to the U.S., and Denmark had cancelled all public events and had shut down schools and non-essential businesses. By 10:30pm, DIS announced that it would suspend remaining classes and activities for the Spring 2020 semester.
The chaos that followed was incredible. Genuinely, it felt like the world had just shattered in our hands. People in my building began to cry, some began to pack, others stayed frozen, unable to process the words contained in the flood of emails that arrived in our inboxes. My heart felt heavy that night, but reflecting a week later, all I can say is that I am grateful for the short-lived experience I had in Copenhagen.
Many of the residents in our building left less than 24 hours later, headed for full flights filled with people who were afraid they would not be allowed into the U.S. due to the travel ban. I must admit, I too, was afraid— but I also felt a strong STRONG urge to stay in Europe for as long as I could. My friend and I frantically tried to come up with a plan that would make our desire to stay an actual reality, but it was also difficult all things considered— we weren’t sure where we’d go, we weren’t sure how long we’d be there for, we weren’t sure if it was the right thing to do. After thinking about all possible alternatives, we decided that returning to the U.S. was probably the better decision, though we chose to stay in Copenhagen for a while longer compared to our peers who had left the day after the news had come down.
The days of the 12th-15th were spent taking in Copenhagen and all the things it has to offer. Copenhagen is a beautiful space; all things are planned and intentional, each detail is so carefully thought out— and on these final days the intricacies of this city became aparent. Although certain places in the city were closed, the hustle and bustle of the city continued and the movement became more noticeable in juxtaposition to the stillness of the rest of the world. The strollers, bikes, pedestrians, cars, buses— everything continued to appear normal, but I knew that this state was fragile and anything more would break the facade.
My friends and I, the last 3 remaining in our building, set out to walk through every neighborhood we could to enjoy the differences of each space. Norreboro, the diverse hipster place; Frederiksburg, the boujee place, said to house the wealthy women who wear pearls when they walk their poodles; Christianshavn, hippie town. All these places— each distinct from the other and yet all part of the same overarching space: that of Copenhagen; that of Denmark.
On our 2nd to last day, my friends and I rented a car (which by the way, Danish law only requires you to be 20 to rent a car— something the U.S. allows at the age of 25) to drive to Skagen and Grenen, two places I dreamt of visiting during my time in Denmark.
Skagen is a little port town in the north end of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula. As you drive through it, you see yellow houses, red rooftops, simple architecture, narrow streets; as you keep driving you arrive to Grenen, the very northern tip of Denmark where the Baltic Sea and North Sea meet.
We drove through all of the islands of Denmark— 10 hours of driving in total– to arrive to Grenen and once we did, it was cold, windy, snowy, and absolutely beautiful. I stood at the sandy point, between both seas, feeling the water soak my shoes. “The world is so beautiful,” I thought, and even among the ugliness of the global situation, right here was were I felt at peace. “Hygge,” (hoo-gah) the Danish philosophy every Dane swears by, was experiened here in Grenen— the feeling of coziness, of conviviality that fosters feelings of contentment and well-being— with my friends, in the car, during the drive, at the northern-most point of Denmark.
It was a perfect conclusion to my short-and-sweet visit to Denmark.
Of course, I was bummed to know that this would be the final taste of my experience here, but it wouldn’t be the last— and that’s what I continue to remind myself even now that I am in the States. Denmark has marked me in the short time I was there and even though I am back home, I hold my experiences close to me.
It is not every day that we live through a global pandemic, and though it is scary and uncertain, it really makes you appreciate the fragility of life and the limited time we have here.
— I was pretty bad at uploading blurbs about my experiences throughout the 2 months I had in Copenhagen, but now that I have reflected upon my time, I have written a list of the experiences and opportunities I had that I hope to expand on.
For now, this is my two cents on the situation and I am so so thankful for everything despite the unexpectedness of circumstances. I will continue to write and reflect about my experience abroad, as well as throughout this weird and confusing time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘Til then, keep safe, wash your hands, hide your wife and kids— you know the drill.