Currently

03.20

Well, a lot has changed since the last time I posted; a lot has changed in the last couple of days.

Currently

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.

Centrum Indre By— Inner City Plaza Square
My bike by the port
Buddies and bubble tea!
March 11th— the final night.
My pals and I in Grenen!
10hr drive through Denmark
Where the North Sea and Baltic Sea meet

A month in Cope!

A month in Cope!

As I sit here thinking about all the things I want to write about, I realize that I probably won’t be able to squeeze in a month’s worth of experiences and learning moments all in this one little blurb. 

Where I was during my first post is definitely not where I am today. Today I feel comfortable in Denmark and Copenhagen is beginning to feel a little more homey. Although I still do not know the language, I am now able to recognize the streets and remember certain landmarks that guide me home— this is progress! I live smack dab in the middle of the city which makes it easy to walk around everywhere and familiarize myself with all the surrounding streets and neighborhoods. My neighborhood is called Indre By, or the Inner City, which is always bustling with tourists, workers, families, and BIKES!! And let me tell you… biking culture here is no joke. The Danes use biking as one of their main modes of transportation because it is fast, eco-friendly, cheap, and fun! Cars still exist here, but they’re used less. Biking might just be something I bring back with me once I am home because I am learning how fast and convenient it really is— unless there’s rain, then it’s not fun haha. 

In my Positive Psychology class we learned about the benefits of biking on health and well-being, as well as how Copenhagen is built by civil engineers to be a very biker-friendly place. The streets connect to get by from one place to the other and the cobblestone streets keep people and other bikers safe by causing riders to slow down. What I learned is that nearly everything in Copenhagen has a purpose and almost all infrastructure strategies influence a person in their happiness and well-being. Since Copenhagen is often gloomy, dark and cold, architects make sure to design buildings facing towards the sun and also keep the buildings low so that a person does not feel entrapped by buildings they cannot see over. Ground-level spaces are usually kept visible so that one walking feels safe and invited by the presence of others— ex: coffeeshops with all glass windows so that people walking outside can see in and so that people inside can see others. It was explained that in doing so, social trust can be promoted because one feels like they can see everyone and that everyone can see them, so there is no hiding anything sneaky nor are there feelings of being unsafe. 

That’s another big thing here— social trust. In positive psychology we talk a lot about the notion that Danish people are known to be some of the happiest people in the world. We talk about why that is and what contributes to humans overall well-being and life satisfaction, but for Denmark specifically, we discussed the level of social trust that exists and how that deeply impacts. Danes grow up together making their social circle small and tight, but regardless of the small circle, Danes know everyone by these conglomerate groups of people and thus, people feel safer and more trusting of each other because they know everyone. Danes park their bike and can count on it still being where they left it the next day; Danish mothers leave their children in strollers and park the stroller outside of the store while they shop, knowing that their child will still be there after they’re done. Even their transportation works on social trust because it follows and honor system: you easily hop on to the metro, bus, or train with the idea that you have purchased a ticket because there is no checking beforehand. However, if a DSB (the transportation system in Denmark) worker comes around to check for tickets and you do not have one, you are fined a heavy violation fee, so it is always worth spending the 24kr to get on public transportation. 

There are so many cultural differences here, many of which seem like things the US can take away as a point of reference. Denmark is small though, so this may contribute to many of the successes they have had as a nation in providing their citizens with a satisfactory quality of life. It makes me wonder if the US could ever achieve such a state and if so, what it would take for there to be genuine radical change for everyone. Denmark has already impressed me with its social trust, sustainability techniques, blending of cultures, and so forth and I cannot wait to see what more is in store. 

Pre-Departure Jitters & Week 1

January 21, 2020

Hej!

Currently I am sitting by the windowsill in my room here in Copenhagen:) I arrived about a week ago (almost) on January 11th, which is absolutely crazy to think about because it does not feel that long ago. Time here seems to slip by me, especially during the adjustment period— hence, why I am just now updating you several days later (sorry!!)

On January 10th, I left my comfortable and familiar home in the Bay Area to catch an 11.5hr flight to Germany where I would then have a 6hr layover before my 1.5hr flight to Copenhagen. To say the least, it was a loooong day and having never traveled to Europe, quite an overwhelming and exciting one as well. Although I was nervous and couldn’t stop thinking about nearly everything that could possibly go wrong, I was as ready as I could be to start my journey to Copenhagen. Last minute packing, sad and hopeful goodbyes, and scrambling to the airport had all lead me to SFO (San Francisco, CA) where I sat in a plane among many other faces of different ages, genders, and races all going to different places.

Once I arrived to Munich, Germany, the colors drastically changed. What was once sunny became cold, dark, and cloudy; and the faces began to look more pale. I began to feel intimidated by the lack of color, afraid that I stuck out like a sore thumb, so I decided to explore and distract myself. The airport in Munich is ginormous, futuristic, and quite advanced in that it had airport showers, “sleep pods,” and even indoor smoking areas known as the Camel Lounge.

I have never been to a country where I did not speak the language, but now I understood the disorientated state one may feel in a completely new space. I anticipated Copenhagen to be much like this experience in the Munich airport, but part of me was excited for the unknown that awaited me. Once I arrived to Copenhagen, I lugged my big suitcase, carry-on, and big ol’ backpack to the Metro station where I caught a train to the neighborhood that was to become my new home.

If there’s anything you should know about Copenhagen is that THERE ARE SO MANY STAIRS!! They’re everywhere– whether it is to come up from the Metro or to go up the stairs to your apartment— picture this: a 5’0″ft girl carrying suitcases equal to her weight up 4 flights of stairs.. a sweaty and exhausting sight. Also, Copenhagen’s streets are made out of cobblestone which makes it quite difficult to walk or roll luggage haha. Needless to say, it was a mission to arrive in Denmark, but I am happy to finally be here.

Since arriving, it has been about familiarizing myself with the area and the people; new customs and cultural values; the weather and lack of sun; the language at DIS and the language as a whole. I have placed myself in the middle of unfamiliarity and discomfort, but I know that being here will push me towards people, experiences, and growth in ways that are unknown.

Classes at DIS have started and I am looking forward to all of mine: Psychology of Endings; Masculinities in Scandinavia; Positive Psychology; Sociology of Soccer; and Neuroscience of Religion and Atheism. The last class mentioned is the entire reason why I am here in Copenhagen– it is the epitome of my academic interests— and although I am looking forward to all the traveling, incredible opportunities, and experiences I will encounter, I am most excited to learn about what interests me.

Bring it on Copenhagen

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