Getting to Know København!

Hej from Copenhagen! I’m finally settling in after being here for about two weeks now. I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know this city a little bit more everyday. Somehow it’s cute and small, but also large and historic at the same time. I also hadn’t traveled very much before this so I am really enjoying living in and exploring somewhere I have never been before.

We’ve had amazing weather the first few days here! Sunny and around 70 degrees, which is extremely rare for Copenhagen. As of now, however, it looks like it’s back to normal Danish weather which mainly means it is raining on and off. Later in the semester it should get very dark and cold, but hopefully I am somewhat used to it with the Western Mass winters. I’ve heard that almost every month here feels like November. I can’t complain yet!

I guess I should explain what my life looks like here in Copenhagen. To start, my living situation is great! DIS has a bunch of options for housing and I ended up choosing a Living and Learning community, which is a dorm of all American students. Mine specifically is Social Justice themed. That means that everyone I live with has an interest in social justice and also that we do themed activities once a week. This week, for example, we met with a refugee lawyer who works with immigrants here in Denmark and next week we are volunteering at a homeless shelter. I am really looking forward to everything our coordinator has planned!

Talia with housemates volunteering and holding shovels
My social justice Living and Learning Community (LLC), volunteering

There are 10 people on my floor and most rooms are doubles, but I got lucky and ended up with a single room with great windows overlooking our busy city street! We have a communal kitchen (stay tuned for a post on how cooking for myself is going), a spacious living room area, and three individual bathrooms with showers. The best part about my house is that it is only a 5 minute walk from classes and most of the popular restaurants and bars in the area! Some DIS students have a much longer commute.

Overall, most things are going the way I expected, but I have been surprised by a few things since I’ve arrived here in Denmark. Firstly, how well everyone speaks English. I appreciate this now especially since I have started my Danish language class and am realizing just how hard of a language it actually is. (Think of holding your tongue inside your mouth and not letting it move at all when you speak because it kind of sounds like that). In general, I am hoping to gain a better grasp on the language as time goes on, but for now it has been absolutely no problem speaking English with any Dane.

That being said, something else I have noticed is how homogeneous at least my area of Copenhagen is. Most people I see walking or biking down the street look very similar. (The majority are tall with blonde hair.) As you move out of the city, however, the population becomes more diverse. This is taking some getting used to for me, especially coming from Amherst where I am proud to live, study and spend time with people from so many different backgrounds; it’s definitely strange to get used to being around so many people that look like each other and don’t really look like me.

On a more positive side, I have been pleasantly surprised by the the academic system here in Denmark. My classes are all extremely engaging and about a vast array of topics I haven’t studied in depth until now. I am especially enjoying my class called Sociology of Migration (delving deeper into the very new world of the Denmark immigration system) and another one called Psychology of Peak Performance (which is like sports psychology). Similar to Amherst, each professor seems to really care about his/her topic and love teaching their students everyday. On Wednesdays every student goes on a ‘field study’ somewhere in Denmark with one of their classes. This is an extremely hands-on way to engage in the topic and something I am really enjoying. This week I went with my Danish Culture class to the National Museum of Denmark and the Danish Supreme Court where we met the Chief Justice of Denmark. It was a great way to learn and engage with a topic outside the classroom in more detail.

Here are a few other highlight moments that I want to mention about my first two weeks here.

  • Becoming a better biker
    • Over half a million Danes bike each day and I am trying desperately to be as confident on bikes as they are. I think I am getting a little better everyday!
  • Red Bull Diving Competition
    • This is a world famous diving competition where professionals dove off the insanely tall Copenhagen Opera House. It was unlike anything I had seen before.
  • A concert in Freetown Christiania
    • This is a town in Copenhagen where the citizens are technically not part of Denmark and make their own rules. It was very cool to see and explore!

Overall, I could not be happier I picked this city to learn in and explore for my semester abroad. I am looking forward to more new experiences and to start seeing more of Europe starting this weekend with Bergen, Norway. Bye for now!!!

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