One of my first conversations with my host family was about breakfast. “What do you usually eat?” I asked my host parents; “I want to do everything the Danish way.” My host mom, who is actually originally from Kansas, poured some oatmeal (uncooked) in a bowl, added a little milk, some brown sugar, and that was that.
I arrived in Denmark on August 19th and it is hard to believe it has been over three months since I first got here. Before coming I could not settle on a living option, and it seemed like my mind changed every day. Should I live in a dorm with other Americans? Or maybe in a Folkehøjskole (before I even really know what it is)? Should I live in an international kollegium or maybe a Danish one? What about living with a Danish roommate or a host family? After going through the many different options the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) had to offer, I decided on a homestay and, looking back now, I am glad I did. This was definitely one of the best decisions I made here, since the Andersen family has really made a difference in my experience abroad.
I have also had the opportunity to do so much traveling while here, and that is also all thanks to DIS. In the past month I have traveled to Russia, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, and Sweden. I can hardly believe it. I knew I would be able to travel a bit around Europe, but never did I imagine I would go to so many places in such a short period of time. This was not what I was expecting when deciding to study abroad in Denmark for the semester. During orientation I remember someone saying that DIS is about learning both in and outside of the classroom and really applying what you learn.
DIS includes three separate weeks throughout the semester just for traveling. Before arriving, I looked at the calendar and saw that blocks of time were marked off for travel, but I didn’t fully understand what they meant until I got here. During the travel time, we don’t have any classes and are free to do whatever we want. Really? DIS realizes that people are going to travel anyway, so they actually built these breaks into the semester. For one of the weeks it is mandatory to go on a study tour with what is called your “core course,” but for the other weeks you can do what you want. Some people choose to explore Copenhagen more, some travel on their own, and others go on a DIS-organized trip.
I went to Istanbul for my first travel week with my core class, Children in a Multicultural Context (my favorite class and one of the reasons I chose this program). We did some sightseeing—saw beautiful mosques and toured the Bosphorus—but we also had a lot of educational visits, going into different schools and learning about the education system in Turkey and how it differs from that of Denmark and the United States.
For my second week, I traveled to St. Petersburg and Moscow in Russia, also with a class. I went to some of the most amazing places I will probably ever go. During my time in Russia, I also got to see what a typical communal apartment looks like, was taught the “right” way to drink vodka, had a dinner party with Russian students, and learned from people who are on very opposite ends of the political spectrum. Lastly, I flew to Italy with friends to see the beautiful Cinque Terre and learned exactly what to do and what not to do when traveling alone (leave early, make sure to get on the right train, and stamp your ticket!). Then I was off to Amsterdam, where I learned more in-depth about human trafficking and its role in Amsterdam’s famous red-light district, while also getting a bike tour of the city and going to the only cat museum I will probably ever go to.
After just coming back from this last travel break a week ago, I can’t believe it is all coming to an end. It still hasn’t hit me yet. From reading this, it probably seems like I have been doing so much traveling that I am hardly ever in Denmark, and it honestly sometimes feels that way. But aside from the traveling, I do the same routine things every day. I eat my usual oatmeal in the morning, pack a sandwich for lunch, catch the bus, and then the metro to the city. After walking about ten minutes to the DIS building, I find all of the other American students (1000 in total) who are also running to class.
Some of my classes, in a way, are similar to the ones I have taken at Goucher. For the most part they are pretty small in size, especially considering the number of people who attend the program, and they are made to be discussion-based. Once classes are over, I might head to StudenterHuset for a chai latte and hang out with friends and then head home to play with my host siblings before dinner at six with the rest of my host family.
All of the traveling has been wonderful – getting to see so many different countries, discovering new places and learning so much has been an amazing opportunity – but I also love the seemingly mundane, routine parts of my every day here. I really feel like I am living here as a student, and not as someone who is just visiting.
It is slowly beginning to sink in that my time left in Denmark is waning. While there are definitely things I miss about Goucher and home in general, I am learning so much here and I almost can’t imagine going home yet. I know there is still so much to do, see, and experience –who knows the next time I will be here again? I will not be a part of this family, take these classes, meet these people, and may not get to travel to these amazing places ever again. I will miss, more than anything, being a part of the Andersen family and being a part of this country, because I really feel like I have found my place here, and I am extremely thankful for that.