Farewell

15 May

This may be my last post before leaving Copenhagen on Friday. Words can’t express how much I’ve enjoyed and will miss studying abroad, but I can try. Tonight my host family gave me several gifts to remember them by. I felt so much gratitude in my heart for their continuous support and hospitality. As the semester progressed, I found myself enjoying Copenhagen a little more each day. This makes for a difficult goodbye, but I’ll always have my memories to take home with me. Thank you for allowing me to share some with you through this blog!

You know I love a good list. Here’s my 25 Things I’ll Miss About the CPH followed by 5 Things I Won’t!

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25. The plethora of bakeries- especially the delicious Lagkagehuset and St. Peter’s.

24. Adorable Danish children in snow suits walking around during winter, looking like marshmallows.

23. Hygge-ness: Candles in every restaurant/house that create a cozy and social atmosphere.

22. The general openness and friendliness of Danish society.

21. The interesting/fascinating art and architecture throughout the city. CPH has its quirks.

20. My host dad’s homemade bread that I ate nearly every day at most meals.

19. The freedom to easily travel throughout Europe since Copenhagen is a major transportation hub and Denmark is a small, peninsular country.

18. The ability to meet other American students from dozens of great colleges throughout the US. I learned a lot from these people’s perspectives and more often than not, what I learned surprised me.

17. Cobblestone streets and painted buildings. Even though the cobblestone killed my favorite pairs of shoes, I can’t imagine the city without it. Cobblestone and pastel buildings are signature to Copenhagen and add to its charm.

16. Cafe culture. I’ve developed a liking for tea and Copenhagen fully supports my slight addiction. Shout out to Cafe Paludan and The Living Room for being awesome.

15. The safety and security I felt while living in a large city. I doubt I would’ve felt this safe in a city of the same size back in the States. I was nearly always using public transportation alone (sometimes at night) in the poorest section of town (where I lived), yet I never felt vulnerable.

14. The ability to pass for being a Dane with my blonde hair/blue eyes and limited Danish vocabulary. I’m 0% Scandinavian but always felt sneaky when I passed for one.

13. How health-conscious Danes seemed to be. The people love being active and eating healthy and organic foods. The US should really learn to embrace that kind of behavior, and policy-makers should learn how to help the American public adopt it.

12. The feeling of living in a big city for the first time in my life. Finally, I could never complain about being bored or having nothing to do.

11. Strøget and other shopping streets that have nice clothing and souvenirs.

10. Bike-mania! It’s truly the most bike-friendly city in the world, which is great for visitors like me to experience. I’ve never seen so many worn-in and unique bicycles in my life.

9. Living by the ocean and seeing the harbor each day. There’s something peaceful about watching ocean waves.

8. The sense of independence you gain while navigating Copenhagen (and other European cities) for the first time.

7. The magic of Tivoli Gardens!

6. Flødeboller chocolates.

5. The Islands Brygge area of Copenhagen.

4. The easy-going attitude Danes have about life. There is a fine line between happiness and contentment that they straddle. Overall, it’s nice to take a break from the high-strung, competitive atmosphere of my college.

3. Seeing Danish babies sleeping in strollers on sidewalks.

2. The fashion. Lots of black, blue, and army green- but they know how to wear it well.

1. My gracious host family. I’ll most certainly miss Bas’ delicious cooking, Lise’s helpfulness in answering my endless questions, Marius’ playfulness and dancing to Gangnam Style, and Emmy saying “Goodnight Liza” every single night.

5 Things I Won’t Miss So Much:

5. The way that no one cares about running into you on a sidewalk. This irked me so much. I was always the one to move out of the way because otherwise they’d run right into me!

4. The amount of smokers and secondhand smoke. I never understood why so many people choose to smoke despite their otherwise healthy lifestyles!

3. How dang expensive everything is. I’ve never felt more guilty for buying necessary things as I did with nearly every purchase here. You just never get used to the high prices- you’ll always compare them to the US! I’ll never complain about the price of food or clothing in the US again.

2. The weather. The temperatures alone might not appear too chilly, but never forget your geography. That far-north latitude, Arctic Ocean breeze, and flat Danish countryside will get ya during those winter months. Then again, I may have picked the best semester to be abroad considering Minnesota’s insane winter…

1. The public transportation system. Everyone makes it out to be easier and more reliable than it actually is! I spent many-a-time freezing my buns off while waiting for trains and buses. Public transportation can be great, but I can’t wait to drive again.

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For Your Entertainment

14 May

Can’t believe I’m already saying this, but I am leaving Copenhagen in just FOUR days. Knowing that I’ll soon be at home with my family, friends and dog warms my heart, but it will be strange to say goodbye to the city I’ve gotten to know so well over the past semester, along with the people in it. I feel grateful that I’ve been able to see and do so much during my last week here despite it being finals week. Namely, I crossed off two big items from my study abroad bucket list:  Tivoli Amusement Park and Legoland! 

Last Thursday, Michael Ann and I spent the evening at Tivoli which is right in the city center of Copenhagen. Tivoli is the second oldest amusement park in the world and takes up only about four square blocks of space. There’s a lot of hype about the park to tourists, and personally, I was not disappointed. It’s a small venue, but it has a lot of charm. There are beautiful flowers everywhere (people also refer to the park as Tivoli Gardens), restaurants and food vendors, an aquarium, and a lot more! For this reason, many tourists and Danes alike come to the park each year just to people-watch and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere instead of riding rides. Seeing Tivoli was one of my favorite memories from this semester!   

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ImageLast weekend, my host family and I traveled to Billund, Denmark on the island of Jutland to visit Legoland! Legos were invented by a Dane so naturally the first Legoland was built in Denmark. The fact that Legos originated here is one of my favorite tidbits I’d learned because it seems perfectly fitting with all of the unique Danish design/architecture I’ve seen this semester. Also, Denmark is one of the most gender-equal societies in the world and Legos are a gender-neutral toy. There were some larger rides for kids throughout the park but my favorite part was looking at actual Lego Brick models because they are crazy-impressive. Here are some snapshots of my favorites:

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Amsterdam replicaImage

 

Copenhagen’s Amalienborg PalaceImage

 

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My final story from the past weekend is about how my host brother Marius (age 4) is going to be quite the ladies man. When I was getting ready to leave for Legoland on Friday morning, Marius had been outside picking flowers from our backyard to give to me! Hearing him say (in Danish) “Liza, I picked you these flowers” was one of the sweetest moments I’ve had. He is a great kid. Living with my host family has undoubtedly been one of the most rewarding experiences during my time here and I will miss them greatly!

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Spring Has Sprung

7 May

Happy Spring! The recently warm weather Copenhagen puts me in a great mood. The days are now starting to feel long (sunrises at 5 am/sunsets at 10 pm) and I can’t believe I only have ten of them left to spare. This week is very exciting for me, but first I have a few things to share from last week!

  1. I attended my final ballet performance at the Royal Danish Theatre for my History of European Ballet class. It was opening night for two August Bournonville (famous 19th century Danish choreographer) ballets, and the Queen of Denmark was in attendance! This meant that before each act the Queen’s guard instructed everyone to rise and observe a moment of silence for the Queen, and afterwards the ballet dancers bowed to both the audience and the Queen herself. Also, the current artistic director of the Royal Danish Ballet, Nikolaj Hübbe, sat just a couple rows in front of me. Just knowing and recognizing the importance of these people made me feel like I actually knew a thing or two about the Royal Danish Ballet. It was quite the night!
  2. DIS provided me and other semester bloggers a fantastic dinner at The Tattooed Widow restaurant in Copenhagen. We had a three-course meal: rye or wheat bread with hummus, braised pork with potatoes in pureed spinach, and a vanilla muffin topped with strawberries in sauce, rhubarb, coconut, and marshmallow. The restaurant had each course paired with a specialty beer- my favorite was the raspberry beer served with our dessert. Such a great meal… I guess it pays off to be blogging!
  3. I had NO idea how big of an ordeal May Day is in Copenhagen. It’s considered worker’s day in Copenhagen, which means unions and political parties are very active in making their voices heard on this particular day. Everyone (and I mean everyone) goes to Faelledparken for the entire afternoon to relax in the sun, listen to music and political speeches, eat from food vendors, and smoke and drink. It was honestly shocking to see thousands of people doing all of these things that the whole day kind of overwhelmed me. That being said, it’s definitely a very Danish thing to see and participate in!

And onto the current week…

Yesterday was one of my favorite days in Copenhagen thus far. To start off, I completed my global economics core course this morning by taking my final exam. In the afternoon, I took the harbor bus over to meet my host mom at her workplace for the first time. She works as a lobbyist for gender equality issues at a firm in the area of Copenhagen known as Islands Brygge. I was so impressed with Islands Brygge and her workplace!! The area is filled with renovated structures that are now ultra-modern businesses and houses surrounding the harbor. There are several parks and green spaces throughout the area and also many harbor pools that are jam-packed during the summertime! All of the architecture looked very Danish to me, and I plan on coming back to this area in the future to have lunch with her and take pictures! I got the chance to see her workplace, which had open-area offices, window-walled meeting rooms, a tiny glass “smoking room” in the basement garage, an outdoor patio area for lunch, and kayaks for employees to use on the harbor. From there, we biked 20 minutes alongside the harbor to arrive back at the house.

*Update: It was 75 and sunny today, so I biked back to Islands Brygge to snap some photos and enjoy the best weather of the semester. Enjoy!

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Frederiksberg Park

6 May

Frederiksberg Park

My friend Sam and I decided to buy some art supplies and paint a scene from Frederiksberg Park in Copenhagen last weekend. Really loved using my artistic ability again (something I haven’t had the chance to do during college), plus it’s great souvenir to take home!

Lock-Out

24 Apr

What if I told you that zero children in Denmark have been to school during the month of April? Would you believe me? 

Strangely enough, this story is true. For the past month, Danish teachers have been locked out due to the government being unable to negotiate with teachers’ union over working conditions. My host dad who’s a caterer for a local public school first informed me of the lock out at the beginning of April. It’s the first time Denmark has ever had a teacher lock out, and I really can’t emphasize enough how significant this is for their society. Days have turned into weeks, and weeks have turned into (almost) a month, and still no one is going to school. No students. No teachers. My host mom explained the situation well when she said that for teachers, a lock out is the opposite out a strike. More than 700,000 students haven’t been to school this month, which has forced Danish society to adapt to the unprecedented change. Employers have allowed parents to bring their younger kids to work with them. Some parents have coordinated with neighbors and friends to watch each other’s children during the day. My host dad even told me a touching story of how one student misses his teacher so much that he’s been calling her every day since the start of the lock out.  

Essentially, I’ve gathered that teachers have been locked out because the government and teacher’s employers wanted them to work longer hours without a pay increase. A collective bargain was unable to be reached between government and the teachers’ union, leaving 70,000+ teachers without work or pay for the month of April thus far. Even students and teachers at private schools are locked out because of the significant amount of funding/salary the government provides for them.

When things like this occur, I tend to think something along the lines of “If this EVER happened in the US, people would be going CRAZY!” While memories of last year’s teachers’ strike in Wisconsin come to mind, I can’t help but think that the current scenario in Denmark is perhaps much more dire. Consider the fact that the lock out affects every single student and teacher in the entire country. Although Denmark is a small nation, education is a top priority that’s considered to be a fundamental right to all citizens. A couple weeks ago, thousands of Danes protested the lock out right here in Copenhagen. From all that I’ve heard, I get the impression that people are starting to lose hope. Without being Danish it’s hard to grasp the full significance of the situation, but I continue to try and understand it in my own way.  

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Stats

21 Apr

Stats

One cool feature of WordPress is the ability to learn more about who’s reading my blog. I’m proud to say that my readership has now extended to people from 50+ different countries!! WordPress even provided a little colored world map to show me where it’s been read. So…what country should be my next “goal”? 😉

A Week Well Spent

20 Apr

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…Where do I begin? I just spent a whole week with three fantastic friends (and then some) in sunny BARCELONA… I could not have asked for a better way to spend my spring break. I had some of the best memories of my entire semester (slash year? slash life?) with my main travel buddies Lauren, Samantha, Michael Ann, Becca, Kate, and Kelsey. Lauren, Samantha and Michael Ann: If you’re reading this, you should all know how much I loved cooking, exploring and sharing an apartment with you this week!! Most of all, I especially want to thank Michael Ann for taking the initiative to plan our itinerary and patiently be our fearless leader throughout the week. Michael Ann didn’t mind brushing up on her Spanish-speaking and there were more than a few times when that came in handy. GO BIG MIKE!! 🙂

Highlights of the trip for me include:

  • La comida de España. Paella, empanadas, churros and chocolate, sangria, tapas, fresh fruit… I felt like I was in heaven!
  • Gaudi. The late 19th century architect designed hundreds of buildings throughout Europe, but his most famous works remain in Barcelona. I love how his designs strive to emulate Spain’s natural beauty and liveliness. Vivid color, ocean waves, trees, crosses, and mosaics were all repeated throughout his Barcelona buildings. The entire city feels like it’s forever indebted to his unique creations. La Sagrada Familia was the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen in my life, and it remains unfinished until 2026- the 100th year anniversary of his death.
  • Reading Silver Linings Playbook. I picked up the novel from the English section of a Spanish bookstore and it turned out to be the perfect beach-read. Looking forward to watching the Academy Award-winning movie when I get the chance.
  • Shopping at food markets with my housemates. We saved a sizable amount of money by making most breakfast and lunches ourselves. Plus, it got me really excited to do some of my own cooking this summer with future housemates!
  • …More to come in my next post!

As usual, here’s my itinerary for y’all!

Saturday: Evening flight to BCN. Settle into our Apartment Atlántida in Barceloneta. Boardwalk to the first of many ice cream cones throughout the week.

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Sunday: Take funicular up to the top of Montjuic. Explore Castell de Montjuic (pictured below), ’92 Summer Olympic stadiums, and Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. Relax back at Barceloneta beach for the evening.

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Monday: Stroll around Parc de la Ciutadella (pictured below) before walking to the Gothic Cathedral. Explore the food market La Boqueria and shop Las Ramblas street. Relax back at Barceloneta beach for the evening.

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Tuesday (Gaudi Day): Tour La Sagrada Familia. Venture over to Park Güell (pictured below) before later seeing Casa Mila and Casa Batllo. Relax back at Barceloneta beach for the evening (are you sensing the trend yet??).

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Wednesday: Revisit the amazing food at La Boqueria (pictured below) in the morning. Prepare guacamole and head to Barceloneta beach for the day! Get some seriously tan/burnt skin (depending on who you ask from our group!).

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Thursday: Day trip to Montserrat mountain. Access the Benedictine Abbey via cable car (pictured below). Briefly hike the mountain while simultaneously trying to avoid further skin damage.

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Friday: Shop in the Gothic neighborhood of the city. Breathe.

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Saturday: Say a tearful goodbye to Apartment Atlántida (located nearby the colorful street pictured below) before heading back to Copenhagen.

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When my flight landed in Copenhagen this afternoon, I hardly recognized the city! It’s currently 55 degrees Fahrenheit with sunshine and green grass. After months of subfreezing temperatures and snowy conditions I honestly wasn’t sure this day would ever come but I am so glad it did. As I walked to my family’s neighborhood I saw parents and children playing outside, including Emmy and host mom Lise. The first thing Lise said to me was “You are really tan!!” After spending a week in sunny Barcelona, her judgement of me is definitely on point. Barcelona has a completely different vibe and lifestyle from Copenhagen that I really appreciated this week. Each time I travel somewhere new or different I return seeing my “home” in a new light. Previously, I thought I’d be disappointed to come back to Copenhagen after having such a great week in Barcelona, but right now I feel more energized and positive than at any other point in this semester. ¡Viva la España…y København!

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