I have enjoyed my time here in Copenhagen with DIS because of the structure that allows freedom to travel. Typically after two weeks of classes we have one week of break, and we have every Wednesday off for field trips. This schedule has allowed me to explore Europe and go to many more countries than I would have been able to if DIS were more traditionally structured. I visited some incredible places that will stay with me forever. The one thing I don’t like about DIS is my classes. I am taking five classes, and while most of them sounded quite interesting on paper, it turned out that none of them were. They were all both too easy and too boring. Good thing I was able to learn so much more than what was in my books.
I really enjoyed traveling with my friends, but I also had opportunities to travel by myself, which was much better than I thought it would be. I went to Budapest and Prague for a total of six days, and I took a weekend trip to Norway, both solo. These were all places that I really wanted to visit, but I couldn’t find friends who wanted to go at the same time that I was able to go. So, I went by myself. I was a little anxious about it beforehand, but I was confident in my ability to navigate and stay safe. And I ended up loving it. I appreciated the moments when I could forget about the tourist things I was supposed to be doing and instead sit and read and relax. I enjoyed listening to music and exploring a new place on my own terms. The one thing I didn’t like was eating. I ate most of my meals in outdoor markets, escaping the pressure of restaurant solidarity. But when these weren’t available, and especially for dinner, I kept walking and walking looking for a place where I could find a quick meal without being alone with a swarm of restaurant goers. I wouldn’t have been able to sustain solo traveling for a longer period of time, but I am proud that I was successfully able to do it for six days in Budapest and Prague.
In Norway, being by myself was even more appropriate because I was able to hike up a mountain at my own pace and witness some of the most incredible views I have ever seen. I already knew that I was a competent traveler, but going on my own really allowed me to see my own strengths and individuality, and I am proud of the person whom I’ve become.
I do like to think that I have learned more about the world and my place in it, both from discussions with friends and in visiting many new places. I have definitely become a lot more critical of probably everything, from American politics to Danish “equality.” One thing in particular that I noticed is that, when traveling somewhere, I wanted to speak in broken English–to pretend that English wasn’t my native language–to hide my embarrassment of English hegemony, of automatically speaking English and assuming everyone will accommodate to my tongue. Everyone I encountered did speak English because I stayed in touristy areas, but I wish that I would have been forced to learn basic Dutch or Hungarian or Czech so I could learn more about the culture and the people. One Swede I met on a tour commented that in his country they speak English so readily that sojourners aren’t pressured into learning the language. It is the same with Denmark, and while I appreciate the ease to which I was able to convey myself to others, I also wish that I would have been more motivated to learn the language.
Now that my semester is almost over, I have come to the realization that I will soon never see any of these great new people, or Denmark, for a long time. I went out to the big worker’s day festival last week on one of the only sunny days this month. It was like Vassar’s Founder’s Day but with way more people, political speeches and open drinking on the grass. Having been shut up in my room to avoid the cold and rain, I appreciated so much more the glimmer of hope that the sun provided me and all the other Danes. It was a wonderful break and a great way to relax before finals, and the end of my adventure here really hit me. I have had such a wonderful time with my roommates and housemates, and I have made memories I will not soon forget. I will miss singing as loudly as possible in our kitchen to old favorite songs until our RA tells us for the fourth time to quiet down. I will miss having large dinner festivities every Thursday in our small kitchen with fifteen people, both other students and Danes, laughing our way into the night. I will miss spending time with my Social Justice LLC and having to create a political poem in twenty minutes or having to put on an impromptu performing arts piece. I will miss my roommates’ cooking, even with all the spice they add. Saying goodbye won’t be easy.
I haven’t had too much time to reflect on my experiences here because I have been bouncing from place to place and now have final papers to write, but I can already tell that studying abroad in Denmark will be one of the best experiences of my life.