swiss miss 🇨🇭 🍫 🧀

Okay- I couldn’t resist the title because I had the best hot chocolate I have ever had in my entire life (not being dramatic) last weekend. I apologize for my lack of photos. I guess I was just a little busy enjoying my time!

It was my final weekend trip to a foreign country, so I went with a couple friends to Geneva, Switzerland! We decided to stay in town and not go into the alps, since we were only there for one full day. But nonetheless, we had a great time (and we saw the alps from Geneva).

We landed on Friday night, and had pizza waiting for us thanks to Kendell’s boyfriend, Art, who met us in Geneva for the weekend. We stayed up chatting far too late into the night at our adorable little Airbnb. Saturday morning Sammy and Kendell went to a bakery and grocery store to pick up breakfast items. They delivered the best hot chocolate to me while I was still laying in bed. Picturesque, for sure (also I’m lucky to have such nice friends that go get breakfast and deliver it to me in bed!!). Not only did they bring hot chocolate, but also a few pastries to try accompanied with bread and cheese. It felt like we were living Danishly by eating bread and cheese with jam for breakfast, but the components individually were deliciously Swiss. Mostly the gruyere cheese- a personal favorite of mine.

After this delightful breakfast, we took a stroll through the city and down to the lake. The sky was perfectly blue and we saw the snow-capped alps in the background behind Lake Geneva. Along the way, we discovered the swans of Geneva. They are so clearly conditioned to be given food by humans, because they’ll come up to you and stare at you like you owe them something. It’s quite adorable if you ask me, even though I’m pretty sure a swan could get rather aggressive… oh well, no swan attacks were witnessed.

The Lake has the iconic fountain, called Jet D’Eau – which was actually accidentally created. It was first used as a safety valve for a hydraulic power network, and is now arguably Geneva’s most iconic landmark.

After dipping our toes in Lake Geneva, we hopped on a bus and headed towards the French border. We walked across into France and headed for a cable car called Téléphérique du Salève. Unfortunately, it was closed for winter contrary to what we had read online. Sadly we didn’t get to see Geneva from the top of a French mountain, but we still had a fun time walking into France and seeing a bit of the countryside.

We returned to town and visited a flea market that I had heard about. It was in a big park where they were setting up for a big Christmas carnival. Another event happening around the park and our Airbnb was this fun run that had attracted many runners to the area. Later that evening, we had reservations at a fondue restaurant. We swam in cheese fondue and raclette. It was divine, although an extreme amount of cheese. The Swiss cheese fondue scene is definitely not for the lactose intolerant, that’s for sure. We were the last ones in the restaurant- we left at 11:45 and walked back to our room, satisfied with our bellies full of cheese.

The next morning we got up and went to a lovely creperie for brunch. I had a savory crepe with ham, cheese, and spinach. Of course, it was incredible. After brunch we were off to the plaza that hosts the United Nations, the broken chair monument, and the Red Cross Museum. It was so cool to imagine the sorts of diplomacy that takes place here.

I would highly recommend Geneva if you’re interested in cheese, chocolate, high end (anything) watches, or being surrounded by beauty. I might also suggest that you have more than a couple days in Switzerland, so that you could perhaps have the time to go into the Alps (Mont Blanc, or Chamonix are both relatively close to Geneva).

One more thing- this is my last post before I begin packing my bags to head back home. It’s been a crazy semester full of crazy things that I never would have imagined doing. I’ll be taking this upcoming week to reflect on my time and enjoy what I have left. Oh, and also finish up my final exams, papers and presentations! Until then, I wish you all the best- wherever on Earth that may be 🙂

Lots of love!

Alex

 

 

 

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a weekend in Iceland 🇮🇸

What a wild 36 hours I spent this past weekend. Just hours after my parents left to go back home to Washington, I was jetting off to Iceland with my good friend Kendell (thanks again to Kendell- who is both a gifted photographer and incredibly generous to let me use her photos!)

Iceland was just how I imagined it to be- amazingly quiet and relaxing, yet dramatically chaotic in a scenic, breathtaking way.

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We began our trip with a beautiful flight right before sunset- so we saw mountains and glaciers eclipsed by the sun at that lovely warm ‘golden hour’ tone. Absolutely breathtaking. When we landed, we got our trusty rental car (we called it “suzuk” since it was a little blue suzuki ready to brave the winter), and headed to our AirBnb in Reykjavik. We walked down to the waterfront and explored a bit, got some ice cream, some burgers, and headed back to our room to get some quality sleep before our day exploring the Southern Coast of Iceland.

We woke up at 7 and it was still as dark as it is in the middle of the night. We got up, got bundled up for the cold, grabbed our lunch (bought the previous night at a local grocery store so we didn’t have to make food stops along the way), and got in suzuk. We got on Highway 1 and started driving toward Vík, a town on the Southern Coast near the most famous black sand beaches. It took us about 3 hours to get there, and oh boy was it worth the drive. Reynisdrangar was the name of our first black beach, followed by Reynisfjara just a short drive away.

We then worked our way back Northwest towards the Blue Lagoon, stopping at a glacier and a few waterfalls (Skogafoss & Seljalandfoss). Seljalandfoss is the famous waterfall that you can walk behind- but unfortunately it’s closed in the winter because the pathway gets covered in ice from the spray of the falls. Understandably, they close it to avoid tourist injury and death. We were basically ice skating even on the path that was open, so I don’t think waking behind it would have been wise.

Here’s my highlight reel: black sand beaches, waterfalls, mountains and hills jutting out of the ground, lush green hills- even at the end of November, sheep!! Icelandic horses (they have bangs), and good company, just to name a few of my favorite things

What more could I ask for?!? Oh yeah, we also went to the very famous Blue Lagoon, a sort of spa/resort place in the middle of nowhere that nearly every tourist in Iceland goes to. But, it is one of National Geographic’s 25 wonders of the world. I would even recommend it- and if you know me, you know I’m not one for splurging on a spa type experience. The water was beautifully milky and blue, extremely warm (the perfect contrast to the freezing air temperature), and we even got a silica face mask. I felt much more luxurious than I normally do, and my skin felt so soft and nourished afterwards. If you want to go, I would suggest going at night because I can’t imagine having a productive day after being lulled into a state of nirvana at the spa.

In any case- Iceland is uniquely beautiful. A special place that I hope you get the chance to see…

I have just one more trip left before I come home in about 2 and a half weeks! I’ll be in Geneva, Switzerland this weekend to finish out my traveling strong, and hopefully with some swiss chocolate and maybe some fondue?

All my best,

Alex

 

copenstock 🇩🇰 🇸🇪 feat. mom & dad

Yes, copenstock. You can probably guess from the Danish and Swedish flags that I have combined the name of two cities from these wonderful countries. Copenhagen and Stockholm. Two cities with their unique feel and aesthetic, yet similar authentic Scandinavian identity. What was extra special about exploring these two cities over the past week is that I got to do it with my parents! So, the week of fun began in a not so fun way (for my parents at least). After their 10 hour flight from Seattle to Amsterdam, their final flight to Copenhagen was cancelled and they were stuck in the airport for 9 hours waiting for their new flight. Not only were they delayed, but when they finally got to Copenhagen, their luggage was still in Amsterdam. But still, they were happy to see me waving the Danish flag as they came out of baggage claim bagless. It was so great to see familiar faces after three months of new people and new experiences. I was excited to be able to introduce them to the city that quickly became my second home!


Copenhagen

The first couple of days were spent largely outside of downtown Copenhagen. They came to my house in Greve and met my host family, and we cooked a “Thanksgiving-ish” meal at the house! My two worlds met that day, my Danish life and my American life. Then, the next day after some exploring in the morning we went to Ejby where my mom’s host parents from 29 years ago now live. My mom’s host sister (who was 11 years old when they lived together) is now a mother of her own, with a son and a daughter that were so excited to practice their English. It was a trip to say the least to see my mom with the family that she lived with nearly 30 years ago. The way they interacted with each other was crazy to me, it’s like no time had passed since they last saw each other. We experienced some more of that famous Danish hospitality which is definitely one of my most favorite things about Danish culture. Oh! We also went to Tivoli and saw the Christmas lights after our visit. We had a lovely time wandering around and gawking at all the lights.

The next day I had class, so my mom and dad visited Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød (see one of my first posts about my rainy day at Frederiksborg in September). After my class got out, it was dark and I met up with my parents to explore some Christmas markets around town. We walked the length of Strøget and found some goodies, including a warm new hat for me and some peppernuts (crunchy gingerbready bites). For dinner, we went to the glass market in Nørrebro, where we indulged on some lovely prosciutto sandwiches and finished it off with a flødeboller (yummy chocolate covered marshmallow).

The next day, we spent the morning at Glyptotek, a really cool museum that’s free on Tuesdays! Then we walked to the Round Tower for a great view of the city and then walked through Rosenborg garden and the castle area, and finished up walking through the botanical garden. Oh, and we had Thai for dinner! A day well spent showing my parents some really cool things to do in Copenhagen. 


Stockholm

Early on Wednesday morning, we got up and met at Copenhagen Central Station to board our train to Stockholm. Although the journey takes about 5 hours, we were all excited to see a bit of the Swedish countryside. We weren’t let down- I was surprised by how many tiny lakes Sweden has, even though if you zoom in on a map of southern Sweden it is quite obvious how water-y it is. 

We arrived in Sweden early in the afternoon and it soon got dark (at like 3pm), but we walked to our hotel, which was in the oldest neighborhood/island of Stockholm called Gamla Stan. Many people consider this neighborhood to be the ‘coolest’ part of town, because it is the oldest and has some really cool buildings and streets. That night we went to the Nobel Museum, which was different than we expected. The exhibit focused largely of Martin Luther King Jr., which was very interesting! Another part of the museum went into the history of Alfred Nobel and how the prize came to be- you can read about it here

The next day we walked outside of Gamla Stan, to see the walkway called Monteliusvägen, where you can see panoramic views of the archipelago of Stockholm. It was a chilly walk, but a very cool view. Then we walked to Fotografiska, a photo exhibition in the city. The main exhibit was about the Swedish Photographer, Lars Tornbjörk. It was fun for me to be in a more modern museum, not just looking at statues or paintings of old stuff (which is cool too, but it’s refreshing to switch it up sometimes!!). We wandered back to Gamla Stan and got a nice warm meal- Swedish meatballs of course, with mashed potatoes and lingonberries. Let me tell you how much I love Swedish meatballs. They are amazing. On a cold day, you walk inside, take off your jacket and eat the most comforting meal of life. So good. 

Our final day we got up and took the ferry to Djurgården, an island that has knock off Tivoli (Danish Tivoli is 10 times cooler. Swedish Tivoli isn’t even open yet for Christmas so it’s no competition, really). It also has the ABBA Museum, which I would highly recommend visiting if you enjoy music and fun things. You can dance and sing along, and read all about the band members lives pre, during, and post-ABBA. We found our way back to Stockholm Central and got on our train back to Copenhagen.  (I don’t have pictures from this day yet- I blame mom for not giving me the SD card from the camera)

Mom & dad left the hotel the next morning at 4am, then I went back to bed before heading to Iceland the very same day. A post will be coming about Iceland too, of course. 

I’m so lucky to have spent such treasured time with my parents in copenstock!! I’m endlessly thankful for them and that they wanted to come visit me abroad. Now it’s only 20 days or so until we are reunited again and I’ll get to see my brother shortly after that, too. It’ll be nice to have the whole family together at Christmastime. But for now, I’ll be taking one more trip- this weekend I head to Switzerland with a couple friends before spending my last couple weeks here in Denmark. I look forward to all that is left to come!

 

 

 

learning happens here

Hard to believe, I know. But this week I know for sure that school work does still have to get done here. It’s been a difficult academic week for me here in Denmark. I had an 8 page research paper in Nordic Mythology due earlier in the week, and I have my Danish written final and my last exam in Polar Biology tomorrow. Oh, and I have another paper due in Arctic Geopolitics the monday after Thanksgiving that I also have been working on.

But this is a good thing- I did come here to learn afterall. It is one out of my eight semesters of college, so I sure hope that I’m learning. Of course, a lot of the learning I have experienced abroad has happened outside of the classroom. Whether it’s at a field study, or traveling & reflecting on how to be a responsible global citizen, I certainly have had immense opportunities to learn.

More on field studies- this week I had two on Wednesday. First I went to the Royal Danish Defense Language Academy with my Danish class to learn about the Danish Education System. Here, we learned about a select group of people that get chosen to attend the academy, and what they do. Over 350 people apply for 30 positions every year. The committment is 24 months, and then at least one 6 month deployment after their education. The first 4 months entails proper military training, where they have to learn how to use guns and all that jazz. The next 18-20 months is spent intensively learning a language. Currently, there are 10 students learning Russian, 10 learning Dari, and 10 learning Arabic. By the end of their time, they will be fluent interpreters and military linguistic experts. They are deployed with platoons in the Army to help bridge communication amongst different groups of people. I am astounded by the intelligence, work-ethic, and sheer motivation that these people have. They go to class 8 hours everyday and then have 6+ hours of homework or studying, and they have to stay physically fit. Talk about hard work.

Next I went to the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen with my Polar Biology class. This was a far different experience than the Language Academy, but no less educational. Our teacher works for the Museum, so he had lots of insight to share about where certain objects came from. For instance, there is a bowhead whale heart on display in a container of alcohol. Apparently, some Greenlanders killed a bowhead whale and decided that they wanted to gift the museum all of it’s organs. So, they were well preserved and donated to the museum. They also have one of only two existing complete Dodo bird skeletons, a double-toothed narwhal, and a full size sperm whale skeleton. Not to mention the entire evolution exhibit, which was remarkable.

Sadly, these were the last two field studies of my time here in Denmark. But I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go and see so many places that I would have never had the chance without DIS! Cheers to a semester full of learning- and I’m sure there will be more to come. I do still have a month left…

My next post will likely be pretty epic, my parents will be here for the next week, and I’m going to show them all around Copenhagen. We will also be making Thanksgiving dinner for my host family, and going to Stockholm, Sweden next week for a couple of days. I can’t wait to have some loved ones here to make some memories with!

Lots o’ love!

Alex

travel week 2: Italy

Another week, another journey- this time it was to Italy!! It was travel week 2 for DIS, so the students that didn’t go on their study tour when I was in Norway went on their study tour, and I had the week off of school. Me, along with 5 other friends planned the trip a long time ago, and were counting down the days until it came. It’s strange how fast time is passing us by, it’s already November, and I only have a little over a month left. But anyways, here’s how I spent the week:

Rome

I so clearly remember landing in Rome and walking out of the plane onto the tarmac. The air was warm, and moist. The trees were either palm trees or weird savanna looking trees that I definitely do not recognize. I was obviously no longer in Scandinavia. After we dropped our belongings off at the quaint apartment we were staying in (7 very steep flights of stairs up a graffiti’d old building), we hopped on a bus and went into ‘downtown’ Rome for dinner. We had heard about this panini place that was supposed to be really good, and it was close to the Trevi fountain. So we went to Trevi Fountain and then attempted to go to the panini place. Unfortunately, it was really busy when we got there and we couldn’t wait to eat. So, we decided to just walk around and go in the first restaurant we saw within a reasonable price range. We ended up at this small restaurant sort of between The Pantheon and The Trevi Fountain, and I shared carbonara and a margherita pizza with one of my friends. My first taste of authentic Italian did not dissapoint, that’s for sure.

The next day Kate and I (Kate was my ‘partner’ of sorts in Italy, the group split up daily to go see museums and explore the cities) found our way to The Vatican. It was Sunday, and it was also a thunderstorm. So that means that St. Peter’s Square was packed with people waiting to get into St. Peter’s Basilica after mass. But, it also meant that we all got to see Pope Francis! Little did we know that he emerges out of his apartment at noon every Sunday. While neither of us are Catholic, and we don’t speak Italian, those twelve minutes that he spoke were so fascinating. Just seeing how so many people in the square love him so much was amazing to see. The Catholic Church has such a huge impact on the lives of so many- and in that moment I realized I was at the heart of their religion. I waited in line to see the biggest church in the world- and I almost felt like I was intruding on a sacred place.

The size of the Basilica is truly unfathomable. Even standing inside I couldn’t believe that people actually made it, and they did it without modern technology. And the mosaics- I have never seen anything like it. The tiles that make up the mosaics are so small you have to be standing right up against the wall looking for them to even notice that it’s mosaic. The entire building is decorated with these ornate mosaics- the dome, the walls, everthing. Words can’t possibly describe what it’s like to stand inside. If you haven’t seen it, I would suggest you add it to your bucket list. After the Vatican, we went out that night to a karaoke bar in Rome and met some other American students studying away. We sang some classics, like “Sweet Caroline.” Then we walked home and made a brief stop by The Coloseum in the middle of the night. We were fortunate that nobody was there, it was cool to sit and just admire it without being surrounded by tourists.

The next day, our day consisted almost exlusively of wandering (but we also ate at that panini place I mentioned earlier, it was delicious). We walked about 14 miles and saw The Roman Forum- at least the perimeter of most of it. It’s bigger than I ever imagined it, and I learned that it once was the center for 20% of the worlds population at the time. I enjoyed imagining what we see today as ruins, as once a thriving center of society- a marketplace, judicial center, and religious site (among others). And just like that, our time in Rome was over!

Florence

After reading about Rome, you’re probably thinking the same thing that I was at the moment: how could it get better than that?? Well, I have to say that Florence was my favorite city in Italy that we went to. It feels cozier, less touristy, but still rich in history like Rome. Don’t get me wrong- Rome has more of the iconic buildings and places than Florence, but Florence is an easier town to actually get acquanted with.

Now, it didn’t start off well. We bought bus tickets and got on a bus, where you’re supposed to validate the ticket with a machine once you get on. Well the bus we got on had broken validation machines, so we didn’t validate our tickets. As soon as we got off the bus, there were three people checking tickets. All six of us received £50 fines, even after explaining that the machines were broken, and we weren’t trying to cheat the system. At first, we all thought it was a scam, because they were demanding to have our passports and that we had to pay them immediately or else they would call the police. We asked to see some proof that they were actually legitimate, and they showed us their badges and thought we were being disrespectful. Everyone was getting mad at each other, and their English was not the best so they misunderstood our questions for disrespect. Oh well. On the bright side, we didn’t get arrested or scammed.

Other than that incident, I ate the best authentic Italian pasta I had the whole trip, the best panna cotta I have ever had, and had fun at the local grocery store buying supplies for our “family dinners” that we cooked at our Airbnb to save a little money. We went to The Basilica of San Lorenzo, Palazzo Vecchio and Duomo, the Cathedral in Florence, the famous jewelry bridge (Ponte Vecchio), and even Boboli garden, a massive garden that we stumbled upon in our explorations. We even spent Halloween in Florence, and watched the Amanda Knox documentary on Netflix, on the 11th anniversary of the murder of Meredith Kercher in Perrugia, Italy. How spooky.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the famous art galleries, Uffizi or Accademia. The lines were hours long, so we decided to get more of a cultural experience than an artistic one. Michelangelo’s famous statue, David, is in Accademia, and of course Boticelli’s Birth of Venus would have been incredible to see, but we didn’t want to sacrifice our entire day to do so. I would recommend buying tickets online in advance, but even then you have to wait in line for some amount of time to actually get in.

From Florence, we set off on a train to Venice, where it had been completely flooded just a few days before we got there.

Venice

I had very James Bond-ish expectations of Venice. When I think of Venice, I picture Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale, speeding off in the canals on a stolen speed boat or something like that. While the views of the city did live up to my expectations, I was surprised by how crowded it was. The streets of course are small, close together, and maze-like, with no cars driving on them. There were so many people that it was hard to walk through the streets to get anywhere, which can be a little frustrating. When we visited St. Mark’s Basilica, the pigeons were unreal. It’s known for being a place where you can feed the pigeons because absolutely no fear of people. This I can confirm. People for some stupid reason were having so much fun feeding pigeons and touching them. It was absolutely disgusting if you ask me.

The birds were so ferocious that I was enjoying a pesto, prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich on the famous Rialto Bridge, and a seagull stole the sandwich right out of my hands. It was right next to my mouth and this massive gull came up from behind me and snatched it. I am not one to freak out from animal encounters, but this one was terrifying and gross.

In terms of flooding, the city has these platforms so that people can walk when it floods (a regular occurance). The locals say that whenever the tide is really high, the streets flood. So all of the businesses have protections against the floods (but not the pigeons). The weather was actually quite nice while we were there, however. It was sunny and nearly 70 degrees on the day that we spent walking around.

Venice was a great city to relax in. To take a side street, attempt to get away from people, and read a book next to the canal. One night, we found a dock on the Grand Canal and just sat and enjoyed being by the water. By the time our last night in Venice came, we were all pretty much ready to be back in Denmark. We had been traveling every day for over a week, and were excited to be back in our own beds. But first, we had to take a train to Milan, and then to Bergamo where our flight was out of on Monday morning.

Bergamo

We only had one night here, but it was well spent. Bergamo is a small city very close to Lake Como and Switzerland, in the Northernmost part of Italy. It sort of feels like a college town, with mostly young people walking around. There is an old part of the city on the top of the hill that contrasts greatly with the newer city below. My final meal in Italy was pasta with meat sauce, or ragù as the Italians call it. It was of course, quite delicious. We got up at 3:30am and left for the airport, and safely landed in Copenhagen, shocked by the cold but happy to be back in our Scandinavian home.


Italy is a beautiful country full of history and architecture unlike anywhere I have ever been. The culture is just as impressive as the history, and the people sure do have pride in where they come from. Again, I’m feeling extremely privileged to have the opportunity to travel, and I can’t believe I made it to Italy! Next up: my parents get to Copenhagen in a week! I can’t wait to show them around and give my mom a modern walk through of the city she also spent 4 months in- just a few years ago 😉 We’re also going to Stockholm, Sweden for a few days. Looking forward to seeing more of Scandinavia. Then, I’ll be in Iceland and Switzerland the following weekends. Can’t wait!

Ciao!

Alex

art appreciation

This past week has been the busiest of my time here in Denmark in terms of school work, yet I’ve managed to also balance it with some fun things.

Every Wednesday, I don’t have normal classes, but instead field studies, where we gain real world knowledge by seeing and talking to experts in their fields. So far I’ve been to all kinds of places from the aquarium (Blå Planet), to the Arctic Institute & Greenland’s parliamentary offices in Denmark, to a behind the scenes tour of Christiansborg Palace. Needless to say, I love having the chance to get out of the classroom but still learn! I wish this is something that we did back home more.

Anyway, this week on Wednesday I had a field study with my Nordic Mythology class to the Arnamagnean institute, which houses manuscripts mostly from Iceland and Denmark. We learned how parchment was made way back in the day in Iceland, and got to see some original manuscripts. While this trip wasn’t the most exciting thing I’ve done during a field study, it was still cool because I wouldn’t have done it outside of that class.

After class, my friend Kate and I made plans with another friend, Kendell, to go up to an art museum called Louisiana. The museum was close to where Kendell’s homestay is, so we planned to go to the art museum and then stay at her house for the night. Louisiana is famous for this one room that only four people can enter at once- and it looks like an endless room of glowing orbs that change color. I’m still not sure what the room was made of, but it must have been tons of mirrors creating the effect.

The main exhibition was called Månen, or in English, The Moon. When you first walk into the exhibit, it starts with all kinds of pictures, maps, and books about the history and mythology of the moon. There was also lots of art related to astrology and how mysterious the moon is. As you continue through the rooms, it transforms into the space age- with the first moon landing and related art. Then it became a little more futuristic, with more abstract art related to how humans could adapt to live in space. The whole exhibition was very well done- I would highly recommend it if you find yourself in the area.

 

The rest of the museum is also very cool. The next exhibit we saw was called “Men and Masculinity,” and it was all kinds of art that challenged classic masculinity. There were tons of art pieces with a mans face on a very curvy, feminine body. Some of the pieces were very emotional, and others were honestly so abstract I had no idea what I was looking at.

As we continued, we walked into the next exhibit called “Elemental,” which was smaller than the former, but still very fascinating. There was more sculpture and plain art of landscapes, rocks, and more natural things. I really enjoyed seeing all three exhibits, and it was a great reminder that art has a wonderful impact on people that I don’t understand. Everyone goes to an art museum and takes something away from the art- whether it’s something they relate to or even just reminds them of a historical event, it serves a great purpose to culture. As a science-focused person, sometimes I forget to appreciate the impact and importance of art.

After Louisiana, the three of us got on the train in the wrong direction, realized as soon as we got on, and it took us an hour to get back to Kendell’s. But we had each other, so it worked out just fine. When we got to her house, her host dad made cheeseburgers with fries and plenty of remoulade (my new FAVORITE condiment- I’m bringing home a big bottle for sure). We stayed up chatting with her host parents for awhile, and then went to bed and watched How to Train Your Dragon. It was my favorite kind of evening, relaxing and chatting with good company.

Then on Thursday, I spent 5 hours before class writing a research paper about the expansion of NATO’s presence in the Arctic. Not very fun, but had to be done. I’m proud of it though, because the paper wasn’t due until tonight (Saturday), but I got it done early. Done with a paper early?? How uncharacteristic of myself. But I am writing this whole post on a plane to Rome, so I didn’t really have a choice but to finish it early.

Now it is travel break 2, and this time I’m spending 9ish days across Italy with 5 other friends. We are starting in Rome, and going to Florence, Venice, and Milan. Obviously, I’ll be writing about my time in Italy. I can’t wait!!

Cheers!

Alex

a (holy cow it’s already halfway) reflection

This week marks 8 weeks since my arrival in Denmark- that’s half of my time here! I just want to take some time to reflect a bit on my time here in Denmark. I can’t believe how fast time is going by. I remember my host parents picking me up from the airport like it was yesterday. Since that day, I have met some incredible people, gone to incredible places, and created memories that will last far beyond the length of my trip.

I’m lucky to have found like-minded people to spend my time here with. I even have some exciting travel plans with some of these people. A week from now, I’ll be arriving in Italy where I, along with my group of 5 friends, will spend 10 days eating pizza and gelato in Rome, Venice, Florence, and Milan. I also have made weekend travel plans to Reykjavík, Iceland and Geneva, Switzerland before I return to the US! Needless to say, I’m so excited and thankful to have found good people to explore Copenhagen and beyond with.

I have also learned so much about myself and my own goals. I love conservation and ecology. I love plants. I love animals. I LOVE NATURE! The more time I spend seeing and thinking about all of these natural things, the more I want to learn more about them. I’m excited and hopeful about where this passion can lead me.

Beyond my career goals, I think that I have grown as a person more than I can even grasp. People aren’t kidding when they say studying abroad changes your life, and I know it’s cheesy but I can’t think of another way to put it. I feel more empowered and confident than ever before. I am learning how to unapologetically be myself- and love it.

I have been able to reflect on culture a lot- in my Danish class this week we talked about Janteloven, or Jante Law, which is a doctrine of sorts that I semi-jokingly described as “the ten commandments of being insignificant.” From the surface, it seems like 10 very abrasive rules that encourages people to be invisible. The first rule is “You’re not to think you are anything special.” This contradicts everything about American culture. We are taught to believe that we are special, to not only be good at what we do, but strive to be the absolute best. With this mentality, our culture teaches us to be extremely competitive- it’s not exactly a culture that breeds cooperation. With Janteloven, after I realized the rules aren’t meant to be degrading, I understood it as a way to “fit in” amongst all of your peers- to cooperate. Instead of fighting to be the best, you’re all working together to be the best together. Maybe we Americans could learn something from Janteloven.

I miss home and the people there like crazy, but at the same time I love it here so much. I’ve never experienced such melancholy. In those moments that I’m missing home I remind myself that I only have a handful of weeks left, and they will pass by faster than the first handful did. This week I went to Rosenborg Castle with Kendell and we had a little fall photoshoot. I was really missing seeing the changing fall colors and the leaves falling, and having that afternoon with Kendell reminded me not only that fall still exists here, but also that it is just as beautiful, just in a different setting. So I turned my little bit of homesickness into an opportunity to do something here!

I also don’t want to leave Denmark thinking that I missed out on anything, but at the same time I think it’s important to balance the experiences you have out and about with spending some ‘down time’ alone at home or with my host family. It’s easy to feel pressured to do more, but I have to remind myself that while so many people are out doing more, my choice to spend some quality time with my Danish family is more valuable to me than doing something. I can go do things whenever I want, but I can only live with my host family for 8 more weeks.

This is how everyone has a different experience while they study away. We all prioritize different things in our lives in different ways. Some like to meet as many people as possible, others want to maximize time spent with few people. All different priorities are good, and I love that anyone can have the opportunity to decide what their priorities are.

So, I will continue to take my stay in Denmark day by day, observe all the little ordinary things and make tons of memories!

All my best,

Alex