Four weeks into the study abroad program here in Copenhagen, and I've certainly learned a lot already. I've actually stumbled across an article that I have so far found to be perfectly accurate, and I recommend anyone planning to travel to Scandinavia to read it over. Take notes, I swear it's all true. http://matadornetwork.com/abroad/how-to-piss-off-a-dane/
I've found that in Denmark, everyone is very friendly; but they don't necessarily want to be your friend. You would never ask a stranger or a cashier, "how are you," like we do in the United States, unless of course you genuinely know them and actually care.
In fact, one month in, I have perfected my grocery store routine at Lidl, a German discount supermarket where you can find frozen American pizzas for 10 DKK or $1.78. I move swiftly and softly- mentally commending myself for lifting a bag of chips with minimal crinkling noise of the bag- and proceed to the check out. This is where things really get stressful. There's not a lot of space to work with, and certainly not a lot of time. The cashier scans your items and places them on about one and a half feet of counter space. That means if you have one bag of potatoes sitting and waiting to be placed in a bag, the counter space is full already, you're holding up the line, and everyone's angry. You must be faster than that cashier; regardless of how young and spry they are, and how tired and American you may be. There's no dilly dallying in a Danish grocery store. My routine is thus: Hold breath, place items on the belt, collect scanned items instantly, shove them into a massive hiking bag in any order, pay the cashier- whom I have exchanged no words or visual contact with- then run outside. Resume breathing, and organize the ridiculous hiking bag of groceries outside where I am in no ones way. I suppose the bottom line to this terrible story is that the grocery stores here are scary places to me. Just do your business and get out of there. Go someplace happier.
I've also found university life here to be quite different. I have yet to attend a class that has a "lecture" type of feel; my professors describe themselves as "discussion leaders." There's a lot of group work and discussions with most of the class getting involved. I also have a constant feeling of guilt that I'm not doing homework... there really is no homework. We have reading assignments before class, but never anything to be handed in and graded. The entire grade is based on one assignment to be handed in at the end of the course. No pressure there.
Overall I'd say I'm definitely loving things here. I am captivated by the charm of the city, and the way I feel like a part of it when I ride my bike through the busy streets. I'm learning a lot about the culture of the Danes- a concept called "Jante Loven," which discourages bragging about success or thinking that you are exceptional at anything; a stark contrast to the American "be-all-you-can-be" frame of mind.
I do, of course, miss home and my family. This is definitely magnified when my sister posts pictures of thick steaks and vegetables to facebook while I sit over a meager bowl of cereal. But apparently absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I know that spending a semester here will make me more appreciative of what I have back in the states.
As a final note, to future CBS students: make sure you look very very closely at your schedule the second you get here in case you want to make changes. I decided that I want to head home this semester before most students for an internship position. Originally I didn't think this would be possible, but I looked a little closer and found that the only reason I had to stay in Copenhagen until June 15 was for one exam. The class itself ended in April, but it had an oral exam in June. I dropped the course for another and can now finish up in early May. You have to be careful about what types of exams your courses have; if they have take home assignments you can call it a day after your last class and submit the final exam from anywhere. (I changed my schedule so that all 4 of my courses have take-home finals.) If it's an oral or written exam, on the other hand, you're stuck here. Just make sure you change things around early; I switched into a course at 11:25 AM and it started that day at 11:40. That's the fastest I've ever biked.
Things to cross off the check list
- Day trip to Sweden
- Successfully bike through snow, rain, and sleet
- Booked flight to Dublin, Ireland
- Visited Danish museum of WWII resistance
To- do list
- Book trips to Vienna, Prague, Rome, and Geneva
- Visit the castle in Denmark that Shakespeare's Hamlet was set in
Until next time!