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Preparing for Denmark

July 31, 2019

Waiting to go to Denmark
Enjoying the views of my campus and waiting to go to Denmark

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.

— Hans Christian Andersen.

Farvel! Tak! Neither of these words mean hello. I just like the sound of them. Farvel is a sweet sendoff and tak is the curt-sounding “thanks”. Tak, Duolingo! I’m going to learn more about the Danish language and culture in my Fall semester abroad in Copenhagen with the program DIS. If you’re reading this blog, you are a. thinking of traveling to Denmark, b. Want to live vicariously through me, c. considering studying abroad at DIS, or d.  my family and friends.

I chose DIS Copenhagen because travel is built into the courses. Not only are we learning about these fascinating subjects taught by professors who are professionals in their field, but we are also traveling to the places we learn about. For example, in my core course, A Sense of Place in European Literature, we are going to read Danish literature and travel to Fanø, Denmark and then read Russian literature and travel to Berlin, Germany(we were going to go to St. Petersburg, Russia but there were visa complications). There are many study abroad options for English majors because we can read and write anywhere. 🙂 I chose Copenhagen because it seems like a very artsy-fartsy city–perfect for a future writer–and I’ve never been to Scandinavia. I’ll get a chance to live in a European city before leaving college and worrying about debt!

Down to the nitty gritty–sort of. I actually think the planning and specifics of a trip is the fun stuff. For Fall of 2020, after about 5 different adjustments to my schedule, I’m taking Danish Language and Culture Level 1, Postcolonial* Europe: Narratives, Nationalism, and Race, Gender and Sexuality in Scandinavia, Nonfiction Writing Workshop, and my core course: A Sense of Place in European Literature. Through my courses, I will learn about history, culture, art, language, and politics while having a creative outlet in the writing workshop. 

*I think most of the class will be about why Europe is not postcolonial.

Housing: At first, I wanted to do a homestay which means living in a Danish family’s home. But on further reflection, I made a 180 degree turn. A lot of people LOVE homestay, but I want to live in a community of Danish students or DIS Students. In order to meet a Danish family and hang out with them, I signed up to see a visiting host family once a month. For our housing applications, we chose our top 3 housing options. I chose Folkehøjskole, Living and Learning Communities (Green and Social Justice houses), and Kollegium. I’m not going to tell you what my favorite one is, because I might not get it. My next post will have more specifics on housing.  

Some research beforehand

I don’t jump into anything without doing research first. Denmark is not the perfect country people make it out to be. Here are some articles and videos that gave me some insight into Denmark: 

Meik Wiking’s “The Dark Side of Happiness”

In addition to shedding light on the happiness/suicide paradox in the “happiest country in the world,” Denmark, this video also made me confront my addiction to social media.

This article is about how Copenhagen is coping with climate change: 

Also, the TV show Bron/Broen (2011), which is already gripping

Food: 

The Copenhagen episode of Somebody Feed Phil

The Copenhagen episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Part’s Unknown in Season 2

My former English teacher’s blog, Scallion Pancake: https://scallionpancake.com/blog

Here are some random things I’ve learned:

  1. Don’t be an obnoxious American and eat the Smørre­brød (open-faced sandwiches) with your hands. Eat them with silverware. 
  2. Small talk is not really a thing among Danes (fine with me!)
  3. Hygge means being comfortable. Hang out with family or friends by a fireplace in your most grandma-like sweaters
  4. I won’t get into Noma
  5. Go to open air markets, e.g. Torvehallerne
  6. Eat licorice even though you aren’t a licorice fan. When in Copenhagen?…
  7. Apparently, Danes do American food like hot dogs and burgers very well. 
  8. Once again, I won’t get into Noma. I wouldn’t be able to afford it anyways. 

You can see what I’ve been up to this summer! Get ready to hear about food, travel around Europe, classes, the arts, social life, etc. 

See y’all soon,

Lillie

Last thoughts on Denmark

Kaere Alle,

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to write this blog post. I’ve been thinking about how to condense everything I’ve learned from studying in Denmark and put it into one post. I’ve learned much more than cultural differences between Denmark and the U.S.; studying in a different country has taught me about myself.

I have learned that I’m capable of much more than I thought. Growing up in the suburbs, I never used public transportation. In Copenhagen, I was bicycling to the train station and using the buses, trains, and the metro. The first day I arrived in Copenhagen, I was so nervous about transportation. What if the trains were delayed? What if I missed my train? I didn’t run into those problems because I always left a lot of time to get from one place to another. Copenhagen also has a very efficient train system. Living in a different culture requires you to adapt to the food, language, and social customs. At the folk high school, I had to eat what the kitchen prepared us, people spoke Danish around me all the time, and there were parties every other week. Even though I was immersed in this culture, I didn’t completely adapt. Some things never change. I never liked the pickled herring, I never got used to the weird “d” sound in Danish words, and the drinking culture was not my thing.

In a different culture you learn what you need to do to thrive. In Denmark, where there were weeks of grey skies and days that ended at 3:45, I needed to use a daylight therapy lamp. I needed to spend more time outside for my mental health. What helped me get through these days was the community of friends in my housing and in my classes. That was another thing I was nervous about on the first day: making new friends. You definitely need to keep an open mind about people. I became friend with people with very different beliefs and personalities. There were many like-minded people as well.

Here’s my advice to you:

  • Every day is different. Look up from your phone. Take out your earbuds. You will notice something you didn’t notice before. I passed by the same statue–the Lur Blowers–on my way to classes and I didn’t notice it until a month in.
  • Take different routes through the city. Try to be more flexible and say “yes” to more things.
  • Explore the neighborhood you’re in. The little town of Roskilde is a hidden gem. It is a wonderful place to wander.
  • You don’t have to go to the major touristy sights to get a good grasp of Denmark. I never saw the statue that inspired The Little Mermaid, but I don’t feel like I missed out.
  • Keep a journal or photo diary or something you can look back on.
  • Don’t get bogged down by homework.

Thank you for reading my blog!

Please reach out to me if you have any more questions about DIS in Copenhagen. Even though this will be my last post, I’m not done talking about my study abroad experience.

Depressed and Anxious in Denmark

Hej alle, sorry for the delay in my weekly posts. There’s something I’ve been keeping out of my blog posts in order to maintain the facade of the happy study abroad experience. I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression. My mental illness manifests in days where I can’t get out of bed and then I feel guilty because I should be having fun or doing homework. My anxiety manifests in panic attacks on the train into the city. Even though I travel by train everyday, transportation still gives me anxiety. I told the story of a happy study abroad experience to my friends and family. I’ve had a lot of fun experiences, but that’s not the full picture.

I thought a change of scenery would magically change me. I would figure out what I wanted to do, I would gain confidence, and I would become more worldly. But my teacher, who has been my mentor during this time, told me that “you carry yourself with you.” You bring your identity and your mental illnesses with you. I couldn’t leave my problems in the U.S.

Here is some advice for students studying abroad with mental illness(This is not a complete list. These are only tips that helped me):

  1. Don’t go off your medication before studying abroad, even though doctors may tell you that you can. Being in a different country is an incredibly stressful event. I went off my medication a year ago and I thought that I was fine for a few months. Just because I thought I was fine in the U.S., doesn’t mean the same will be true in a different country.
  2. DIS can get you an appointment with a psychiatrist in one week instead of the normal wait time of a few months. Just let them know what’s going on, and they can help you. You can also get reimbursed for the appointment fee and medication. I love Denmark’s welfare system.
  3. Stay in contact with a therapist from home if you have one. DIS can also get you a psychologist on-site.
  4. DIS also has daylight therapy lamps which can help you get through the weeks of grey skies. You can just email the care team and they will loan you one for free.
  5. Tell your teachers what’s going on. They can’t act as therapists, but they might have advice or help you stay on track with assignments.
  6. I made a list of all my positive memories abroad so that I can look back on them and be reminded of the good parts of studying abroad.
  7. Try not to stay in your room too much. It’s hard to balance alone time and social time when you’re an introvert, but isolating yourself is counterproductive. Hang out in the common room, talk to your host parents, go outside and find a natural area to walk in. You can find a nature path whether you’re in Copenhagen or Roskilde.
  8. Remember all that self care stuff. You know, take showers, brush your teeth, take breaks from school work, etc.

These are just a few tips. If I think of more, I will add them.

Now for the highlights of the past two weeks:

  • DIS treated the student media team (bloggers, photographers, videographers, designers) to dinner at this fancy restaurant called Vækst. I got to chat with fellow student bloggers and enjoy a nice meal.
  • On Wednesday, students from gender classes got to attend a Gender Bender event with workshops on Drag, Voguing, and feminist song writing. I took the Vogue workshop which was very hard, but fun.
  • My Creative Nonfiction teacher invited the class to her house for a workshopping and pizza party. We bonded through sharing our very personal stories.
  • My højskole had a music festival called Sound. The RoFH students spent the whole week preparing. There were performers from around Denmark as well as some RoFH students performing.
The RoFH students set up many small stages around the main building. The whole place was transformed.
On my way to the Roskilde Cathedral, I stumbled upon this Julemarked. I really recommend the Cathedral. I’m not religious, but the inside is gorgeous. There’s also a lot of dead kings and queens inside.

There are only two more weeks in this semester! I’m trying to get my work done and check things off my bucket list at the same time. Even though I did not travel as much as I had intended, I’ve done the best I could with the time I’ve had. There are still many more fun things ahead.

Vi ses!

A Very Hygge Week

My first Julemarked (Christmas market) felt very cheery despite the weather. I felt like a kid again. it’s the start of the Christmas season!

Hej alle! Last week was chill. The highlights were spending time with my friends and family(my parents visited me). It’s Christmas season in Denmark, so that means the Christmas beer is on sale everywhere, there’s a Christmas market on every corner, and I’ve seen signs in front of restaurants for “glogg.”

My friend Claire showed me her favorite ice cream place, Nicecream. All the ice cream is vegan! Nothing says Christmas like pumpkin ice cream! This place was surprisingly busy for a winter day.

My parents visited last week. We walked around Roskilde and Copenhagen and I got to see Denmark through new eyes. We went to the National Gallery of Denmark and saw the Denmark’s Golden Age exhibit.

Last week, I did a group presentation for Gender and Sexuality in Scandinavia on gender neutral pronouns in Denmark and Sweden. Sweden has the gender neutral pronoun, hen, to describe someone whose gender is unknown or someone who identifies as neither or both male and female. There has been recent debate in Denmark about the use of pronouns in universities as described in the articles below. Denmark is not as progressive about gender-neutral pronouns as Sweden is. I’ve heard from a couple of people that even the queer scene in Denmark is divided between the cisgender queers and the non-binary/trans folks. The debate on pronouns popped up in the show I’ve been watching called The Bridge/ Broen/Bron. Here’s a screenshot from the scene:

http://faculty.las.illinois.edu/debaron/essays/Whats_your_pronoun_2017.pdf The woman on the left is Danish and the woman on the right is Swedish. This is one of the many arguments they get into about differences between Denmark and Sweden.

I found these fascinating sources on pronouns:
Min, Roselyne. “University of Copenhagen encourages lecturers to contribute to inclusive education environment.” CPH Post Online, September 11, 2019. 
http://cphpost.dk/news/university-of-copenhagen-encourages-lecturers-to-contribute-to-inclusive-education-environment.html

Rogers, Adam. “Actually, Gender-Neutral Pronouns Can Change a Culture.” Wired, August 15, 2019. 
https://www.wired.com/story/actually-gender-neutral-pronouns-can-change-a-culture/
– This one is my favorite article. Rogers argues that the evolving language of gender shapes how a society perceives gender.

“Sweden adds gender-neutral pronoun to dictionary.” The Guardian, March 24, 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/24/sweden-adds-gender-neutral-pronoun-to-dictionary

Enjoy!

An early “Taks”giving

Hej alle! We’re at a weird stage of the semester where we’re done with core class study tours. There’s only one month left! That means exams will be coming up soon and then we’ll have to leave. I’m going to make a small bucket list of things to do before I leave. Louisiana Museum is on it. I also have yet to try Hija de Sanchez tacos.

Yesterday, the DIS students at the folk high school cooked a Thanksgiving meal for the RoFH students and teachers. We all made the dishes from our families’ recipes on Friday and all day Saturday. I made my dad’s cranberry sauce. I never appreciated how much time people spend on cooking for Thanksgiving. It was all worth it with our very hygge evening. It was so nice to make dishes for my friends and expose the RoFH students to American culture. I thought of the dinner as a “thanks” to the RoFH students for welcoming us and inviting us into their friend groups.

Here we are, busy at work.

This past week, I had two field studies on Wednesday. My Danish Language and Culture Class went to the Hellerup Skole to learn about the educational system and talk with students. There were kids from the ages of 6-16. The 14-16 year olds gave us tours in small groups. This school was unique because the structure of the building was so open. The classrooms didn’t have walls. You could hear the 6 year olds playing on the first floor while you’re taking a test on the third floor. The school is very collaborative. There’s a lot of group projects. This connects to the modern-day interpretation of the Danish Janteloven where everyone is equal and everyone lifts up one another. It was nice of the students to give us tours and chat with us about Danish and American culture.

This is a giant Tuborg beer outside the Hellerup Skole. The school considers it their official symbol.

The second half of the day, my Post Colonial Europe class went to the Trampoline House which prepares asylum seekers for life in Danish society. Volunteers help refugees with language, finding jobs, seeking asylum, and building networks. Trampoline House also provides refugees with a safe place to hang out. DIS students can volunteer there. We visited the CAMP–which stands for Center for Art on Migration Politics–section of the house. There was an exhibit called Threshold(s) which was guest curated by Malmö University professor, Temi Odumosu. We saw art about racism, nationalism, and self-expression. There was art by big-name artists, but CAMP also features art by refugees at Trampoline House. Trampoline is such a wonderful organization. I really admire the people who work and volunteer there.

This week is a busy one, so vi ses!

Travel Week 2

Hej alle! This past week was a relaxing break from school work. I stayed in Copenhagen mostly, but I also took two day trips to Malmö and Aarhus with my handy-dandy Eurail pass.

Two Saturdays ago, my host fam’s grandma invited me to a Danish Christmas dinner. I love hanging out with them and trying to speak Danish. I’ve found that it’s fun to make mistakes because it provides some entertainment for my host family. Having a visiting host family is one of the best parts of being in Copenhagen. My host fam are really nice people and I learn a lot about Danish culture from them. They treat me like part of their family. It’s also wonderful to have a home-cooked meal. It’s very hyggeligt!

This is one of our viewing spots to watch Hubertusjagt. My host family said that there were about 40,000 people at the event. They all hope that one of the riders falls off of their horse into the water.

Yesterday, they drove me to Dyrehaven to witness the Danish tradition of Hubertusjagt. It was traditionally a live fox hunting event only for nobility, but now anyone can go. People on horseback chase the “foxes” (two people wearing fox tails on their coats) and jump over hurdles to win the race. The crowned prince and princess were there to award the winner.

This is the little castle on the hill where the royal family viewed the event.

That was yesterday, so I’ll work backwards for the rest of the post. Why not? I met up with my friend from Wooster who is studying abroad in DIS Stockholm. We went to Torvehallerne, aka the Glass Market, and compared our observations about Sweden and Denmark. It was so great to catch up with a friend from home. We discussed the pronunciations of Danish and Swedish words and differences in cultures. I don’t have any pictures from that day because I was so in the moment (it was also raining).

On Wednesday, I took a day trip to Aarhus. I had a Eurail pass, so I didn’t have to worry about booking the train in advance. I saw so many beautiful views from the train through Fyn and up the coast of Jutland. Vejle and Skanderborg were especially breathtaking. I went to Aarhus Street Food for lunch. It was like Copenhagen’s Reffen in that it had a lot of different cuisines to choose from. Then I walked to ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum. The museum had about 8 floors of art! Afterwards, I walked around Aarhus. It is so fun to explore a new city. I learned that you don’t have to spend much money in the city to get a good feel of it. Going to Aarhus was a much needed change of scenery and I got to see more of Denmark.

Here’s an awkward selfie inside the rainbow room on the top of the museum. I didn’t care about embarrassing myself in front of the high schoolers who were running around the ring.

I couldn’t pass up seeing Malmö since it’s only a bridge away. My friend from class, Natalie, and I took the train over to Malmö for the day. I geeked out when we were on the train because I’m a big fan of the show, The Bridge (Bron/Broen). In the show, a lot of crazy things happen on the bridge between Denmark and Sweden. We did not have a plan, so we just wandered around most of the time. We went to the free art museum, Moderna Museet Malmö, a vegan Chinese buffet (I’ve never seen one of those before), the famous library, a church with a funeral going on, and a cemetery.

The coolest library ever is in Malmö. Natalie and I sat in those round chairs and observed the library for a hot minute.

Last week, the MIX LGBTQ+ Film Festival was taking place. I had to take advantage of that while I’m here. I wanted to see five more films, but I saw one feature-length film and 5 Scandinavian short films. I love watching indie films. My goal was to watch films that I couldn’t watch anywhere else. I believe it is important to support film makers who don’t have the big names and the big production companies to back them. I saw Being Impossible (Yo Imposible), directed by Patricia Ortega, about an intersex person in Venezuela and Nordic Lights, a series of Scandinavian short films about topics such as queer people seeking asylum, masculinity, and religion.

That was a long travel week! I didn’t talk about everything that I did. There are so many options for people who don’t want to travel around Europe on their week off. Copenhagen has many things to offer, but it was nice to see a different part of Denmark and travel to Sweden. Solo traveling has helped me clear my mind and explore places on my own schedule. This is for DIS prospective students: Whether you travel with a group, travel alone, or stay in Copenhagen, I think you’ll have a lot of great experiences on your “travel” week.

Vi ses!

You want to live in Folkewhatskole?

Hej! This will be useful for DIS prospective students considering living in the Folkehøjskole option for the semester abroad. Here’s a brief history of the Danish tradition of the Folkehøjskoles:

There was this dude named N.F.S. Grundtvig, someone you would call a Renaissance man, who founded the first folkehøjskole(AKA folk high school) in 1844 in Southern Jutland. Grundtvig wanted to enlighten the Danish people with this education option for people from the age of 18 and up. The first people who attended these schools were farmers. Now students use it as a gap year where they develop their talents and figure out what they are passionate about. Grundtvig believed that learning was not a means to an end, but something that we should take part in throughout our lives. Learning for the sake of learning. Since then, about 100 folk high schools have popped up in Denmark and around Scandinavia. I know of folk high schools in Tennessee and North Carolina!

These are the shipping containers we live in. The DIS students and the RoFH students have separate living spaces.

I am at the Roskilde Festival Højskole in Roskilde, Denmark. We call it RoFH for short. It is brand-spanking new; the first semester was last spring of 2019. RoFH students help organize the annual Roskilde Festival, one of the largest rock festivals in Europe. There are a lot of musically-minded students here. The other option was Grundtvig’s Højskole which has more students and has been up and running longer than Roskilde Festival Højskole. That højskole has a 90 minute commute time, while the Roskilde højskole has a 50 minute commute time.

Before I looked at the housing options at DIS, I had no idea what a folk high school was. I chose the folk high school because I would be immersed in Danish culture and I would be in a community of creative people. RoFH has philosophy, journalism, art, “outdoor leadership,” music software, woodshop, film, and politics courses. There are so many courses. I did not list all of them.

I really like the food here. There are a lot of options for breakfast, and lunch and dinner are very tasty.

These are the pros and cons of the Folkehøjskole:

Pros:
– You can become friends with Scandinavians (Some højskoles have students from around the world)!
– DIS students can take some classes with the højskole students with the permission of the teachers.
– Nice community feel: eating meals with other students, going to parties, hanging out.
– You get two meals a day prepared for you.
– You’re surrounded by talented, artsy people. There’s a lot of inspiration for artists around here. There is a theater very close by, you can take dance lessons nearby, a speaker–such as a musician, politician, artist, etc–comes to the højskole every Wednesday. A lot, but not all, of the talks are in Danish.
– There are many fun things to do in Roskilde such as going thrift shopping, going to the Viking museum, eating felafel, going to the fjord or parks.
– RoFH students have fun events including open mics, karaoke, and theme parties(silent disco, toga party, 80s party).
-There are many ways to stay active here. You can play soccer (football) with the RoFH students, run on a nature trail, dance in the dance studio, or bicycle around town.

This is an awful photo of the pumpkin carving and movie watching event we had yesterday. A Danish student, Julie, organized the event.

Cons:

– This could be a con for some people: meals times are strict. We eat breakfast during the week from around 7-8:15 and dinner from 5:30-6:00. If you can’t make these meals, you could ask someone to save you a plate.
-I have mixed feelings about the commute to classes in the city. It takes about 50 minutes to bike to the station (it might take longer to take the bus because the bus is unreliable sometimes), take the train to København H, and walk to class. I don’t get much homework done on the 20-25 minute train ride. Instead I listen to podcasts, music, or just look out the window. I nap on the trains. You will probably get used to napping right next to a stranger. The train is good for alone time. If you go out clubbing (går i byen), it’ll take you at least an hour to get back. Trains do not come as frequent at night.
– DIS states that if you choose this option, you should be willing to “Be outgoing and social, and are interested in contributing to a unique co-ed communal living experience.” I knew of this disclaimer before I got here, but it’s always different reading about living in a very social environment versus living in it. For an introvert like me, community meals can get tiring sometimes. Sometimes I feel pressure to engage. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like it here. It just means that I have to make some alone time for myself.

Here are some of my tips:

  • Find a quiet place in the main building or somewhere else you can escape to.
  • Get away from the højskole for some meals/events. Go to the city and do something by yourself.
  • It helps to have a small group of friends in the city who you can hang out with.
  • You don’t have to be social all the time.
  • If you do this, it’ll be easier to be more present while you are in social situations.
Here’s my room when I first moved in here. There isn’t a lot of storage. If I showed you a picture of my room now, you would be scared. I don’t have a way of organizing my papers, so they are spread out everywhere.
This is our common area in our “bogruppe.” We hang out here on evenings. There have been dance parties, movies, and hygge time here. Some people do homework here.
This is the inside of the main building where RoFH students have their classes. RoFH students sing in the orange room every morning. It’s a very open space, so you can hear people having conversations from the second floor. My favorite room to do homework in is the Politik room. It’s very sound proof and there’s natural light.

Where to do homework? You can find an empty classroom and have a quiet space to do homework. The main building closes around 10 pm every night. If you are a late night homework person, you could do homework in your room (if your roommate is okay with that) or in the common room (which is a noisier option).

Can I cook some meals? We are allowed to use the kitchens on the weekends. I usually buy bread, peanut butter, and jelly for my lunches during the week.

You will have cleaning duties. Each DIS students clean dishes once a week or once every other week. After parties, we are expected to help clean the main building. You clean your rooms, bathrooms, and common area.

Roskilde is a beautiful place. It’s fun to go out and explore. I like coming home at the end of the school day to decompress from the city life and be with my friends.

If I missed anything, feel free to comment or contact me under the “contact me” tab. I didn’t want to post too many photos of the main building because the building tour at the beginning of the semester was a fun experience. I had no idea what to expect.

This reminds me of a Lego building.

Someone got married?

Hej! I know you’ll be wondering about this random title, but you’ll figure it out by the end of the post. This week, the RoFH students went away on their study tour to Italy so the DIS students had to fend for themselves. We got a stipend for food which I spent on cups of noodles, bread, dark chocolate, pears, and jelly. When I caved in and wanted a real cooked meal, I went to this little cafe called Leo’s Wok and ordered takeout. They have some good curries.

Since it’s getting darker and darker when I leave for school, I’ve been seeing sunrises like this.

I’ll be honest. Nothing much new happened this week(except, one of my friends getting married). In these two weeks between study break 1 and study break 2, a lot of us have been scrambling to complete assignments. I’ll tell you what I’m learning in my classes.

In A Sense of Place in European Lit, we are reading a historical fiction novel, Purge by Sofi Oksanen which tells the history of Soviet-occupied Estonia from the point of view of women. An Estonian woman, Aliide, finds a Russian girl in the forest named Zara. The reader learns about Zara’s past in 1990’s Estonia and Berlin and Aliide’s past in 1940’s Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. The book is very intense and disturbing at times. I’m glad to be learning a little about this period in Estonia’s history.

Postcolonial Europe: We watched Gold Coast (Guldkysten) with it’s very problematic depictions of Danish colonizers and enslaved Africans. We had a discussion the next class about the imagery in screenshots and depiction of African women in the movie. Even though the movie was made in 2015, it still portrays a romanticized era of Danish colonization on what used to be the Gold Coast.

Danish Language and Culture: We are on the family unit in the language part of the class. Jeg har en lillesøster means I have a little sister. In the culture unit, we are learning about the welfare system and Janteloven, which is like a code of conduct. I learned that around 1810, Danish peasants made an insurance system among themselves. If one person’s house burned down, they had gambling parties to raise money to build a new one. Denmark’s society and the welfare system are built on years of trust between citizens. Of course, this concept is not perfect. With the increasing immigration, there are some people who think that immigrants (especially those from non-Western countries) don’t share the same values as Danes. They expect immigrants and refugees to assimilate to Danish culture and learn the language so that they can contribute to the welfare system. I see parallels to nationalistic and xenophobic rhetoric in the U.S. as well. I’m going to write another post expanding on xenophobia and free speech in Denmark in comparison to the U.S. later.

Janteloven is a fascinating concept that has a different meaning to different individuals. It’s a national code of conduct–which originated from a work of satirical fiction written in 1933–that manifests in various ways in people’s lives. The first law is “You shall not believe that you are somebody.” If someone came up to me and said, “What makes you think you’re somebody?” I would get very offended. You can see how that would be controversial. This is another topic I want to expand on in a future post.

Creative Nonfiction Workshop: We had an assignment to observe someone performing a skill and then write about it. We had to turn in this piece to get the instructions for the next assignment which was to interview that person. Our teacher, who is a journalist, told us that she uses the app called Otter for interviews. It transcribes almost everything and you can go back and listen to the audio. It’s so useful! The third assignment is to write a short non-fiction piece about my person and their skill. I would not put these instructions in the blog post if this workshop wasn’t going to be discontinued after this semester.

Gender and Sexuality in Scandinavia: We learned about gender equality and race in relation to the welfare state. Even though people point to Scandinavian countries as the leading countries in the world for gender equality, the system has its problems. Even though couples receive generous leave time after having a child, women are still overwhelmingly the ones to stay home. Women are less likely to have higher positions in businesses. In addition, immigrant women are expected to contribute to the welfare state. In order to get a job, they need to know Danish. In another one of our readings, a man who was born in Denmark to Pakistani immigrants does not feel Danish because the Danish government’s policies target Muslims, making them feel unwelcome.

That turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would be. Here are some highlights from the week:

Meatpacking district of Copenhagen

I went with my friend to a monthly event in the Meatpacking district called QueerCuts. People can go there to get their hair cut and or nails painted. Our friend said that queer people can go to QueerCuts for a community without beer and partying. Even though we did not get haircuts, we met some nice people and got our nails painted. My friend asked about the queer scene in Copenhagen, and someone said that it’s very divided. They said that there’s a cisgender queer scene and a trans queer scene. They said that they would feel unwelcome in a gay bar. Speaking of, there are so many gay bars but only one lesbian bar.

On Friday night, my friends had a wedding-themed party. Guests picked out wedding roles such as bride, groom, best man, drunk uncle and we had a wedding at the end of the party. The bride and groom exchanged vows picked out of a fishbowl, there were objections to the marriage, then they got “married.”

Back to homework for me!

Hej hej!

Berlin Study Tour Pt. 2

Wednesday was our free day. After visiting the Berlin Wall Memorial, we had the whole day to ourselves. I decided to visit Audre Lorde’s old house after reading this article in the NY Times. I took three trains to Lorde’s house in Dahlem. I was so surprised at how ordinary the neighborhood was. It looked like it could be anywhere. It reminded me of Asheville, NC. I think a family was living in Lorde’s house, so I did not stay long. I walked to Grunewald forest, Lorde’s old stomping grounds, where I sat on a bench and watched people walk by.

Audre Lorde was here!

I took two trains to Kreuzberg and looked for a bathroom. There were no bathrooms at the train stations, which is very inconvenient. I have a longer story about my quest for a bathroom that will not go in the blog. If you go to Berlin, bring cash. A lot of the street vendors and small restaurants only take cash. I learned the hard way. When I tried to pay with card, I got shouted down before I could look in my purse for cash. That currywurst wasn’t worth it. I met up with my friends at the end of the day, and we had lots of stories to tell.

My favorite train station

On Thursday, we walked down Karl Marx Alle and took in the Soviet architecture. The apartments looked like fancy cells. Stasi officers lived there as a reward for their work. We went to Treptower Park to see the Soviet War Memorial. Another group led a discussion on Svetlana Alexievich’s The Unwomanly Face of War and Soviet women’s role in WWII.

To end the Soviet-themed day, we went to the Stasi Museum and learned about Stasi informants and surveillance. We even sat in a conference room where Stasi officers gathered.

The last day was low key. We went to the Deutsche Kinemathek where we learned about German cinema and saw a screening of Berlin: Symphony of a Great City.

We ended our trip with lunch at Der Blaue Fuchs, a Georgian restaurant that Mette picked out. At this point, I wanted to stay in Berlin. There were so many sights I did not get to see because of time. Even though it was only a week, I feel like our class is much closer because of this trip. Our study of literature revealed the different layers of Berlin. I saw the city through many different eyes.

Berlin Study Tour

Hallo! I just got back from my core course study tour to Berlin, and I already want to go back. My core course really bonded in our museum visits, walks around town, and meals together. Each day we had readings pertaining to Berlin.

I am obsessed with the public transportation in Berlin. Each station has its own look. I took pictures of about 10 different stations. The above-ground trains have stunning views from the windows.

On arrival day we checked into our fancy hotel, and headed out to tour the city. Our teachers, Mette and Karen, took us to different landmarks and monuments. We had our books in hands, stopping to read passages that described the locations we were visiting. For example, we read a passage in Book of Clouds about the TV Tower with the TV Tower in view. Three of my classmates took us to sites in Berlin where Soviet monuments had been taken down, guided by Sophie Calle’s Detachment. We talked about the remembrance of some events and the erasure of others in the public consciousness.

My teachers showed us these bronze bricks that had been placed around Germany in front of apartments where Jews had lived. They show the names of the people, the dates of their deportation, and the concentration camps they were sent to. When I kept an eye out for them, I noticed they were everywhere.

That night, we went to a play called Don’t Be Evil by Kay Voges and Ensemble. I’ve never seen anything like it. There was so much nudity; nothing was off limits. There were lights and sounds that could cause an epileptic seizure. Outside the doors, they were handing out programs and earplugs. Don’t Be Evil was about the constant onslaught of technology such as social media. All of the scenes had an element of voyeurism and or surveillance. There was so much to take in on the stage, so I was trying to glance up at the subtitles and view all the action at the same time.

On Monday, we read The Memoirs and Diaries of Käethe Kollwitz and visited the Käethe Kollwitz museum. I could see how her life was reflected in her artwork. There is a dramatic shift in the style of her art after her son dies. Later that day, we went to the Bauhaus Archive. It was fascinating how students of Bauhaus branched off from the teachings to create new art.

I’ve seen the original before, but I never connected it to Bauhaus.

Tuesday was an emotional day. My reading group guided a discussion on Paul Celan’s poems. We went to the Jewish Museum and observed how the architect, Daniel Libeskind, conveyed feelings of disorientation through the structure of the building. We read the Celan poems aloud. Between discussions, we viewed different areas of the museum including the Garden of Exile.

Then we visited a modern art exhibit called the Boros Collection in an old WWII bomb shelter. It is so interesting how Berlin repurposes historical buildings. There are remnants of the past everywhere. You just have to know where to look. From there, we walked to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. I felt like I was walking into a tomb. As you walk into the memorial, the ground slopes downwards and the pillars grow taller.

I did not take pictures while I was there, so here’s an image from Afar. Photo taken by Walter Zerla. https://www.afar.com/places/memorial-to-the-murdered-jews-of-europe-berlin

At the end of this long day, we had a vegan, Russian dinner at Restaurant Pasternak.

Very cozy atmosphere. You don’t have to be a good photographer to convey that, as I have shown.

This post is getting long, so I’m going to make a Berlin pt. 2 post.

to be continued…

Christiania!

Hej! This week I explored more areas of Copenhagen. I’ve been here for more than a month, and there are still so many places I want to see.

On Monday, I visited my friend in Vestamager for Rosh Hashanah. The walk over was gorgeous, as you can see in the picture below. I was so jealous of her housing location. She could take a walk along the water whenever she wants. In her apartment, I watched the cyclists pass by her window. I will never get sick of watching all these bicyclists in Copenhagen. It’s kind of soothing. All my friend’s guests brought food. We put together a feast and had a hygge experience.

Visting Vestamager reminds me that different parts of Copenhagen have distinguishing features and atmospheres. It’s good to get out of my comfort zone of the center city and Roskilde.

I had no field studies on Wednesday, so I got lunch with my friend from my home college. She suggested Reffen, an international street food market. We took the bus up through Christianshavn, passing Christiania and Noma. We walked from food stand to food stand, smelling all the wonderful food. I wanted to stop at every stand. We decided on Indian food from Dhaba. The chicken tandoori and the vegetable tandoori were delicious. The chicken was so tender. Reffen is open until October 31st, so I need to return before it closes. I’m going to Baobab if it kills me. 🙂

On the way back, I got off the bus and walked to Freetown Christiania by myself. Christiania was created when hippies squatted in the area in 1971. My host sister said that Christiania was very artsy. She was right; there were murals on almost every surface. People were selling art everywhere. I’m not sure if I ever walked on Pusher Street. I put my phone away so I could just wander. I did not take pictures of any houses because I wanted to respect the privacy of the Christianians. My best advice for people visiting Christiania is to bring hand sanitizer or hand wipes. The restrooms are a little scary and none of the six soap dispensers had soap.

Christiania is a very natural area. Here’s one of the views along a nature trail.

The next time I go to Christiania, I want to try the food there. According to Phil from Somebody Feed Phil, Christiania has the best felafel.

10 or 12 new RoFH (Roskilde Festival Højskole) students came to the school so we’ve had several get-to-know-you events. One evening, we had a “speed dating” event organized by the current RoFH students. On another night, the teachers organized a Great British Bake-Off themed competition where we competed in teams to gather ingredients and make the best Danish cake.

Try doing the Great British Bake-Off blindfolded.

This morning I went to a loppemarked (translates to flea market) with RoFH and DIS students. A RofH student pointed out a racist figurine at one of the stands. That wasn’t the only racist figurine. There was also Nazi paraphernalia at another stand. I don’t understand how anyone could still sell or buy those things. These sightings reminded me of Temi Odumosu’s performance piece “Open Images or Open Wounds?” which I posted in my race post. There are still people who collect these objects out of a sick nostalgia. It doesn’t matter that the figurine came from the U.S., the fact that people own these in Denmark is disturbing.

On that note, vi ses!

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