time to hygge

I can hardly believe that this was my last weekend here in Copenhagen.  Even though I’ll be staying in Europe until the 14th, I have plans to travel to Vienna next weekend, so this was the final Saturday and Sunday I’ll be spending in my cozy Danish apartment.  Most of this free time was spent writing papers and studying (yay, it’s officially finals season), but I was able to set aside some time to hygge with my host family.

Sidenote: even though hygge loosely translates to “cozy,” it means oh so much more. It’s an adjective, a verb, a noun, an exclamation.

On Saturday afternoon, my host mom invited us to hygge with her family.  In this case, hygge meant sharing a meal, decorating for the Christmas season, enjoying delicious Danish treats such as æblesvier and Scandinavian pancakes, and then watching a Christmas movie together.

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my DIY Christmas candle

In Gitte’s family, it’s a tradition to make these advent decorations every Christmas.  Each of us were given a candle, and, after setting the candle in a clay base, we were responsible for creating a wreath-like decoration for the base. We cut up the branches of pine and arranged the branches with other festive garnishes. The tiny mushroom on my wreath is my personal favorite.

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Sarah’s candle

My host mom was excited to keep our decorations–two small reminders of me and Sarah–and enjoy them throughout the Christmas season, even after we return home. This family time was the perfect relief from all my schoolwork, and I’m so glad I was able to spend this last Saturday together with my host family.  I truly can’t imagine what my semester in Denmark would have been like without my host mom Gitte–she has been such an integral part of my experience.  I know I’m going to miss her (and her home cooked meals) so much when I go back to college!

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hygge hotspots

This weekend, my best friend from Kenyon came to visit me, and I had such a good time sharing all my favorite places in Copenhagen with her!  My friend Caroline is studying abroad at Exeter University in England for the year, and I was so excited that she was able to find a weekend to come visit me.

When we were both planning for our time abroad back last spring, I think we both assumed that–since we would both be in Europe–it would be so easy to see each other throughout the semester.  However, with busy and conflicting academic schedules, it was almost impossible to find even this one weekend!  I’m bummed that I won’t be able to see where she is studying, but it was so nice to spend time together no matter the location. I’ve been really missing Kenyon recently–it’s so beautiful there in the fall–but having a piece of Kenyon here in Copenhagen has helped me to feel a bit less homesick.

This was the coldest weekend I’ve experienced in Denmark so far, so it was a bit of a challenge to find warm activities to do with Caroline.  However, we really got an authentic hygge (the Danish word for cozy) experience–everywhere we went we were bundled up in sweaters and scarves, drinking warm beverages, and huddled up together under heat lamps! The Danish have really mastered the art of making winter less miserable–it’s all about the hygge.

Here are some of my favorite hygge hotspots in the city–

1. Nyhavn.  This one is a classic.  The old port is lined with beautifully renovated and colorful buildings.  The sidewalks are crowded with cafes and restaurants–the perfect place to snuggle up on a rainy afternoon with a cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine and take in the scenery.

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2. The Living Room. The Living Room is my favorite coffee shop in the city.  It has such a fun/funky/hipster vibe and the comfiest sofas and chairs.  The basement area is especially hygge–it has its own fireplace and lots of little nooks and crannies where you can study or chat with your friends.  In the evening, the coffee shop turns into a laid back bar.

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3. Tivoli.  Another Copenhagen classic.  Tivoli is the second oldest amusement park in the world, right in the heart of downtown Copenhagen.  I went with my friend Caroline this weekend and got to see all of their Halloween decorations.  Since Denmark only started celebrating Halloween in the past decade, I wasn’t expecting too much, but Tivoli goes all out for the holiday.  It felt like stepping into Disney’s Halloweentown.  Even though it was chilly walking around the park, we kept warm drinking hot chocolate under some heat lamps in a Tivoli cafe.

4. Bastard Cafe. This hidden gem is one my very favorite places to pass an afternoon in Copenhagen.  The Bastard Cafe is unlike any cafe I’ve ever visited–the walls are lined with just about every board game imaginable.  You can order coffee, beers, and snacks, then settle down at a table to play a game with friends.  Some of the games are pay-to-play, but most of them are free!  The cafe has such a warm and homey vibe, and you spend a couple of hours getting lost in a game with friends.

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coming home to Copenhagen

My independent travel week was so incredibly fun/exciting/engaging–it was also exhausting.  Being responsible for all my own transportation, lodging, and sightseeing plans was often stressful, and adjusting to so many unfamiliar cities was more strenuous than I had anticipated.  Though I’m so glad and grateful to have had the experience, I was definitely ready to come back when the week ended.

Returning to Copenhagen really felt like coming home. After two months of living here, I’ve settled into my routines, I know my way around (more or less), and I feel totally comfortable in my homestay.

This week has made me particularly thankful for my cozy apartment and host mom. After all my travel, it was so comforting to return to a warm, homecooked meal.  Not only that, my host mom had already purchased the groceries I would need for the upcoming week of breakfastes and lunches.  After a week of so much responsibility, it was such a relief to come back and feel like someone was looking out for me.

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my homestay apartment

The weather has also offered a warm welcome back to Copenhagen.  Apparently, we are experiencing record hot temperatures for the month of October, but I’m certainly not complaining! Knowing that the days of sunlight will be disappearing soon, I’ve been trying to take advantage of the bright afternoons.  Though midterms at DIS have been keeping me busy, I’ve been reducing stress by going on walks or jogs around my neighborhood.

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the park near my apartment

I’m sad to be missing the beauty of fall in Ohio, but I have to say, fall in Denmark is looking pretty good!  As an added bonus, the park near my apartment has its own mini-horse.  Oh, and the trails literally look like something out of a fairy tale.

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This week has made me so appreciative of the beauty of this city and how comfortable I have begun to feel here.  I can hardly believe that my semester here is already halfway over, but I’m trying to take a glass-half-full approach.  I’m looking forward to two more months of adventures here in Copenhagen (my new home).

adventures in nørrebro

In my Danish language and culture class, we were divided into groups and assigned a neighborhood in Copenhagen to visit with the goal of creating a presentation for the class about the neighborhood’s particular culture and history.  My group was assigned Nørrebro, an area northwest of the city center known as Copenhagen’s multicultural neighborhood.

Nørrebro has gotten a bad rap recently for some instances of gang violence; however, I have never felt unsafe wandering around the area, particularly when traveling in a group.  In fact, Nørrebro has been one of my favorite Copenhagen neighborhoods to explore (and to eat)!

The neighborhood boasts a trendy shopping street, Jægersborggade (try saying that five times fast).  Lined with coffee bars, vegan restaurants, and quirky shops, Jægersborggade attracts a young hipster crowd.  My personal favorite find on Jægersborggade is a restuarant called Grød, Copenhagen’s first porridge bar.  Their menu has everything from chia seed pudding and caramel oat porridge to daal and risotto.  A friend described it as “anything warm, mushy, and delicious.” I don’t think the porridge trend has caught on yet back in Nashville, but I’m sure it will!

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a hispter hangout on Jægersborggade (spot Grød in the background)

My other favorite food trend in Nørrebro is the falafel. Almost every street in Nørrebro features a shawarma restaurant, and, though they might not look like much from the outside, I have had the most AMAZING falafel on the streets of Nørrebro. Best of all, some of these shawarma restaurants stay open through the night. After enjoying some of the nightlife in Nørrebro a few weekends back, I stumbled upon the Konyali Cafe and had falafel sandwiches with a group of friends at 3am (quite possibly the best falafel I’ve ever tasted).

Nørrebro also contains the famous Assistens Cemetary, the burial place of famous Copenhageners Søren Kierkegaard and Hans Christian Andersen.  Oddly enough, the cemetary is a beautiful place to go on a leisurely walk.

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As I’ve established a comfortable daily routine in Copenhagen, I’ve noticed that I’ve also become a bit stuck in a rut–only traveling from my homestay in Sydhavnen to Indre By (the area where DIS is located) and back again. However, this field study in Nørrebro has reminded me that I need to keep exploring the city, as each unique neighborhood has so much to offer!

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view from the Dronning Louises Bro, a bridge on the edge of Nørrebro

wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

This week in my Danish Language and Culture class, we were assigned a reading entitled “Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen” from the book How to Be Danish by Patrick Kingsley.  Within the chapter, Kingsley discusses the structure and recent history of the city. In particular, the chapter focuses on the famous Danish architect Jan Gehl Hon and his influence on the Copenhagen’s urban design.

Throughout his life, Jan Gehl Hon has strived to reorient the city of Copenhagen to be an optimal space for both the pedestrian and the cyclist.  As a result of incremental efforts over the years, Copenhagen has thus become one of the most livable cities in the world (in fact, it ranked in the top 10 according to this recent evaluation).

Kingsley’s chapter, in celebration of the city, has been reflective of my amazing week here in Copenhagen. After being here for almost three weeks (!!), I have become more comfortable navigating the city, and it is beginning to feel like my happy home.

This week has also been full of exploration in and around Copenhagen! Hoping to take advantage of the beautiful sunny weather, I’ve spent all my free time this week checking items off my tourist to-do list.

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view from our go-boat

On Saturday, I went with a group of friends to cruise the canals of Copenhagen on a go-boat. We packed our own picnic and spent two wonderful hours taking in the sights of the city from the water.

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cruising with my friend Sarah

On Wednesday, I had some free time before my field study, so I visited the Church of our Savior, famous for its winding spiral staircase up to a gorgeous bird’s-eye-view of the city. After trudging up the 400 stairs, I was exhausted, but it was worth the climb.

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read more about the church

After visiting the church, I took a brief visit to the iconic sidewalk trampolines in Copenhagen. I’m not sure why they exist–perhaps it has something to do with Jan Gehl Hon’s principle that cities should have open spaces for play.

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hard to capture in a photo, but I really am bouncing

On Thursday, the last day of predicted warm(ish) and sunny weather, I decided to go swimming in the harbor with a group of friends. It was one of those things I wanted to say I had done in Copenhagen, though it was a little cold for a swim. At the last minute, I almost changed my mind, but I’m happy to say I took the (very chilly) plunge at least once.

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a moment of hesitation before we took the plunge

After getting back into warm clothes, we wrapped up the night by visiting Reffen, an outdoor food market north of the city.  My host mom goes to zumba classes on Thursday nights, so I took the opportunity to eat out and enjoy the “foodie” side of Copenhagen.

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a delicious chocolate waffle at Reffen

From what I’ve seen so far, Copenhagen is truly is a wonderful, wonderful city.

 

field studies & FOMO

my first field study

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to go on a “field study” with my Danish Language and Culture course.  Along with my professor, my class visited the Nationalmuseet (National Museum of Denmark).  At the museum, we were divided into groups and asked to create a brief presentation about a period of Danish history.  I was assigned the Middle Ages, so my group mostly observed the elaborate Catholic iconography of the era.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many crucifixes in one place!

Working in a small group to create a presentation, I got to know some of my fellow classmates a bit better.  Unlike my other elective classes, most of which are focused on some variation of gender and sexuality studies, the peers in my Danish elective course are studying a wide variety of disciplines.  For instance, the students in my group were studying Global Economics and Medical Biotechnology.  I enjoyed getting to know my classmates better, and I think that feeling comfortable with each other will make our time in Danish class more productive (since it can feel embarrassing to try to pronounce all the difficult Danish vowels)!

After visiting the museum, our professor took us to a nearby coffee shop and taught us how to order in Danish.  He made a deal with the barista that we would only receive a drink if we ordered correctly in Danish–a little intimidating–but I’m very glad that I know how to order my tea in the local language now!  At the coffee shop, the various groups also had time to present about our respective historical eras, so we all gained a broader understanding of Danish history.

Following this break, our professor took us to have a personalized tour of the Danish Supreme Court.  We had a lively discussion about differences in the American and Danish legal systems, learning from one of the justices of the Danish Supreme Court himself.

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The Danish Supreme Court

The opportunity to go on field studies such as this one with my Danish class is one of the main reasons I chose to study abroad with DIS.  Instead of meeting in my regularly scheduled classes on Wednesdays, I will get to spend the day exploring the city and participating in cultural experiences with my professors and classmates.  For instance, I will be visiting the Counseling Center for Foreign Women with my Human Trafficking class and attending a play of Virginia Wolf’s Orlando with my literature class.  I am really looking forward to these opportunities for hands-on learning–something that I rarely get to experience at home.

…and FOMO

Even though this week of classes has been dynamic and exciting, it has been difficult to watch on social media as my friends back at Kenyon move in, start their classes, and take on the beginning of junior year together. Though I feel so lucky to be taking on this adventure in Copenhagen, a part of me deeply misses the college community that has become my home over the past two years. I have experienced a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out) despite my enthusiasm about this semester abroad.

In order to combat this FOMO, I have done my best to disengage from social media as much as I can (and hey, it’s probably better to save my cellular data anyway). Though it sounds cliché, I am doing my best to “live in the moment.” I simply have to accept that I’ll be missing out on some fun beginning-of-the-year traditions with my friends in Gambier and embrace all the new possibilities for fun here in Denmark!

classes begin!

It has been a busy week in Copenhagen.  In addition to familiarizing myself with the public transportation system and local area, I began my classes at DIS last Thursday. Though the first few days are always overwhelming, my classes are off to a good start, I am very excited about the course material I will be studying throughout the semester.

DIS is located in the Inner City (or, as I learned today in Danish class, Indre By) area of Copenhagen.  The campus is composed of a handful of academic and administrative buildings throughout a few city blocks.  Unlike my campus at home, DIS is surrounded by restaurants, shops, and bars. Though the area is heavily trafficked by DIS students, it is also occupied by other international tourists and Danes alike.  This has been an adjustment for me, as I’ve grown accustomed to a more rural campus, but being in the city center has also been so much fun!  I’ve loved eating my packed lunches in the Gammeltorv square, right in the heart of Copenhagen.

I’m taking five courses here at DIS.  So far, I think I am most excited about my core course: “Prostitution and the Sex Trade.”  Next month, I will have the opportunity to travel with this group to Sweden, and at the end of October, we will spend a week together in Amsterdam.  My professor has done a great job facilitating lively discussions in this class thus far, and I’m happy to be taking “Human Trafficking in a Global Context” with her as well.

After an intense first two days of class, it was nice to relax a bit this weekend and explore the city more.  On Friday night, my host mom had her two children–Per and Maja–over for a family dinner.  They’re both in their twenties and live elsewhere in the city.  It was so fun getting to spend time with the bigger family group, and they had great recommendations about places to visit in Copenhagen.

On Saturday, I went to Studenterhuset (the Student Union) to get ahead on some reading for class.  It’s the only place I’ve found with affordable coffee and tea in Denmark, and it has a lot of great study space.

Sunday was the highlight of the weekend, as DIS had arranged an event for my homestay network to visit the amusement park Tivoli.  Though my host mom doesn’t enjoy roller coasters, I had a blast exploring the park and riding the rides with other students in my network!

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Me and my friend Zuyi at Tivoli Gardens