Rachel SMU-in-Copenhagen

Rachel is junior majoring in biology and chemistry and minoring in mathematics and religious studies. She’s also a President’s Scholar, and she’s spending the Fall 2007 semester with SMU-in-Copenhagen.

Read more from Rachel SMU-in-Copenhagen

Bonjour, Hei, Hello, Chio

It’s been quite a past few weeks of travel and vacay. In the past 3 weeks, travels have led me to Finland, Italy, France, England and … of course … Denmark. The trip was full of so much history and learning – I really loved it. But I’m also glad to be back to a hostel-free life and no longer being a nomad J

Hiking for algae in Finland
First came Finland. Our weeklong class trip here was great – we went and collected macroalgae the first day on this island off the coast, and the weather was PERFECT! I was literally wearing 5 layers of shirts/sweathsirts/waterproof jackets and 4 layers of tights/sweatpants/waterproof pants etc. Not to mention loads of socks and my waterproof gloves and hat! It was kind of funny! But it was worth it because I was climbing all these cliffy rocks to get to the algae and got swept into the ocean twice, but made it back.

It was kind of like being on a big outdoor adventure hiking trip … but at the ocean. I loved it! But we had to write a 13-page scientific paper about this macroalgae analysis (not very fun). We then went to Helsinki (the capital of Finland) and saw a hockey game, went to some art museums, shopping, and hit up some dance clubs. It was a great week with all of our friends in our marine bio classes. Fortunately for us, we had great weather the whole week, but usually it’s extremely cold here (random fact: Finland has the highest suicide rate in the world). So we lucked out weather-wise.

Bargaining in Rome
The day after getting back, Laura and I headed off to Rome to meet up with Leigh and Patrick. Rome was great – I had been there when I was little – but this time I feel like I got a lot more out of it and had more of an appreciation for it all. St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Necropolis (the underground burial site where St. Peter is thought to be buried) were some personal favorites.

I also discovered my insane bargaining skills on the streets – it was awesome! These people would peg us as Americans and try to sell us stuff for 30 Euros, and after some wining and dining I’d get ‘em down to 8. It was so much fun – I decided it should be an Olympic sport.

And of course we couldn’t go without having some of that world famous gelato. It was really world famous. And, of course, pizza margarita.

The view from the Eiffel Tower
Next was Paris. This city was beautiful! Ironically, the people here are extremely RUDE! Almost everybody was really moody, not friendly, etc. They would shove you around in the train station and roll their eyes all the time – I couldn’t believe some of it! But the Eiffel Tower, of course, was GREAT! It was one of my favorite things in Europe. We went to the very top and got a great view of the whole city. It was so cold and windy up there, though, because it was so high up, but definitely worth it! I couldn’t believe that the tower was originally going to be torn down. Apparently it was built for an international convention and they were going to tear it down afterward, but decided to keep it around as a landmark. (Good thing, right?)

We also went to Notre Dame, which had amazing architecture, and some art museums, and the Louvre. The Louvre has the most art and history in it than anything I’ve ever seen. This museum is intense – you could spend a week here and not get bored. I couldn’t wrap my mind around some of it though. Some sculptures were deemed masterpieces, and others were more mediocre, but they would look like the same thing to me … or very similar at least. The definition of art is really in the eye of the beholder, if you ask me. The Mona Lisa was this tiny little painting, while others were much more impressive to me (I think it’s the story behind the work and the age and the history behind it that affect its status as “great art” – explaining why the Mona Lisa is “kind of a big deal”).

Who loves London?
We saved the best for last. London was my favorite. Laura and I were here for 3 days and stayed with Patrick’s family in Paddington (like Paddington Bear J ). First, this was the most hospitable family I’ve ever met. I cannot tell you all how nice it was to be living with a family again. It made me miss my fam a lot! But back to London – it is the best place EVER!!! – outside of Texas of course ;)

There are palaces and beautiful parks everywhere. And the people are so friendly and generally nice. Not to mention it was nice to hear English spoken for the first time in so long. We had afternoon tea, coffee, saw loads of castles and palaces (Buckingham, Kensington – where Princess Diana lived, the Tower of London, etc), Big Ben, London Bridge, Shakespeare theaters, Westminster Abbey (my favorite place in London – this place was packed with history- there are so many famous people buried here. Basically any famous British person is recognized here – including kings, queens, poets, authors, scientists).

And (drum roll) … I SAW WICKED!! Wicked the musical was being performed live in London, which is supposedly the best place in the world to see musicals, so I went! It was so good I got goose bumps whenever the main character would sing – and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack ever since. But London is by far the most expensive place I’ve ever been. The pound and dollar are not getting along very well. Things here cost at least twice as much as they would in America. Living in a very small apartment costs over 1 million dollars. Crazy, right?

Overall, I was amazed at how much history is steeped in religion, and how ornately things were done back in the day. There were enormous shrines built to heroes, and monuments from regimes or dynasties built all over the place – whereas today there seems to be less of that. It also seems that, historically, there was less attention to the lower and middle class than today in Europe (where there’s a lot of socialism today). Also, Europe has amazing public transportation – that’s all I used this last month and it was great.

Now I’m back in Denmark for a few days before classes start. It’s a big shock to have so many tests and papers looming on the horizon – I’ve been on a monthlong vacation! So, our teachers are really packing alot into school when we go back. And winter soccer season is starting up again, so that will be fun, but keep me busy along with my five term papers that I need to start!

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