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.

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Snorkeling in Finland, “ER” in Denmark

I’ve been here for just under two months, and guess what … I leave for a monthlong travel break tomorrow!!!

Here’s what I will be up to for the next month: For class, we are going to Helsinki, Finland, for a week to do marine biology work and cultural stuff, and after that I’ll be in Rome, Paris and London with three of my friends from SMU who are also abroad. It’s going to be awesome!

Seeking algae
In Finland we’re collecting samples of macroalgae, and we go snorkeling to collect it all. It’s snowing over there right now, so this will be interesting! But we’re also going to a hockey game, art museums, the zoo, a Finnish sauna and other stuff there too.

The housing situation is perfectly wonderful. I’m living in a big apartment/dormlike complex. There’s a whole floor of Americans here, so I’m right at home, and I’ve made friends from Uganda, Nigeria and China living here as well. There’s an amazing bakery right outside the front door, so everyday when I’m running a bit late to class, I grab some of those world-famous Danish pastries and head off to the bus. It’s only a 20-minute commute.

Cool things that have happened: I’ve been to the Rosemborg castle, where I saw the crown jewels (which were awesome!). They had gunmen with rifles guarding the entrance. It was such a nice day that I fell asleep outside on the grass in the royal gardens (it was warm that day). It reminded me of being at the falls at SMU.

Politics and religion
I saw some of the peaceful political demonstrations around the streets of Norrebro, where people are mad that the government is reducing tax funding for daycares and local social services (they pay up to 60 percent taxes here for things like this).

I found a Catholic church out here too. And the Mass was exactly the same halfway across the world – it was refreshing to have something be the same. Ironically, practically nobody here goes to church or deems themselves “religious or spiritual,” even though Denmark’s constitution declares it a Christian nation.

Biology lessons
Also, my class and I went on a daylong boat trip to Helsingor, Denmark, and collected fish and “organisms” on the boat – it was actually really fun (not too cold). I’ve had a lot of tea at the local tea shop and met some of the random people who come in and out of there – one of whom is the medical student who is teaching my class at the hospital! Small world.

Speaking of hospitals, I learned how to do my first I.V. yesterday, and actually did one on a person (so cool!!), learned all about treatment of cardiac arrest (V fib/ asystole etc) with CPR, defibrillation, ventilation) I felt like I was on ER or something – SO COOL!

I went to “Culture Night” last night. The government funds this city-wide program at night where every museum or hot spot in the city is open with lots of things going on there (food, information, performers, etc). You pay $15 to get in and can see whatever you want and can ride public transportation for free. Some friends and I went to take different canal boat rides, saw this really weird Arctic museum, saw Parliament (really cool), the Post museum/factory where we got to design our own stamps and they print them off for us, and some random Indian dancers, people making silverware, etc. The whole city was out and about – it was great, and interesting to see how the government puts on big programs like this.

All the same?
Speaking of the government: I’ve decided that the coolest thing about being in Denmark is seeing how different functionally and politically it is from the U.S. In one of my classes yesterday we talked about how Denmark’s welfare state is set up based on homogeneousness of appearance and thought. Our teacher asked us to list the pros and cons of it. I raised my hand and said that a con was (obviously) the prerequisite of “homogeneousness of thought,” and he disagreed with me saying that it was a pro. I couldn’t believe it.

Denmark really is very homogenous – most people look the exact same (medium height to tall, fairly thin, blond hair, blue eyes). It sounds a bit like what Hitler wanted to be his nation of purebred blonde-haired blue-eyed people. I think Denmark’s intrinsic homogeneousness is why it is notorious for problems of integration with foreigners and immigrants. This is a big problem here, especially for Islamic people since the women dress so physically different.

Something I learned from this is that I don’t think the U.S. can ever handle switching over to a socialistic policy, even though it seems to work here. They sacrifice a lot of the things we value (diversity of thought, freedom of choice and heterogeneousness being only a few).

But the equity here is amazing to me. Everybody has the same amount and there is little if any poverty, and the economy is pretty good here and people work max 35-hour workweeks with 8-week mandatory vacation. I’m still thinking really hard about the health-care issue and looking into some potential problems that exist here – but I’ll get back to you on what I think about it.

I’m doing great over here and am so glad I came. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m halfway across the world – I’ll just take a walk around the cafes and shops and be like “wow, I’m completely across the world right now!” God has really blessed me with every aspect of this experience, and sometimes I can’t believe it. Also, I got over a horrible cold/cough and finally got my voice back after a week. It’s slowly getting cold here – but is fall now and I love seeing all the beautiful leaves everywhere! That’s all for now – more to come post-travel break.

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