Abigail in Copenhagen

Abigail, a senior double majoring in human rights, and public relations and strategic communications, is spending the fall semester in Copenhagen, Denmark participating in the Danish Institute for Study Abroad Justice and Human Rights program.

What’s so Great about Western Denmark?

Sept. 28, 2016

I’m not going to lie.Copenhagen is pretty amazing. It has everything I need, and there are certainly enough sites and activities to fill an entire semester abroad. But don’t knock Western Denmark until you try it.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel with my core class to Western Denmark for a short study tour, and it was pretty incredible. If you’re looking for a break from the capital or just wondering what to expect during your short study tour, here are some highlights of my weekend:

Old Town Aarhus:

Admittedly we didn’t get much time to explore here, but downtown Aarhus is too cute to miss. As the second largest city in Denmark (behind Copenhagen, of course), there was plenty of social activity but with more of a small-town feel. My classmates and I enjoyed strolling through the streets and wandering into cozy bars and restaurants. We even found an “American-style” burger house and boy, oh, boy were those burgers delicious. A little taste of home was all the fuel I needed for a weekend of group travel.

Image courtesy of redbubble.com

Image courtesy of redbubble.com

Bridgewalking Lillebælt:

Something I didn’t know prior to my core course week: DIS plans wicked awesome trips. In addition to a host of engaging academic visits, core course week was packed with excursions exclusively for our enjoyment (#doitforthememz). Somehow, this is how I ended up strapped to the side of one of the oldest bridges in Denmark, overlooking impending doom (aka the water separating Jutland and Fyn, two islands of Denmark).

This illustration demonstrates how we were fastened to the side of an 80-year-old bridge for the experience of a lifetime. Image courtesy of bridgewalking.com

This illustration demonstrates how we were fastened to the side of an 80-year-old bridge for the experience of a lifetime. Image courtesy of bridgewalking.com

Some of you may be wondering: how exactly does one scale the top of a bridge? Good question. I wondered the same. First, my classmates and I were fitted with some stylish jumpsuits and waist harnesses. Our guide directed us up a tall flight of stairs about 60 meters above the water. At this point, we connected our harnesses to a small guideline along the side of the bridge, and we were ready to scale the remaining 20 meters above the road.

The hottest fashion trend this fall: grey, shapeless jumpsuits!

The hottest fashion trend this fall: grey, shapeless jumpsuits!

The view was absolutely breathtaking, and we also learned quite a bit about the history of the bridge and the surrounding area–a win-win situation! Even though I have a slight fear of heights, I felt incredibly secure throughout the tour. Although the experience was admittedly unnerving at first, my body quickly adjusted and I was able to enjoy the remainder of the two-hour tour. I’d definitely recommend for thrill-seekers, families, tourists and the like.

Unbelievable view!

Unbelievable view!

Another unbelievable view!

Another unbelievable view!

ARoS Museum:

This orange filter brought to you by the rainbow panorama exhibit at the ARoS museum in Aarhus.

This orange filter brought to you by the rainbow panorama exhibit at the ARoS museum in Aarhus.

Step aside, Louisiana Museum, the ARoS modern art museum in Aarhus takes the cake (in my opinion) for modern art in Denmark. Again, because we were traveling in a group, I didn’t have much time for exploration. However, what I saw of the museum was fascinating and beautiful. I could have easily spent the day exploring.

Skanderborg Cabin Hostel:

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This was hands-down the highlight of core course week. On Friday night as our short weekend together was winding down, my classmates and I had the opportunity to stay in lakeside cabins in Skanderborg. There we enjoyed group canoeing and a bonfire complete with Danish snobrød (a type of braided bread that you cook over a fire) and a lesson in s’mores-making for our instructors Trine and Julie (who had never made a s’more before). Making memories and sharing stories around the fire was the perfect way to help our class bond for our semester ahead (and our week-long trip to Kosovo in just a few weeks)!

Another Highlight of Core Course Week:

A trip to Egeskvo Slot, one of Denmark’s many beautiful castles…

A trip to Egeskvo Slot, one of Denmark’s many beautiful castles…

And  an academic visit with the Danish Defense Ministry. We all totally acted casual when an F-16 flew over the building (if acting casual involves physically throwing your whole body under the nearest desk) (yes I really did that).

I could talk for days about this trip, but, in summary, it was the best. I love my class. I love DIS.

Vi ses!

 

 

This post originally appeared on the A Coffee Girl in Copenhagen blog.

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Touristy Tuesday: Tivoli

Sept. 20, 2016

Okay, I’ll admit that I didn’t actually go to Tivoli this week. I actually went about two weeks ago, but we’re gonna fudge the details for the sake of keeping with my theme. Good? Good.

Okay, so Tivoli.

If I could sum it up in a few words, I’d say: It lives up to the hype.

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Tivoli is an amusement park and garden in the heart of Copenhagen. Since its opening in 1843, Tivoli has been a central part of life in Copenhagen, inspiring and delighting residents and tourists alike. With classic attractions, top-notch thrills, beautiful gardens and weekly musical performances, Tivoli is truly an all-encompassing experience.

Though I am a huge fan of amusement parks and have been itching to check out Tivoli since day one, even my expectations were blown away by what the park had to offer. Unlike the vibe at popular American amusement parks, Tivoli’s atmosphere was relaxed and enjoyable. At no point did I feel the need to powerwalk to the next attraction or push a small child out of the way to get a good spot on a ride. This vibe is probably more a product of the Danes rather than Tivoli itself, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The attractions:

Tivoli is known for its superior family-friendly and thrill attractions. With most “big kid” ride tickets averaging about 50 DKK (approx. $7.50) each, my roommates and I opted for an unlimited ride pass for only 220 DKK, or approx. $32. We had absolutely no problem getting worthwhile use of this card, and I would recommend this option to anyone looking to truly experience all that Tivoli has to offer. Some of my favorite attractions included:

The Mine: For those of you who have been to Disneyworld, think of this ride as one-part “Splash Mountain,” and one-part “Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Yup, you heard it right folks. This ride was basically a log ride with laser guns.

The Demon: I set my expectations pretty low for this classic one-loop rollercoaster, but I’m happy to announce that I was literally blown away. Don’t take this ride’s name for granted, people! This one is a speed demon filled with upside-down twists and turns so fast and furious that I couldn’t open my eyes for most of the ride.

The Monsoon: Fun fact about Abigail: I have a very loud laugh. Second fun fact about Abigail: I laugh a lot on rollercoasters. This ride, which takes riders high in the sky only to drop them in a circular motion again and again and again, had me laughing non-stop. Pure fun!

The Golden Tower: This one is pretty straightforward. A good ole’ fashioned drop thrill. Bonus points for the beautiful yet terrifying view of the entire city of Copenhagen.

And, of course…

The Roller Coaster!

“Rutschebanen” aka “The Roller Coaster” image courtesy of tivoli.dk

“Rutschebanen” aka “The Roller Coaster” image courtesy of tivoli.dk

It wouldn’t be a review of Tivoli if I didn’t mention the park’s oldest and most popular attraction. It may be cliché to say, but this was hands-down my favorite ride. One of only seven attractions in the world operated by an on-board brake man, The Roller Coaster was light and easy-going, yet surprisingly filled plenty of quality stomach drops. I could have spent the whole day riding this one over and over.

The food:

Tivoli was not lacking in food options. From soft ice to ice cream to cotton candy (my personal favorite) to pizza to hot dogs to burgers to sandwiches and on-and-on, Tivoli had it all. Whether you’re looking to have a nice sit-down dinner or grab something quick in-between rides, this park has you covered! My roommates and I opted for fish and chips, which was probably the best meal I’ve had at an amusement park, ever. So delish!

My biggest regret:

Ask any local and they’ll tell you that Tivoli truly comes alive at night. Unfortunately, my roommates and I were on a tight schedule the day we visited Tivoli, and we were unable to enjoy the beautiful park lights and evening fireworks show.

Image courtesy of: npr.org

Image courtesy of: npr.org

Luckily, not all is lost, and I’m looking forward to spending an evening at Tivoli with my parents when they come visit in December.

My overall impression:

It’s true what all those travel guides tell you: Tivoli is an absolute must-see. I’ve never felt so carefree and giddy in my life. The crowds are friendly, the rides are thrilling and the atmosphere is lovely. What more could you ask for?

Vi ses!

This post originally appeared on the A Coffee Girl in Copenhagen blog.

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Core Course Week: Copenhagen

Sept. 19, 2016

If this week has taught me anything, it’s this: DIS sets the bar high for study abroad programs.

Let me explain.

This week my core class (Humanitarian Law and Armed Conflict) participated in what is known as core course week. This is a week dedicated to bonding with our classmates and taking a deeper dive into our academic objectives. Because this week was jam-packed with activities, I thought I’d split up my account into two posts. For more on my core course adventures in Western Denmark see my upcoming blog post.

For now, the beginning of my week in Copenhagen:

Monday:

Our week began bright and early at 8:30 a.m. with a lecture from Nicolai Christoffersen about the ongoing conflict in Syria. For the past few weeks, we have been playing with the definition of “armed conflict” and attempting to understand the different humanitarian issues that arise based on this definition. This topic is especially interesting when we apply our class knowledge to real-life examples, particularly the conflict in Syria. So far I’ve really enjoyed the hands-on Danish style of learning, and I definitely feel like I’ll walk away from this semester with the ability to discuss relevant issues in an academic context.

After our lecture we ventured to the Royal Danish Arsenal Museum for a guided tour of “A Distant War–An Exhibition on the War in Afghanistan.” Guided by a museum attendant, we walked through a recreation of a Danish military base in Afghanistan. We discussed the nature of the conflict in Afghanistan and participated in a healthy debate about the necessity of Danish intervention in this conflict. Interestingly enough, Denmark lost the highest percentage of its troops in the war in Afghanistan, though the number of deaths (43) may seem small in an American context.

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Finally, we rounded out our first day with a canal tour of Copenhagen, which I’ve been dying to do since I arrived. Again, I was thankful for the sunny weather, which made our trip around the city quite enjoyable.

Tuesday:

We began our day with another lecture, this time from DIGNITY: The Danish Institute Against Torture. This provided us with a basic framework for discussing the various methods of and motivations for torture. Obviously this is a heavy topic, but our presenter, Christopher Grønlund presented the information in a compelling yet not overwhelming manner.

After that “cheerful” beginning to the day, our instructor Trine guided us through a city walk. We stumbled upon some beautiful botanical gardens and decided to have a little class meeting in the park to discuss our upcoming trip to Western Denmark. Again, I had to pinch myself as a reminder that, yes, this day actually qualified as class.

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Our second day concluded with lunch at Peder Oxe, a traditional Danish restaurant known for its smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches), and a film screening of Krigen (in English: “A War”). This Oscar-nominated film follows a Danish commander in Afghanistan who, under extreme duress, accidentally orders the bombing of a civilian unit. Though it was difficult to watch at times, I really enjoyed this film because it gave an emotional context to the legal issues we’ll be discussing this semester. Though it may be easy to find the “right answer” in class, International Humanitarian Law involves a number of interrelated and conflicting considerations that can be, at the end of the day, extremely personal.

Wednesday:

To be fair, we had this day off from class to get ready for our trip to Western Denmark, but I had a really good pizza in Vanløse.

Vi ses!

This post originally appeared on the A Coffee Girl in Copenhagen blog.

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A Weekend in the Woods

Sept. 18, 2016

Perks of living with a host family: they take you places and show you things you simply cannot include in a travel guide.

Exhibit A: My weekend spent with my host family at their summer home about an hour and a half west of Copenhagen.

How precious is this house? Now imagine all seven of us gathered around the fireplace at night drinking tea, eating candy and watching the Danish version of Dancing with the Stars and The Voice. The definition of hygge.

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The weather was especially amazing this weekend, which is quite a statement considering how lovely it’s been the past three weeks. Sunny and 75 called for a visit to a massive Viking burial ground:

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And then a quick dip in the Baltic Sea:

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The cherry on top of our perfect weekend was the most delicious mint chocolate chip ice cream enjoyed along the harbor line:

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I would act embarrassed about how dweeby I look, but my heart was so happy.

To summarize: when presented with a myriad of housing options, do not take your decision lightly. It may just mean the difference between the best ice cream cone of your life eaten on the edge of the Baltic sea or…. not doing that.

Vi ses!

This post originally appeared on the A Coffee Girl in Copenhagen blog

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Touristy Tuesday: Louisiana Museum

Sept. 13, 2016

Part of living somewhere for an extended period of time is being somewhat jaded to the touristy aspects of that place. I’ve found it particularly difficult to convince myself that I really need to see the Little Mermaid or walk through the King’s Garden or eat every pastry I see (okay, maybe I don’t really need to do that last one…) While I do think that it’s incredibly important to immerse myself in everyday Danish culture, I’ve quickly realized that some touristy activities are popular for a reason (though some inevitably are not).

To motivate myself to make the most of my time here, I thought I’d start a little tradition of reviewing one touristy Danish activity a week. I might even occasionally throw in a suggestion of my own of what should be added to tourist guides! So, here we go:

This week I made the long (35 minutes by train) trek to Humlebæk to visit the world famous Louisiana (no, not like the state) Museum of Modern Art. It did not disappoint!

Did you know the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is the most-visited museum in Denmark? And with good reason. The Louisiana’s collection, dating back to World War II, is varied and thought-provoking. Even better is the museum building itself, which is considered a hallmark of Danish architecture. To say I was pleasantly surprised doesn’t adequately describe my delight when I realized the museum teetered on the edge of a valley overlooking the beautiful blue sea. I was lucky to attend the museum on a cool, clear day, and there were scores of tourists enjoying the weather by picnicking on the museum lawn.

Museum highlights:

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Picasso before Picasso – How many times in one’s life can he or she say, “I’ve seen a Picasso?” Okay, now how many times can he or she say, “I’ve seen a rudimentary pencil doodle from when Picasso was a schoolboy.” Anyone? Now I have! During my visit, the Louisiana was hosting an amazing exhibit of some of Picasso’s earliest drawings. What I loved about this was the exhibit’s obvious tourist appeal. Even people who know absolutely nothing about modern art (read: me) can get excited about seeing ultra-rare Picassos. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed in the exhibit (which a security guard calmly and politely informed me of after I snapped an illegal photograph–I love the friendly Danes), but trust me, this was an incredible exhibit.

Yayoi Kusama’s Gleaming Lights of the Soul- A must-see for all tourists and all humans everywhere. This exhibit, which became a permanent installation in 2008, is fairly synonymous with the museum at this point, but it’s 100-percent worth mentioning (and experiencing!) Prepare to question your very existence as you enter this four by four meter space covered entirely with mirrors, lined with a  small reflecting pool and illuminated with thousands of ping-pong ball lights. The result looks a little something like this (ignore how silly I look–it’s kind of ridiculous how difficult it is to pose in that room):

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The Sculpture Park- This aspect of my experience cannot be overstated. I could have sat in the museum gardens overlooking the ocean for days (weather permitting, of course). If you have the opportunity to visit the Louisiana during your stay in Denmark, I highly highly recommend packing a picnic lunch (free of charge to eat in the gardens) and parking it outside to enjoy the scenery.

Image courtesy of: theguardian.com

Image courtesy of: theguardian.com

My overall rating: I give this attraction a solid 9/10. Whether you’re a modern art enthusiast or can’t tell your Picasso from your Monet, the Louisiana offers a family-friendly and intellectually stimulating day of fun! I would highly recommend making the journey from Copenhagen to enjoy this Danish gem.

Until next Tuesday–Vi ses! (It means–See ya!)

This post originally appeared on the A Coffee Girl in Copenhagen blog

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Hello, It’s Me.

Aug. 23, 2016

The past two days have been full of traveling about the city and discovering what life in Copenhagen really is like.

Yesterday morning we began at the Royal Danish Music Hall where all DIS students were greeted with an opening ceremony including a short opera performance and followed by a few other orientation sessions. My housemates and I met a few other students living in our homestay district, and we all decided to wander around the city for the rest of the day. After getting lost multiple times attempting to find the harbor, we decided to grab some lunch at a nearby crepe and waffle stand. Homemade waffles? Sign. Me. Up. They were so dang delicious (shout out to Denmark for combining ice cream and breakfast food). It felt so wonderful and comforting to be finally making some new friends. I enjoyed getting to know different people from different places who are all on this same crazy journey with me.

My new friends and I enjoying some relaxation time at a cozy juice bar

My new friends and I enjoying some relaxation time at a cozy juice bar

My long day in the city was rounded out with a light jog around the lake across from our house. The weather has been extraordinarily warm the past few days, but the cool breeze made it the perfect climate for a little outdoor exercise. As I jogged along the trail, blasting my music from home, I realized this was the first moment I had been alone for the past few days. While that might not seem significant as I’ve only been here a few days, it was the first time I could visualize what a life in Copenhagen will look like.

At home, I enjoy going to the gym as much as possible, and I consider it an activity that fuels and centers me. As I ran, I could finally see myself doing this: class and friends and exercising and maintaining my lifestyle in this new environment. Though I am in a new place, with new people and sometimes odd rituals and ways of life, I am  still myself. That was a realization I needed to have, and I relished in this feeling of comfort as the evening drew to a close.

This post originally appeared on the A Coffee Girl in Copenhagen blog.

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Jet-Lag, Hot Dogs and Trains

Aug. 23, 2016

Y’all.

And I do mean, y’all (I miss being surrounded by Texan accents).

I’m exhausted. It’s extremely difficult to put into words all the different types of tired I am feeling. I am physically tired after a 12-hour journey to Copenhagen yesterday. I am mentally tired from processing my new surroundings and choosing carefully every word I use to communicate with my host family and housemates. I am emotionally tired because I realized that I wouldn’t eat Chipotle for another four months, and dang did it make me feel sad.

BUT, more than tired, I feel so incredibly excited and blessed to be here in Copenhagen. I can already tell that it is going to be a welcoming place to live for the next semester.

To recap the past few days…

Toting my two suitcases, large duffel and over-stuffed backpack I hurriedly shoved my way through the crowd at the Copenhagen International Airport, and I was so relieved to immediately see my host parents and siblings waiting for me with open arms when I finally reached the Hilton Hotel. I’m not quite sure exactly what I was expecting before meeting my host family, but their kindness, warmness and gracious attitudes made me feel immediately at home. I also quickly bonded with the two other DIS students sharing my home, Allie and Kyle.

And away I go! I somehow managed to fit everything in my bags.

And away I go! I somehow managed to fit everything in my bags.

After a 30-minute drive through the city (narrated by my host father Benny), we arrived at our home in Vanløse, and Alice (my host mother) showed us to our rooms. Allie and I share a precious little room tucked away from the main part of the house. It really is very cozy, and I’m sure it will be the perfect place to unwind after a long day of classes. With some “help” from one of our little host sisters (who is only five), Allie and I unpacked and settled into our rooms before a taco dinner. We were all so tired after traveling that we went straight to bed after dinner.

My beautiful home for the next four months

My beautiful home for the next four months

This morning  we were awoken by the sweet greetings of Alice inviting us for breakfast outside on the porch. We enjoyed a delicious spread of bread, jam, honey, and chocolate (!!!! for breakfast guys, this is no joke!!!!!!) The weather right now is absolutely amazing, and the early morning breeze was a wonderful companion for our excited morning chatter.

After breakfast, Alice and my other host sister, who is 13, showed us how to use the metro to get to our classes and then gave us a walking tour of the city of Copenhagen. The modernity of Copenhagen is so hyped up in travel guides and blogs, but I was certainly not expecting the city to feel so regal. With charming, narrow cobblestone streets, Copenhagen felt like the streets of Disneyworld. I cannot imagine walking through this beautiful buzzing city every day for class. It is absolutely breathtaking.

The breathtaking Copenhagen harbor

The breathtaking Copenhagen harbor

Our walking tour was cut short because Kyle, Allie and I had to rent our bicycles for the semester, and after that process was over we were pretty exhausted. We returned home and Alice packed up a picnic lunch for us to enjoy at a nearby park. There was a music festival going on, and we watched a few members of the Danish Royal Opera perform while enjoying traditional Danish hot-dogs (and boy, did they live up to the hype!)

Later that evening we met another American student, Anna, who is staying just a few streets over. I feel so incredibly lucky to not only be living with two other American students, but also to be so close to another friend. It certainly is the best of both worlds, as I get to experience Danish culture up close and personal, but also have an immediate support group of Americans who are going through the same struggles and triumphs in our new city.

Tomorrow is our first day of orientation, and I’m so looking forward to exploring the city more on my own and also meeting more American students.

Until then!

This post originally appeared on the A Coffee Girl in Copenhagen blog.

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Abigail Goes Abroad

Aug. 17, 2016

Born and raised a Texan, for the next four months I’ll be temporarily trading in my beloved warm weather and Blue Bell ice cream to study abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. Thanks to the good people at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS), I’ll be studying Justice and Human Rights in the happiest country in the world (woo!)

A little bit about myself: This will not only be my first study abroad experience, but also my first time in Europe! After participating in several mission trips to Latin America in high school, I caught the travel bug hard. Along the way I also developed a fiery passion for fighting for justice for the disenfranchised, the marginalized and the voiceless. So here I am today: pursuing a Human Rights major at SMU and now all the way in Denmark. This experience is truly a dream come true for me!

A little bit about my experience: I’ll be participating in DIS’ Justice and Human Rights program which includes the core course “Humanitarian Law and Armed Conflict.” Mid-way through the semester I’ll be traveling with my fellow human rights students to the country of Kosovo to visit several government and human rights organizations. I’ll also be taking four elective courses: Activism: Engagement and Resistance, International Refugee Law, Stolen Childhoods: Migrant and Refugee Children in Europe and Danish Language and Culture.

A little bit about where I’ll be living: I’m over-the-moon excited to be making my home with a sweet family in Vanløse, just about 15 km from the city. I did a little dance in the middle of McAllister’s Deli when I received an email from my host mother Alice about a week ago welcoming me to my new home. My Danish family consists of my host mother Alice, host father Benny and host little sisters. I’ll also be sharing my home with two American students: Allie (University of Rochester) and Kyle (Northwestern University). After communicating back and forth with both my host family and my fellow housemates, I am absolutely ecstatic to get settled into my new home.

My sweet host family (aren’t they adorable?!)

My sweet host family (aren’t they adorable?!)

A little bit about this blog: Maybe you’re here because I emailed you this link or posted it to my Facebook (aka you’re a friend or family member). If so, I want to say thank you for following along and thinking of me throughout the semester. Your positive thoughts and prayers are much appreciated!

Or maybe, hopefully, you’re here because you’re a prospective DIS or study abroad student, and you want to find honest study abroad accounts that don’t sound like they come out of a brochure. I know that I found so much peace and excitement in studying the blogs of former DIS students. I wasn’t alone in my anxieties or my questions, and just as these students found their way abroad, so would I. If that’s you, I hope you’ll find a candid and descriptive account of what life in Copenhagen is like. I hope learning from my experiences will help shape yours!

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out my next post about the great adventure of preparing for a semester abroad!

This post originally appeared on the A Coffee Girl in Copenhagen blog.

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