Alessandra in Denmark

Alessandra is a junior finance major with an economics and French minor. She will be spending Spring 2009 in Denmark with SMU-in-Copenhagen.

The Irish are so lucky

I spent the second week of my travel break in Connemara, Ireland. Ireland is amazing!

We spent the week at the Delphi Adventure Resort on the west coast of Ireland. The Irish countryside is so incredibly beautiful, full of mountains, sheep and rolling green hills. It was love at first sight! The adventure resort was awesome. We had amazing gourmet meals, and the whole place was so cozy.

We arrived on Sunday afternoon and checked into the resort. There were eight girls in our room and one sink – talk about morning madness! That night we had this awesome meal of soup, salmon and apple tart with butterscotch sauce. Then we met our guides, and they took us on a “bog walk.” This “walk” was a 2-hour hike in the dark through a foot of water and mud. It was so crazy! We had JUST arrived and we were literally thrown right into the mud. We all ruined our shoes and came back soaking wet. But we had a blast.

Monday: We woke up at 7:30am and had an awesome breakfast. Then we headed out for team-building challenges at the ropes course. After lunch we went surfing, yes I said it, surfing … in March on the west coast of Ireland. It was absolutely freezing, wet suits and all. The cold water stole your breath every time you went under. But it was a sunny day and an amazing experience. We warmed up by the fire with our books before another mouth-watering meal.

Tuesday: We went for a hike in Connemara National Park. We hiked up a huge 1000ft mountain. It was absolutely gorgeous. I got a little nervous at the peak, but it was so cool to climb through the clouds! We had lunch at the top and then made our way back down. We ended the night with yet another amazing meal.

Wednesday: We started the morning with team raft building. I must say that this was my least favorite activity because it was freezing and our raft sank and I had to be resuced from the freezing water because I was about to pass out. We went back for lunch and then headed out to the rock wall. I knew this activity was coming all week, and I knew that regardless of my fear of heights, I was going to climb that wall. I was the second person to go. I made it all the way up with hardly any pauses! Then I had to repel down the other side. That part was hard because I had to lower myself over an edge, but I DID IT! I got over my fear and did the whole thing.

Thursday: We drove into Dublin and spent the afternoon and night there. Dublin was really fun, but I think I’m a country girl at heart.

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Hungary for Budapest

I just spent this weekend in BUDAPEST! It is SUCH an amazing city with so much culture and beauty. We had two jampacked days of sightseeing.

Monica and I left Friday night. We got to the airport, and when we went to check in, the Malev Airline attendant made me check my backpack. She said it was too long. I have a midsize camping backpack that is definitely carry-on size. I was not happy about having to check my bag, especially because it’s a soft-sided backpack and I didn’t want it getting dirty or smooshed. Not to mention when we made it on the airplane, it was empty! We had six rows to ourselves with three open overhead bins … annoying.

We arrived at the airport around 10:15 p.m. and got an airport shuttle to our hostel. When we got to the place, the driver simply dumped our bags on the street and said bye. We had NO idea where the hostel was because he dropped us in front of a random door. Thank goodness a young guy walked up to the door and helped us figure out where the hostel was.

The place was nice with a kitchen and large living room. We had a private double with a bathroom down the hall.

We met up with Max, Susanne, Jenni, Jeff and James at the flat that Max, Susanne and Jenni were staying in. We hung out for awhile and then ventured out into the city.

A day in Buda

The next morning we all met up around 10:30 for a fun-filled day of culture. We were staying in Pest so we headed over the bridge to Buda. We walked all over the mountains and took some great pictures. The city is so beautiful and the buildings are all ornate and unique.

We hiked up to the Citadel, which is the highest point in Budapest, and you can see the statue on top of the mountain from almost any point in Budapest. It was quite an accomplishment when we got to the top. We were lucky to have nice weather because originally it was supposed to rain all weekend. We had sun and relatively warm temperatures.

After our hike we headed down the mountain and in search of the thermal baths. With James’ and Jenni’s expert navigation, we found our way to the metro and arrived at the baths. Unfortunately, Monica and I were stupid and didn’t bring bathing suits, so we were forced to rent one from the baths.

The baths were so interesting. It’s like two huge hot tubs filled with all kinds of people. There are massages and spas you can go to as well.

After our baths, we were starving and craving kebabs. We headed back to our hostels to rest up for our night.

Back to Pest

That night we explored Pest and ended up at a club called Alkatraz. It was themed after the prison! We had a good time just sitting and hanging out there for the night.

Sunday we headed out for some more culture. Captain James led us to the Great Synagogue and we got a really great tour and learned how the temple was a huge part of the Holocaust. It was all very relevant to the Holocaust class I am taking.

It was a super cold day and really windy, but we made our way to the basilica and the House of Terror after we had a gourmet lunch that cost all of $8.

We took a break after all the sightseeing to rest up before dinner. The boys picked a street and we started exploring restaurants for our last meal in Budapest. We found a Hungarian/Italian place that had great pizza and interesting Hungarian food.

We turned in pretty early after getting some pics of Buda at night.

We were supposed to get a taxi at 5 a.m. to head to the airport, but my alarm never went off and we were a bit late for our taxi, but we got to the airport with plenty of time to spare.

I was sad to leave the city but glad that I went. It was such an amazing place, and I learned so much about the city and its role in the Holocaust.

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Midterms and a new bike

I am booked for the next seven weeks. I am travelling every weekend or I am having a visitor.

Last weekend, I went to Amsterdam with Jillian, Drew, Jim and Alex. We stayed at the Hotel Armada, which was right on a canal. The city was beautiful and similar to Copenhagen with lots of bikes, water and overcast weather. I visited the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank Huis and the Heineken Experience. I walked the whole city, and when I got home Monday morning, I was wiped.

Tomorrow night I am headed to Budapest with some new friends. I have heard good things about the city, and I am excited to travel again. Everything is a lot cheaper there and I can’t wait to see the natural hot springs! I just bought a new “camping” style backpack, and it makes travel much easier.

When I get home on Monday, I am faced with two research paper midterms. They are due the week after, but Tyler will be here. It is taking all the self-discipline I have to get these papers done in advance. I have already done the research and made an outline for the finance paper, but I have yet to even pick a topic for my 10-page Holocaust & Genocide paper.

Tyler comes in 8 days! It could NOT be at a better time. I can’t wait to see him and show him the city. Having visitors, especially your boyfriend, is so exciting!

Tyler leaves Thursday and I leave Saturday for three weeks of travel. I’m really looking forward to Berlin and Prague, and I know my adventure trip in Ireland will be exciting.

On another note, Colin and I got bikes yesterday. There is a place where you can rent them, and they use the profits to fix up bikes and send them to Africa. For about 2 months and 2 weeks of rental, we paid 700 DKK, which is about 115 dollars. We chose to get a bike that was one level up because they were a bit nicer.

I rode to class this morning and managed not to injure anyone. I’m still very slow and unsure about the rules. After a few more rides, I’m sure I’ll pick it up. It is so liberating to finally have a bike because I do not have to rely on public transportation. My bus went on strike last week, and it was much more difficult to get around because the train station is not as accessible. I’m excited to explore more of the city on my bike.

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Busy, busy, busy

So much as happened over the past few weeks! I haven’t been keeping up. Where do I begin!?

A few weeks ago we went to the Icebar in Copenhagen. The bar is located in Hotel TwentySeven, where the bar inside is made out of ice. The drinks are served in ice glasses, and you have to wear cool capes and gloves. The experience was fun but a one-time only thing. Overall, we had a fun weekend. On Valentine’s Day, a few of us went to see “He’s Just Not That Into You.” It was cute, and the theaters here are really nice.

FC Kobenhaven (futboll/soccer team) played Manchester City on Thursday night, and we all made a split-second decision to go to the game. It was freezing and snowing the whole time, but it was so much fun! The crowd stands and sings the whole time. Copenhagen tied Manchester City in the last two minutes. It was a very exciting game. I’m also going to take Tyler to a game when he comes.

Sunday we went to visit Jillian’s visiting family. Today is Fastlhaven in Denmark and it’s sort of like Halloween. The kids all dress up and hit barrels until they break. They used to have a cat inside, but today they just have candy. Then Stine made me a wonderful birthday cake, and they gave me some presents. It was really sweet to be able to celebrate with them.

My 21st birthday is on Tuesday. Even though we’re not celebrating in America, I’m sure it will still be fun!

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Study tour weekend

I had my first adventure around Denmark this weekend. Wednesday, my European Business Strategy class had a study tour to a biotech company called Genzyme. They make enzymes and treatments for people with rare diseases. The company visit was interesting, but a little irrelevant when they started showing us how they grow cartilage to repair a knee.

Thursday, I woke up bright and early and headed downtown to meet my group on our bus in Kalenbourg. It is a small town in Western Denmark where we were having another company visit. That night we checked into our hostel and met some of the local kids.

Then in the morning we headed to Arhus, which is the second largest city in Denmark aside from Copenhagen. There we visited Pressalit, which is a luxury toilet seat manufacturer. This was the most interesting visit of the whole trip because we got to see a seat being made from start to finish.

That night we met some other DIS kids at our hostel and explored the town of Arhus. Saturday morning we went to a cool modern art museum called ARoS. They had some interesting modern art, including a new collection called digital art. After the museum, we had some lunch and went on a scavenger hunt around the city. We needed to run around a little bit because we had a 4-hour bus ride back to Copenhagen ahead of us.

I was so happy to get home even though I met some great kids. It was nice to have some peace and quiet. Everyone went out but I didn’t get home until 8:30pm, and I have a cold so I really wanted to stay in and rest.

Today, I have a little bit of work to do. Classes are really picking up, and I have my first test on Thursday!

This coming weekend is Valentine’s Day and I think Jillian and I are going to go on a date! My 21st birthday is only 15 days away and then we’re off to Amsterdam!

My schedule is really picking up as the semester gets under way. There is so much to see and do and I’m beginning to feel pressed to get it done! I’m sure I’ll find a way!

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We call ourselves The Group

Classes are officially under way. I’m taking 12 hours so I will have plenty of time for travel and fun. I like my Holocaust & Genocide class, and I also think that my International Finance class is really interesting. The teacher is cool and totally wacky.

We had out first real weekend out last weekend. On Friday, DIS hosted a Welcome party at a club called LUUX. It was fun to see everyone out together and get a taste of Danish nightlife. One interesting thing they do here is that you have to check your coat everywhere you go. When you go to a club, they make you check your coat before you can go in and it’s not FREE! Nightlife gets pretty expensive here. Saturday, our contact people at Tasingegade took us on a pub crawl. It turned out to be more of a “walk all over the city and get lost” crawl. But it was fun to get out and meet some Danes at the different places we went.

A4-sm.jpg Sunday was a big recovery day. Jim and I decided to go on an exploration walk around the city. We found this HUGE park that goes on for miles and circles around the soccer stadium. We walked around for hours and had a fun time.

A5-2-sm.jpgHowever, when it was time to go home, we saw the street we needed to be on but we decided to try to take a different route. We ended up walking 2 hours south of where we actually lived. In the end, it was a LONG day and we were exhausted when we got home, but it was fun to get out and see the city. “The Group” consists of me, Jillian, Jim, Drew, Alex and Jordan. We all live in the same building and we’ve all bonded. On Wednesday, we went to this amazing AMERICAN breakfast place. It was just what we needed after a long night out.

AND! Exciting!! We booked our first trip! We are going to Amsterdam the weekend after my birthday. We are going to go for 3 nights so we will get back Monday morning. I’m so excited to check out the city!

Next weekend, we have a short study tour with our program. Mine is going to Western Denmark and visiting some Danish companies that we have to do a written report on. We take a bus to all the places and then stay over night in hostels. DIS provides some of the meals and then we have the nights free. I think the trip will be fun, but I don’t know anyone in my class so I’m a little nervous.

Tonight we’re making tacos for the boys. I’m craving Mexican so it should be a good night.

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Honeymoon phase

We had our first beautiful, sunny day on Wednesday!! It was warm (relatively) and the sun was shining through the buildings. Jillian and I let ourselves sleep in Wednesday morning, until about 1:30 p.m. We really needed to catch up on sleep and we felt SO much better. When we woke up, we ate some cereal that we had managed to buy at the grocery store on Tuesday. We thought we’d be able to tell what everything was just by looking at it, but that was NOT the case. Just buying milk was a tricky task. Finally we got some items and we’ve even tried some new things like Danish yogurt and Danish chips. Of course we had to buy Nutella as well.

My room is finally feeling cozy. We bought some candles for the ledge by our window, a rug for our floor and bathroom, and some posters to bring some color. I really need a new pillow because the one they gave us is flat and lumpy. The room isn’t so bad anymore. I actually really like our location. We get a chance to see more of the city and we know how to use the bus and train like pros now.

A1-sm.jpgWednesday night we decided to venture to a place near us called Cafe Paris for dinner. It was our last “hurrah” before classes started the next day. We all had pizza (mainly because that’s all we could understand). We’re still getting used to the money here and we’re trying not to convert it in our heads.

A2-sm.jpgJillian and I both had 8:30 a.m. class this morning and when we left to walk to the bus it was still really dark. I had European Business Strategy. It is the core class for the IBE program and it is the class that we go on our study tour to Berlin/Prague with. I don’t know anyone in my class and I’m not sure if I’m going to have any best friends in my class, but we’ll see. After class, I had about 3 hours to kill before my next class. We needed to get some school supplies so we headed to Tiger and then got some lunch at our favorite bagel/sandwich shop. We’re becoming regulars there. We also went for a walk on Stroget, the main (tourist) shopping street in Copenhagen.

My next class was Holocaust and Genocide. Thankfully, Drew is in my class so that was comforting. The teacher has a strong accent but the class seems like it will be very interesting. My economics teacher is holding another class tonight since he’s going to be missing a week, so I have class from 6-9 tonight and then my regular class tomorrow.

We’ve all decided that we want to try this bike thing. EVERYONE rides bikes here and they have their own lane! There is a place that we can rent bikes for 180kr a month, which is only about $30. It’s a great way to get around. Drew got one today and he has already biked home on it. I took the bus leaving at the same time and I got home at the same time as him! Jillian and I are going to go on Saturday to the bike place and check it out. I’m going to try it for a month.

I have finally started to fill in my calendar. Turns out we have a lot going on. Drew, Jim, Jillian and I are going to sit down on Sunday and try to plan out our spring break. We want to go to Italy and somewhere else. Then we’re also thinking of going to Amsterdam for my birthday!

Everyone says we’re still in the “honeymoon phase” of culture shock, Everything is new and exciting and we’re not bothered by the climate yet. But they say it’s coming…

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Everyone says you have to get lost at least once

My roommate Jillian got in around 5:30pm last night. It was so good to finally unite with her. Then our “contact people” took us out for dinner … to Chinese! It was definitely not what I wanted to eat on my first night in Copenhagen. Jillian and I were wiped by 9pm so we headed home to settle a little more and hit the sheet. We both had a pretty restless night despite our exhaustion.

Today was the Opening Ceremonies. We all got up and met in the lobby of our building before heading across the street to a bakery for some breakfast. I swear their croissants were better than in Paris. I also had the best chocolate milk ever!

Then as a group of about 30 we all headed to the train station for our first experience on public transportation.

I tried to watch very closely to where we were going so that I could get my bearings. The trains and busses are SO nice and clean and new! It was actually a very pleasant experience on the train. Then we walked a couple blocks to the Glyptotek for the ceremony.

The building was SO cool. Apparently, the inside is designed to look like a Greek/Roman temple. There are TONS of Greek statues and they also have some Grench impressionism. It’s a really cool place and it’s free on Sundays so we’re definitely going back.

After the ceremony, we were released into the city for lunch. We met up with some of our friends who live downtown by DIS and they have a BEAUTIFUL, brand spankin’ new place. It has a huge kitchen and gorgeous bathroom. Jillian and I were definitely jealous. But we’ll make our room homey soon enough. First priority is a hair dryer, hangers, more pillows and some candles.

We had 2 more sessions today about DIS and living in Denmark. They were sort of boring…THEN! I had my first experience getting lost. We had to get back home from downtown BUT we had really no idea how to do that…so we just tried! And an hour later…WE MADE IT!

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Arrival in Copenhagen: No lost baggage!

I have officially arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark. I had a direct flight from Newark Airport right into Copenhagen.

I’m currently hanging out at the Copenhagen University with Emily (fellow SMU student). We were on the same flight, and it has been so nice to have a friend to travel with. It’s already 11am and it’s not even light out yet. Compared to home where the temperatures were around 10 degrees, the 35 degree weather in Copenhagen feels warm!

We’re waiting for our housing orientation. I’m living in the DIS Shared Housing. It’s like apartments exclusively for DIS students. I’m rooming with Jillian (also fellow SMU student). Again, while I’m so excited to meet new people, it is so nice to have a friendly face to look forward to when I walk into my room. We have a kitchen and bathroom in our apartment so we will be expected to make all our own meals. I’m really excited to be able to cook for myself finally! Much better than a sorority house!

We have a whole bunch of programs this week, including a crash course in Danish. Classes start on Thursday and I have an 8:30am class every day. Nobody in the program has class on Wednesdays because there are group study tours on Wednesdays with our classes.

Getting used to the Danish language should be interesting. Everything is typically in Danish and English … at least in the airport.

Overall, today has consisted of lots of waiting around. There were 50 other DIS students on my flight to Copenhagen last night. (I had a 5:30pm flight and arrived in Denmark at 6:30am this morning). I am THRILLED that I didn’t lose my bags or have any problems like several other students did.

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First impressions

I live about 20 minutes north of the DIS center. I need to take the train or the bus to get to my classes. Tomorrow, I’ll need to go get my train/bus/metro pass with the money they have given me.

Back to basics

My “dorm/apartment” is TINY! When they said kitchenette, they really meant kitchenette. We have a tiny mini fridge, 2 twin beds (that look smaller than a twin bed), 2 nice desks, a microwave and a burner. We hardly have any other amenities. There may be an oven and a coffee maker in the common area where there is a TV, but I have yet to investigate that. This is basically an old dorm room! I must say, the SMU rooms are nicer.

We have these little “closets” with one shelf and a bar. No place for folded clothing. I will need to be investing in some amentities for the room. There is a group IKEA trip in a few weeks that I will definitely be taking advantage of.

Now, the bathroom is a sink and a toilet and a cabinet. It’s all tile and then there is the shower with a curtain. But there is no ledge or wall protecting the shower water from the rest of the bathroom…that should be interesting. We will probably need some sort of bath mat and a shower caddy to keep things neat.

I also really feel like this whole place needs to be Cloroxed. I am going to buy a big container of Clorox wipes ASAP. We will also need some dishes, most likely we’ll just get paper stuff since washing dishes is a bit of a task. I need to find out what we do with food trash and how/where we do laundry. I have a HUGE list of things that I think I need such as a laundry basket, paper towels, a new pillow, hair dryer, FOOD, some sort of closet organizer, and we even need light bulbs because these lamps don’t have bulbs!! I think we need a rug too since we just have an icky fake wood floor.

The bedding seemed to be all brand new. There was a bottom sheet that came in a sealed plastic packaging as well as a duvet cover and a pillow sham for the most awkward shaped pillow. It’s also very lumpy. I’m very glad I brought my own towel wrap, shower shoes, and cozy blanket. It makes the room a little more homey especially since I won’t get to a store anytime soon.

Quick tour

My whole building is filled with kids. I already took a 10-minute walking tour with one of our “RAs”. He showed us some grocery stores, an ATM, and some good places to get take out. Tonight we’re all having dinner as a group at a Chinese restaurant around the corner.

It’s chilly here, but not really unbearable.

We have a busy few days with some more orientation stuff, a crash course in Danish, picking up our textbooks, and getting acclimated with DIS.

I’m wiped because I’m having serious jet lag but we’re supposed to stay up as late as we can so that we can get on a good schedule.

I’m still waiting for Jillian to arrive. I hope she gets here soon because I’m lonely!

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