Clara in Copenhagen

Clara is a junior journalism major in the Meadows School of the Arts, and the recipient of the Rotunda Award and Outstanding Scholar Award. During spring 2013, she is participating in SMU-in-Copenhagen and is looking forward to exploring Europe.

Copenhagen, my new home

I gotta say that as my semester in Copenhagen is drawing to a close, I have had more fun here than I can even express! Right now I am trying to squeeze every drop of enjoyment that I can out of it, because I know that I will dearly miss this place when I am gone!

At the start of this semester, I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the experience. In fact, of all of the European cities I had thought of spending time in, Copenhagen had never been the first one in my mind.  Not because I didn’t want to come to Denmark, but because it had never occurred to me to come here. But I’m oh so glad that I did. Copenhagen is not a top tourist destination – but thank goodness for that! I think it would take away some of the things that I have grown to love about this place if it were.  It is a unique city that elegantly blends the old and the new, in more ways than one.  The 17th century buildings that line Nyhavn Harbor are some of the prettiest in the city, but the cutting edge architecture found in other parts of town (for example the Opera House on the waterfront) show that Copenhagen is keeping up with the times.  It is not caught in its past the way some cities are.

It is also very progressive, being one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world and providing it’s citizens with impressive social benefits.Clara1

Not to mention the people are friendly, respectful and incredibly stylish and good looking. It is no wonder this is the happiest country in the world! And Copenhagen on its own is a center for fashion, art, music and business.

It has been the perfect place to study – not only because of the coffee and pastries, which have had an undeniable influence on my time here - but because I feel like I am living in a very hip, forward-thinking city while still enjoying a historical part of Europe.  There is no other place I would rather have spent this semester.  I definitely went through some highs and lows on this trip. The hardest part was during the very long, dark winter (longer than usual this year) that went late into the spring.

Not seeing the sun for so many months and living on a tight budget was no easy task, but I think I made up for it by the sheer amount of chocolate I ate to keep myself afloat! However, everything else about Copenhagen made it worth it, and the minute the sun came out, I took advantage of it by walking around the city more and staying out of my dorm room.  It reminded me that nothing but the clouds could dampen my experience!

Of all of the cities I have visited during this semester, I have to say that I really think Copenhagen is my favorite.  I am biased of course, but I now feel that I can really call Copenhagen home, making it that much harder for me to leave!  I’m going to leave my heart in Copenhagen, but I will be back soon to come and get it

Tak Copenhagen!

Clara

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Bonnie Scotland

I cannot say how happy I am to have been able to travel to this beautiful place.  I absolutely loved it.  Usually when you hear about places like this you can assume that the description is overdramatized, and that, while it may be beautiful, it is probably just as lovely as any other place in Europe. And after hearing so much about how wonderful it was I  couldn’t wait to see if it was everything I expected it to be. But after being there, I can definitely confirm that Scotland just IS that beautiful. The green rolling hills, the misty climate, Edinburgh castle towering above the ancient city – all of it is no exaggeration. And to top it off, our hostel was located right at the foot of the castle, so we were a stone’s throw from the Royal Mile and had a fantastic view of the city.Clara1

We spent the first day walking around Edinburgh Castle and along the Royal Mile (the main road leading up to the castle) where you could hear bagpipes playing at all hours of the day.  Oh, and I ate TONS of Scottish tablet, a very special candy bar (that is essentially pure sugar) only found in Scotland.  This experience was better than anything I could have planned for!

Later that evening, after enjoying a delicious lunch of fish and chips (and in Amber’s case, Hagis, a very traditional U.K. dish) we went on a “Haunted Tour” of Edinburgh, where we were taken down to the old underground vaults beneath the city. They were like large empty caves underground that had been used and lived in by some many years ago, but abandoned when the city was rebuilt. Our tour guide told us stories of the different ghosts that were thought to live in each vault, and although we only went to three or four of them, I was more than ready to get out when it was done! And there’s nothing like having a ghost story told to you by someone with a Scottish accent.

The following day, we climbed Arthur’s Seat – a dormant Volcano – which gave us an incredible view of Edinburgh from above. At the start of our climb it was partly cloudy, but when we reached the top it began to snow. The sun soon came out again later, so by the time we got to the other side of the mountain it was nice and clear. All in a day’s work for Edinburgh!

Clara2Later, I ran into a street performer who had a large crowd of people around him. He was going to juggle flaming torches while standing on top of a tiny platform atop a six-foot pole- and he wanted my assistance. Naturally, I said no. Just kidding! I helped pass him the flaming torches, and I even got a round of applause at the end! It’s the little things that make your day special.

The rest of the day was equally wonderful. I went for a walk down to the beach and just around the city for a while. Sightseeing can be exhausting, but I think it is important to look beyond the landmarks and do something that involves experiencing the culture of the place a little more. One of my favorite moments of the trip was on our first night, when Amber, Rose and I went to a pub called the “Captain’s Bar” where we listened to live music and played chess. I have never felt more scottish in my life! I’m glad I had that experience, and it was one of my favorite moments of the trip. All in all, I think that this city was magical in every single way and I could not have asked for a better experience.

Cheers, Scotland!
Clara

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London Town

London Town

London Town

On my second week off for travel, I was lucky enough to go to London and Edinburgh with my two friends Amber and Rose! I was very excited for this trip because these are both places I have been looking  forward to visiting for a long time, and have always had a special place in my heart for.  Yes, the countless Jane Austen movies, British TV shows, tea outings, Harry Potter (and other) books, scottish tablet, will-and-kate tabloids and other cultural phenomena have all made England and Scotland very high up on my travel to-do list.   After having traveled to Ireland,  already I felt lucky to top off my trip of the U.K. with these last two very important cities.

Here is one of my favorite songs that was running through my head the whole time we were in London: ”London Town” by Simon Lynge.

The first half of the week was spend in London. On the first day we went to Westfield mall to meet Rose’s friend and took it slow in order to get ready for the next two busy days.

We had tea - in Bath!

We had tea – in Bath!

On Day 2 we took a long bus tour to Salisbury Cathedral, Stonehenge and the City of Bath (including the Roman Baths). It was a long day, but by the end of it I had seen more landmarks than I could count!

Day 3 involved a long and wonderful day walking around London, beginning at Buckingham Palace and ending with a tour of the West End and Soho. We took a “Beatles Tour,” which brought us to many of the musical corners of the city, including Mozart’s apartment! Again, we hit so many landmarks in one short day that I think I am still trying to take it all in, but it was so worth it I’m glad we did. We ended our long day by treating ourselves to fish and chips at a great restaurant by Victoria Station. Mmm mmm good!

Clara3Clara4

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The Beginning of my Week in Ireland

Hello friends!

My long-awaited study tour with my communications class to Northern Ireland has already come and gone, and I have to say it was one of the best weeks I have had since being in Europe.  We left early Sunday morning. After spending a couple of days in Belfast, we spent our last day and night in Dublin.  It was not only one of the most enjoyable trips I have been on, but also one of the most interesting in terms of the things we got to see and learn about.  I felt that I learned more about Belfast from experiencing it than I ever would have had I tried to learn about it back in the U.S. or even in Copenhagen.  On top of that, I got to spend time with some wonderful people and go to fabulous locations and eat delicious food. On the whole it was a week I shall not soon forget.

The moment we landed in Dublin airport we hopped on a bus and headed to Belfast. We had our first tour around the city and were able to see how deeply divided the community was from the many years of conflict in the area.  We toured the area of  Shankill road and Falls road, two neighborhoods strictly divided between the Protestant and Catholic communities – Shankill road being Protestant and Falls road, Catholic.Clara 1

On Shankill road a Protestant tour guide showed us some of the important murals as well as many sites of violence as a result of the fighting between the neighboring communities. He showed us some of the murals painted on the buildings around the neighborhood and described the history of violence in the area, backing it with both historical facts as well as personal memories.  He even showed us the place where one of his favorite pubs had been bombed and had lost some of his life-long friends and nearly been killed himself.

Clara2It was fascinating to hear these stories from a person who had spent his entire life growing up on one side of the conflict, and who was even dedicating part of his career to showing others the things he had seen and experienced.

The most interesting aspect of the tour came  at the end however, when he showed us the wall that separated Shankill road from Falls road.Clara3

The wall serves as a peace line between both communities, to prevent further violence. It is very high, but covered in murals and writing from tourists who came and left their mark on it. It is also very long, and gated on both ends. As we walked along the wall, we finally met up with the other half of our group at the other end where the gate had been opened for traffic to pass through.

We were then handed over to the Catholic tour guide who took us on a similar tour through his neighborhood.  Unlike the Shankill Road, the Catholic area seemed much more residential. Many of the houses were very similar, all made out of brick, with crosses or statues of the Virgin in the windows.  It was all very gloomy, although that might have also been weather.

Clara4Our guide brought us around to look at the many murals in the area and also talked about what they meant to the Catholic community, and how they were physical reminders of the conflict that lay between these families and the ones just over the wall.

Clara5What was striking was actually how similar both tours were. Both sides focused on the murals that were everywhere, reminding people of the history that lay between the two communities and served as a constant reminder of a battle that should never be given up.  Both sides had tragic stories. Both sides were making efforts to keep the argument alive through murals sending different messages. They really had more in common with each other than not!  It was really an astonishing look at a truly isolated conflict.

Our tour guide gave us the opportunity to write on the wall as well, and I found something someone had written that I thought was very fitting.Clara6

To see two opposing sides in conflict, backed by hundreds of years of history, maintained in a small community, is something I never would have really understood without seeing firsthand.  But it is also fascinating to think that when you look at the skin and bones of it, it really comes down to nothing more than a wall. Although there is plenty of political tension, it no longer carries the significance that it did 100 years ago.  It seems that people create and maintain their struggles because sometimes it is easier than letting them go, even if they don’t really have to be there.  How many other parts of our world, even aspects of our personal lives, are also caught in this dilemma?

Tusen Tak!

Clara

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Sweden

A little while ago I went a short study tour with my Cross-Cultural Communication class to northern Denmark  and Malmo, Sweden.  There we saw a few examples of how clashing cultures are brought together, and it was a taste of what we will soon see on our trip to Northern Ireland.

Kronborg Castle

Kronborg Castle

First we traveled to Northern Denmark to Helsingør where we saw Kronborg Castle, also known as Elsinore, or Hamlet’s castle.  It was the castle that Shakespeare used as the location for the play Hamlet, renaming it Elsinore.  When I told my visiting family that I had visited Hamlet’s castle they scoffed and said, “Only a foreigner would refer to it as ‘Hamlet’s castle’ instead of ‘Kronborg.’” Sorry Danes! I guess I haven’t lived here long enough. The only unappealing thing was the pungent smell of sulfur (probably from the moat) at the castle.  So, is there something rotten in the state of Denmark? Maybe it’s just at Kronborg.

After seeing Kronborg, we took a 15-minute ferry ride to Sweden where we explored Helsingborg, a quaint little Swedish town. All of the buildings were beautiful, and the houses were very colorful and old (some dating back to the 17th century).

Houses in Helsingborg, Sweden

Houses in Helsingborg, Sweden

After that we took a very cold and wet hike down to Nimis, where a man named Lars Vilks had built a number of bridges and towers entirely out of driftwood. When Vilks heard that it was going to be knocked down, he had it registered as art so that the Swedish government couldn’t touch it, and then declared it a private nation called Ladonia. How the Swedish government feels about this I am not certain, but if you wish to be a member of this nation simply go online and register. The queen of Ladonia currently lives in the United States.

Entering Ladonia on the driftwood structure.

Entering Ladonia on the driftwood structure.

Next, for a couple of days we explored the architecture around Malmo, and went to visit a Swedish Newspaper (Sydsvenskan) and the Swedish television station (SVT-Sveriges Television.) At both places we spoke with reporters and news anchors about how they deal with conflicting cultures within the community and how they address sensitive issues. It was fascinating to hear their views on the way the United States has dealt with similar issues, and even how they believe Scandinavian countries are being portrayed to Americans. One news anchor was particularly upset that Malmo had been inaccurately portrayed in an American newscast as a very dangerous and conflict-ridden city.

Here are a couple of shots of the beautiful Swedish countryside:

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My home base in Denmark

Hello, friends!

I can hardly believe that I have already spent one month here in Copenhagen.  The time has gone by so fast – but you know what they say: time flies when you’re having fun! I finally feel like I am settling into life here in Denmark and my classes at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS).  Soon I will have the opportunity to travel around other parts of Europe as well, but first I must tell you a little bit about my home base in Denmark.

Copenhagen is a beautiful old city – there are cobblestones everywhere, and the old, slanted buildings (dating to the 18th century) that line the winding streets make the city feel like a maze.  There are cafés and bakeries on almost every corner, making it very easy to find a cozy spot to do homework after class.

Even though it is still pretty chilly here, the Danes know how to make things cozy and love to decorate their windows with flowers and candles. This is called “hygge” (pronounced hoo-guh), and the closest English translation is “cozy.” Hygge is more of a concept than a thing; it is the experience of enjoying time with friends and family and having fun, and encompasses everything from the atmosphere to just the feeling of coziness.

I went to dinner at the home of my Danish visiting family, and it was the perfect example of a very “hygge” evening.  We ate a large meal and sat around talking for a long time afterward, and by the end of the night I had been there for six hours! Hygge is a distinctly Danish thing, and is a huge part of the culture. If you understand hygge, you are on your way to understanding the Danes.

I am also thoroughly enjoying my classes at DIS. Each student is required to pick one core course, the class they will spend the most time traveling with and their primary focus at DIS.  My core course, Cross Cultural Communication, has given me the chance to do so much more than I would have expected from a study abroad class.  We have already traveled to Malmo, Sweden for our short study tour, and next week we are going to Belfast, in Northern Ireland.  There we will look at the affects of the cultural and political conflict that has been present in that region for many years.

I have found this class to be very relevant to my journalism major, but I think it can apply well to all students, regardless of their major.  I have learned a lot about the different ways in which we communicate with other people, and I think it is important to understand how we are representing ourselves, especially as Americans, to other cultures.

I have had the best time so far, and I am looking forward to the next few weeks when I will have the chance to do even more traveling. DIS puts great emphasis on travel so that students can actively experience the subjects they are studying, and not just learn about them from the textbook.  So I’m off to Ireland, and I cannot tell you how excited I am! I will write soon to let you know how the trip goes.

-Hej Hej!

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The Danes

I wanted to write a little bit about the Danes themselves, because they have been a large part of what has made my experience on this trip so interesting! It would be an understatement to say they are different from Americans – but that is what makes them so intriguing. To help describe what I have noticed about them, I have compiled a little list of some of their traits:

1. Get to the point, dammit!
The Danes are straightforward. They tell you exactly what they want and don’t bother with unnecessary formalities, making it almost jarring if you talk to one of them for the first time. I had to ask my SRA for some extra bedding, and after longwindedly explaining what was wrong with my first set she said, “Soooo….what do you want?” I quickly learned to trim the fat out of my sentences. This attitude can also be seen with waitresses, bartenders, baristas, and staff in clothing stores. They have places to be and things to do, and just because they’re job is to assist you does not mean that you should take an unruly amount of time picking what you want off the menu, or waste their time by trying to chat them up. I have not exactly gotten used to this, but I have found it kind-of refreshing-there is a lot less stress when it comes to communication. However, I sometimes miss being able to talk or joke with strangers on the bus or at the store and not have them look at me like I am a complete idiot.

A stylish couple walks along Stroget, a popular street for shopping in Copenhagen.

A stylish couple walks along Stroget, a popular street for shopping in Copenhagen.

2. Good Lookin…
The Danes are tall, blonde and beauuuutiful. The boys and the girls. Not to mention they have an excellent sense of style, even underneath their huge winter scarves and coats. I went to a very hip part of Copenhagen, a neighborhood called Norrebro, and a woman there told me that this was where the hipsters hung out. I was surprised because I could not even begin to fathom what a Danish hipster would look like-was there a cooler kind of Dane? With their skinny pants, oversized sweaters and perfectly tousled, just-messy-enough hair, they all look like they belong in an ad for Urban Outfitters. I remember a saleswoman who had studied abroad in Seattle telling me that she didn’t think Americans had any style. But then again, she did study abroad in Seattle.

3. Personal Space
The Danes have a highly developed sense of what constitutes personal space. This extends beyond the physical sphere, to the idea of mental and emotional space. They firmly believe that every person has the right not to be bothered in public, or even approached for that matter. Whenever I am on the the bus, if I start to shuffle my bags before getting up the person sitting next to me will automatically get up and move out of my way without even being asked. This happens all the time, and I do the same for others. Shuffling is just code for “excuse me,” because they believe that you shouldn’t have to waste your breath on actually speaking the words. It is a sort of unspoken understanding and quiet respect that people have for each other, that is actually very reflective of the Danish culture. They are a humble, quiet, and cooperative people, equal in everything! But don’t you dare take too much time looking at food in the grocery store or they will shuffle past you annoyed at your obvious lack of tack-shopping is a job that must be done quickly and efficiently with no dawdling, please.

A little girl and her father bike around Nørreport Station in Copenhagen

A little girl and her father bike around Nørreport Station in Copenhagen

4. Their children are adorable
They certainly know how to gear up for winter! Their children wear snowsuits-brightly colored neon or rainbow one-zies and the dogs all have tiny sweaters. I have tried several times to photograph these little ones, but it is best when you can catch the kids walking in packs on their way to school (or taking up all the seats on the bus), holding hands, creating a rainbow plethora of cuteness. It is a sight only seen in this part of the world, but lucky for you I have a few pictures so I can share the goodness!

5. Happy
Denmark has frequently shown in studies to be the happiest country on earth. Although you couldn’t tell just by looking at them (they are not big on smiling), the Danes do have a lot to be content about. Their relatively calm political climate, peaceful relations with neighboring countries, egalitarian social views and homogenous population has made Denmark one of the most peaceful countries in Europe. All danes have free healthcare, work about 37 hours per week and young adults are paid to go to University. In addition the country is very green, and almost everybody bikes to school and work. Aside from the gloomy weather, Denmark has a lot going for it! And how could you not be happy with so many cafés and pastry shops on every corner?

Do not get me wrong. Although the Danes are very reserved, when they open up they are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. You just might have to wait until they have had a drink or two. There is such a peaceful way of life here that I really enjoy it, and would not mind living here. If my list does not tell you enough about the Danish way of life, here is another article that might give you a better idea. It is all about how to avoid angering the Danes, and even though it is humorous it does help to describe why the Danes are the way they are.

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Nyhavn Harbour

I have to take the bus to get to school everyday, which is a very pleasant experience since the buses here are very nice, and almost everybody takes the bus to school or work.

Boats in Nyhavn Harbor in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Boats in Nyhavn Harbor in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Since this was the first week I managed to get a little lost one day. I got on the wrong bus assuming it was going in my direction, but when I realized I was in a different part of town I got off at the nearest metro station and started walking around.  I came upon these boats lined up in the frozen water along brightly colored buildings, located in Nyhavn Harbour.

This is actually the typical postcard image of Copenhagen you would find if you googled the city, so I knew I would have to take my camera back and get some pictures.  I did manage to find my school again, but I came back the next morning to get some photos of Nyhavn. It absolutely pays off to get lost in the city, I would recommend it to anybody!

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My Fairytale City: Part 2

I have realized that almost every post I make about Denmark is going to pertain to its fairytale-like qualities, so this is just the second of many other posts to come that will all include pictures of other fairytale-ish things. I haven’t even visited any castles, or the neighborhood of Hans Christian Anderson yet, but it’s all on my to-do list. Until then, here are a few more pictures of some of the sites I have visited.

The famous Little Mermaid statue in the harbor in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The famous Little Mermaid statue in the harbor in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The statue of Princess Marie of Orleans in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The statue of Princess Marie of Orleans in Copenhagen, Denmark.

My roommate Elizabeth stands next to a statue of Frederik of Denmark in Copenhagen.

My roommate Elizabeth stands next to a statue of Frederik of Denmark in Copenhagen.

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My Fairytale City: Part 1

Wouldn’t it be nice to live here? Oh yes, I do get to live here, and for a whole semester! As I was walking home from my first day of class I realized just how lucky I am to be spending this time here in Denmark, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is wonderful to not simply be a tourist, but to really have the chance to experience life here. Everything in Denmark really does look like art, but far from being just a tourist attraction this is a living, breathing place, and I feel lucky to be a part of it!

I haven’t had the chance to take many pictures yet with orientation going on, but here are a couplethat I took on my walk home at night. This is right in the middle of downtown Copenhagen, right outside of my school buildings.

The street right outside of the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Downtown Copenhagen, Denmark

The street right outside of the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Downtown Copenhagen, Denmark

A square outside of the DIS buildings in downtown Copenhagen, Denmark

A square outside of the DIS buildings in downtown Copenhagen, Denmark

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