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.