Saturday, August 23, 2014

Talk Danish To Me: A Reflection & Wrap-Up Of My Amazing Summer

"So, how was Copenhagen?"

Although I have been asked variations of this question countless times, I still don't have a good answer to give.  Copenhagen was great.  An amazing experience.  So fun.  Loved it.

Each of those responses are 100% true, but they don't do justice to the incredible summer I had as a student in the 2014 International Summer University Program at the Copenhagen Business School.  There's so much to be said about living and studying in Denmark for six weeks that I struggle to find a simple answer to give.

Copenhagen in my eyes is a bit of a hidden gem in Europe.  Of course, being the capital of Denmark and Scandinavia with over a million residents, Copenhagen is not actually hidden.  However, when people think of popular places to go to in Europe, rarely would I expect to hear Denmark on the list.  (Even still, when I talk about my summer, some people ask where Copenhagen is.. and, no, it's not Dutch..)

Now, having toured various cities in Denmark and having lived in Copenhagen, I have realized just how much there is to do there.  Even in my final days abroad, the list of potential things to do and places to eat just kept growing.  There are SO MANY attractions to see in Copenhagen and activities to partake in.  As an ISUP Social Package participant, a few events were added to my schedule each week (which I loved and highly recommend), but beyond that, going out into the city and even just walking around made it impossible to be bored with Danish life.

Copenhagen is marketed as being a most-livable city, truly part of what makes it special.  Being a student in Tietgenkollegiet, (arguably) the world's best student residence, I lived a bit outside of the city center area.  Despite the distance, places to visit, hang out, eat, or shop were all a few steps or a few minutes away.  In the view of a Copenhagener, everything is just a bike ride away.  One is simply not cool without a bike in Copenhagen.  If I was going to be there any longer, a bike would be my first investment; however, as a six-week summer student, I found the metro system to be all that I needed.  The metro was safe, pretty clean, and mostly reliable (construction knocked out a few stops for a bit, but I was there during the summer season).  I've been on a few metros in my lifetime now, and Copenhagen's was the easiest to navigate.  Between walking, taking the metro, and paying for the occasional train ticket, I was able to go everywhere I wanted.

Reflecting back, I feel very satisfied with how my study abroad program went, and I'm not just saying this because my grades were released today...

Looking back at my goals before departing for Copenhagen, here's my thoughts now that I am back to my home country:

PASS MY CLASSES-- ...check!  As of today, my exam grades are posted, and they both were scored a 10!  A 10 might not be perfect on the 12-point Danish grading scale, but it's a perfect grade in my eyes.  Both Fundamentals of Finance and Intro to Marketing are completed, passed, and transferring to CMU!  This summer was officially successful academically as well as personally.

Just in case you didn't believe me--scores were released today and I made it!

Make unforgettable memories and friends from around the world-- Here's where I'd like to thank all of the people I met abroad for such an amazing summer.  Many of you are Americans, too (several just a ferry ride away across Lake Michigan), but many are not, coming from numerous other countries.  Some of you I met just briefly, whereas some of you I hung out with all the time, but each and every one of you contributed to the memories of ISUP that I will have forever, and for that, I'm grateful.  I wish I had more time to get to know many of you better, but know that you're always welcome in Michigan.  Keep in touch, and otherwise, best of luck in the future!

Experience Copenhagen. Ride a bike, sample an open-faced sandwich, ride an attraction at Tivoli Gardens. Learn some Danish.-- Returning home, I feel satisfied with my time in Denmark and happy to have done all of these things.  I spent a day riding the Tivoli attractions, tried a piece of a traditional sandwich at the international dinner, and rode a bike my final day in Copenhagen.  Beyond that, I did so many more things that it'd be a challenge to list them all!  Did I come home proficient in Danish?  No, but I know a few words and know more about their culture, and that's what matters.

Exercise- did I ever go for a run (besides running to/on the metro..)?  No.  Being abroad, though, I did a lot of walking.  My sore feet were evidence enough to me that I was moving around and not being lazy.

Go to Sweden-- yes, I took the train for a day trip with some friends, and it was a pleasant experience!

Live in the moment and have a great time.  Who knows when or if I'll ever be in Denmark again.-- My six weeks in Europe was unlike any other experience I have ever had, and I am happy to say I enjoyed myself!  Copenhagen will forever have a piece of my heart, and I will remember my time there for the rest of my life.

With that, all of the goals I had prior to my study abroad program were achieved and more.  Residing in and exploring Denmark for six weeks provided an unforgettable, irreplaceable opportunity to learn more about a new culture, myself, and life itself.  It's clear how blissful I was while spending time in the happiest nation, and my smile in pictures proves it.

Now, as people remind me, it's "back to reality," as I'm back to CMU.  Since my plane landed in the States, life hasn't slowed down, thanks to work and moving up to Mount Pleasant.  Thankfully, I've been too busy to allow myself to feel too much reverse culture shock, though there are definitely differences- some that I miss and others I do not.  Jet lag only stuck around for a few days, so my body is back to normal eating and sleeping times.

Thus, this summer's adventure is ending, but surely, more is in store for me.  Before I even left Copenhagen, I didn't want to go, and I have started thinking about my next journey.  As the CMU Office of Study Abroad urges students, in the words of Mark Twain, "Explore.  Dream.  Discover."  That's exactly what I've been doing and will continue doing.  Thank you to everyone supporting me along the way.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Goodbye, Copenhagen

Currently (as I drafted this blog on Sunday, August 3), I'm sitting on a plane, thousands of miles away from where I spent my summer--the bulk of it, anyway. Flying back home, a mix of thoughts float through my mind.

The process of returning home itself can be a bit exhausting. Moving out of my dorm yesterday, walking around the city, then waking up in the morning and arriving to Lufthavn today (Copenhagen Airport) all within about a 24 hour time period, in retrospect, is quite a bit of activity in a day's time.  

After turning in my Tietgen keys yesterday, I trekked across town to check into my hotel for the night. Elyse and I had booked Hotel Nora a few weeks ago since we both were staying one extra night. The nice, kind-of quaint hotel was a straight shot from Norreport metro station, about 10 minutes away. However, with how much stuff I was carrying, this walk was a haul. At that point, I had two smaller bags on my hands plus my suitcase and tote bag carry-on. If I thought dragging my bags and feet through the gravel leaving Tietgenkollegiet was rough,  long walk down uneven sidewalks leaving the metro was miserable.

Very last breakfast in my kitchen!

Room is cleaned.  Bags are packed.

Sad face in response to leaving Tietgenkollegiet 153.

After leaving my keys in the ADM mailbox, I officially became a non-resident of Tietgenkollegiet.

Bye, Tietgen!  Thanks for being the best dorm ever.

Last time boarding the metro at Islands Brygge, the stop I took practically every day while in Denmark.

Cooling off in the hotel reception room while playing on my iPad and drinking chocolate milk (it comes in a can!).

However, life was better after resting in the hotel reception, waiting for our room to be ready. We ended up on the top floor in room 445, so I left my suitcase downstairs at the desk. Call me lazy if you want, but I was not about to haul it up the stairs because our hotel was elevator-less.

The hotel entrance was a bit tucked away, so it was kind of hard to tell where to go at first.

Hotel Nora

Upon getting settled, we left our hotel and headed towards Osterport.  There, we rented white City Bikes for an hour. After putting in our information and credit card numbers for the 25 DKK deposit, Elyse and I were off to bike the city: one of my absolute must-dos while in Denmark. 

My ride!

Now that I have ridden a bike here, I would adamantly recommend it to anyone coming to Copenhagen.  Biking the city was everything I could have wanted it to be: an exhilarating, fun, and slightly terrifying adventure. Because the weather that day hadn't already changed from slightly cool and perfect to hot and sunny, the rain had to start pouring during our ride. Being pelted with water while biking next to traffic essentially was quite exciting, but I wasn't too bothered by the rain. Just in general, biking was exciting, especially starting, stopping, and turning. I hadn't ridden a bike very much outside of bike paths in my lifespan, so this was hands-down the most hardcore biking experience I have ever had. I would do it again absolutely.

An hour later, we clicked our bikes back in a rack outside of Central Station. Satisfied with my $5 bike ride, truly a cultural experience, we took a bus back to our hotel to freshen up before heading out for the rest of the evening.  Our first stop was Amalienborg Palace, where I wanted to get a picture with a guard.

My best attempt at a picture with a guard at Amalienborg Palace.
For Elyse, we went to the fountain near St. Alban's Church for pictures, then we headed off in search of open-faced sandwiches at my request.  My kitchen mate, Sara, had suggested a good place to go to, so that's where we went. Unfortunately, it was closed, so we walked back to Nyhavn and the Happy Wall for some final snapshots before going to Christianshavn.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to sample any smorrebrod here, since the kitchen stops serving food at 4:30.  At least we tried!


Walking through Christianshavn, of course we would pass Christiania.  This is the view from the opposite side of the bridge.

There, Kulturhavn was taking place, Denmark's largest harbor festival. The event with live music and dancing was held at Papiroen: Copenhagen Street Food. There, I ordered a classic Danish hotdog as I'd been wanting to try one. 

My family and friends would be proud to know that I ordered the Klassisk Dansk hotdog and ate it with all toppings.

People were dancing outside of Copenhagen Street Food as part of Kulturhavn.

After walking around Christianshavn more and seeing "the other side of the water" (being across from the side we normally were at), we took a metro boat across the water. We walked around a bit and back to our hotel from there.

Opera House

View of the canal looking across from the Opera House

"You better get to getting on your goodbye shoes."  These sandals broke during my last day in Copenhagen, so I did throw them out, but it was good timing being able to wear them for so long.

The Happy Wall

One last waffle cone in Copenhagen, a sweet way to cap off the night.

Walking in, I checked to make sure my bag wasn't unattended. Peeking around the corner and seeing a worker, I continued upstairs until I was stopped. Turns out, the desk was closing at 10,  and the receptionist was ON THE PHONE with my mother, not knowing if someone had left the suitcase behind. After six weeks of not calling each other or talking in person, just hearing her voice was a strange feeling. Nevertheless, upon assuring both of them that everything was fine, I dropped the rest of my stuff off before going back down for my suitcase. So much for not hauling my 50-pound (most likely, overweight), stuffed luggage up three more floors of stairs.

In the end, it was convenient though as I rearranged and packed my belongings. Finalizing packing this morning, all of my belongings were distributed across my backpack, purse, tote bag, and suitcase (without unzipping the extra two inches of room).  Everything is stuffed to the brim, but oh well.

After breakfast and quick errands (recycling a few cans and buying a wienerbrod pastry), I was on my way to the metro. While sweating it out lugging my stuff across the bridge, an ISUP friend (who lives in Copenhagen) passed by on his bike, saying "Goodbye, Andrea!"  Even in a city of over a million people, it's possible to run into people you know, and it was a sweet surprise seeing Justin on the way out!  Then, when I finally made it down to the metro, Luke was waiting for the airport as well, so we headed there together.  What a small world! 

Once I checked myself in, dropped off my bag, went through security, had my passport exit-stamped, and got to my terminal and gate, I didn't have too much of a wait before boarding. With that, my time in Copenhagen was over.

Hej hej, Danmark. Goodbye, Denmark. Thanks for an unforgettable summer; I will miss you.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

If Today Was Your Last Day

Since my last post, classes have concluded and so has the International Summer University Program.  On Thursday, my summer courses ended when I took my four-hour Introduction to Marketing final, which was a pretty decent exam.  As with Fundamentals of Finance, I am not expecting flying colors or anything, surely not a Danish 12.0, but I am pretty certain that I passed at least.  Undoubtedly, I tried my best!  Having 100% of final grades based on one final examination is definitely different than what I'm used to, so we'll see how well I adjusted when scores are released!

The building where exams took place...

...was located across the street from the beach at Amager Strand!

Celebrating the end of exams, I bought my first romkugle at a bakery on my way back to the metro.  This Danish dessert is comparable to a cake pop, in my opinion, but arguably even better tasting, and in this case, coated in coconut! 

After lunch in my dorm, it was time to pull my suitcase back out.  Remember that time my suitcase was expedited from Amsterdam..?  It seems like so long ago that I was waiting at baggage claim, but at the same time, it feels like just yesterday.  We'll see if my suitcase takes any other adventures without me on the way home!

I also took the time to complete course evaluation forms.  (They were online surveys, not Scantrons like at Central, which was great!)  Only as a study abroad student do you rate the English skills of your peers, your professors, and yourself!

At night, after a great dinner with two of my kitchen mates, I walked around the city with Elyse.  Although the parking lot and graffiti wall I pass on the way to the metro might not be the prettiest scenery, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I liked the way the sunset hit the water!

The Happy Wall in downtown Copenhagen

The symbolic anchor at Nyhavn had NO ONE sitting around or on it.  The best part of taking a relaxing walk around the city on Thursday night was seeing the sites sans tourists.



The Opera House

The Little Mermaid at night!  I was 1 of roughly 5 people at the statue; during the daylight, that's unheard of!

Characteristically, I had a waffle cone: this time at Vaffelbageren, a popular ice cream parlor at Nyhavn.  If it makes it any better, I get new flavors each place I go, so I sampled Daim, Florentiner, and a multi-color fruity kind (I don't remember the Danish name exactly).

Yesterday was the last official day of my study abroad program.  After sleeping in a bit, I met Elyse to see the Changing of the Guard at Amalienborg Palace.  The process ended up being much longer than expected, lasting from noon to about 1 pm, but it was something I had wanted to see.  Afterwards, I made grilled cheese with some pasta for lunch in my kitchen.  (After all this time, I finally feel comfortable cooking in my section's kitchen!)  From there, it was time to work on packing, clean, and relax a bit.  The night ended with a fancy dinner on Nyhavn with Lauren and Elyse, walking around downtown, and participating in the final Social Package event: the goodbye party.  Though I didn't end up taking pictures with everyone as I had originally hoped or even saying goodbyes, seeing these now-familiar faces one last time was what mattered.  Heading home at the end of the night, the fact that this would be the last time I went to Tietgenkollegiet really hit me.  It's just about the end of my time here.

Amalienborg Palace

Waiting for the Changing of the Guard to start, right before a guard came over and warned us in Danish to get off the sidewalk.

My NyhavnC chicken burger and apple juice (cheaper than water!)

Dinner with a view

Every time I see Nyhavn, I take pictures, but the view just doesn't get old.

Now, I'm sitting in my dorm room, blogging in Tietgen for the last time.  My room has been cleaned, and I'm almost ready to go.  By noon, I will no longer be a resident here at Tietgenkollegiet.

One by one, all of the wonderful people I've met over these past few weeks have been heading to the airport and flying out: some jetting off to other travel adventures but most returning home.  My departure doesn't happen until tomorrow, though: giving me one last day in Copenhagen before going back to the US.

With the bulk of my belongings I'm trying to cram in my baggage, let's hope for smooth travels to tonight's hotel...

After that, my last full day in Copenhagen will be spent soaking up the city, taking tourist pictures, eating traditional food, biking, and checking out a local festival happening this weekend.  Here's to having a great day in this beautiful city.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Final Week, Finals Week

As cliché as the phrase is, time truly does fly when you're having fun.  Looking back on my time in Copenhagen thus far, that's exactly what I've been doing.

Studying, of course, has been involved, too, with preliminary assignments, midterms, and some reading.  Lectures were Monday-Thursday every week with a few Friday sessions as well.  Recently, I have been putting the study in study abroad more thanks to my two final exams taking place this week.

On Monday, I completed my four-hour, sixty-question Fundamentals of Finance exam.  Though I can't be sure how well I did, I'm pretty confident I at least passed the exam.  Some questions were more challenging than others, and several questions caused me to second-guess, but ultimately, the assessment did not seem too awful.

With one class done (yay!), I have one more to go.  My Introduction to Marketing final exam is tomorrow, but after that, I am free to enjoy my final days in this wonderful city.

These past few days alone, I have gone from Kronborg Castle to Christiania, from Baresso to Bakken, and to many other places in between.  Even though I've been in Copenhagen since June, there's still so much more to see and do.  To be honest, when choosing this study abroad program, I did not know there would be that many activities and attractions in Denmark.  My summer in Copenhagen and the experiences I've had truly reflect how great it is to live here.

On Saturday, three friends and I took a train to Helsingor to see Hamlet's [Kronborg] Castle.  There, we went on a thirty minute introduction tour of the castle before exploring the rest on our own.  Afterwards, we walked into the town a bit and had some Italian food for lunch before returning to Copenhagen.

Castle ahead!  I loved the pavement directions.

Ballroom inside the castle where royalty would impress guests.

The castle's chapel, a Lutheran church!
Our ticket let us enter the casemates of the castle.  It was a bit dark being underground!

Mini model and actual castle.

Cute, patriotic Danish flags wave across the streets in Helsingor.

On Sunday, I took the opportunity to go museum-hopping and tourist-shopping.  Since the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum is free to the public on Sundays, I wanted to check it out!  From there, I bought a few souvenirs downtown before finding Nationalmuseet (which always has free entry).

View from my walk past Islands Brygge towards city center/ the museums

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

Turns out, it is an art museum.. and this piece was probably my favorite.  I find the expression to be pretty funny.

Am I studying abroad, or am I on a tropical vacation?  (Just kidding.)  The center of the museum had a garden with palm trees!

Ballet dancer sculpture by Degas

After some searching, I found museum #2.  At this point, I was already pretty satisfied with how many museum exhibits I had seen, so I didn't spend much time here.

From what I did see of the National Museum, there were several representations of Jesus' passion (plus plenty of artifacts from Denmark's history).  The museum is also set in what used to be the residence of some royalty.  Since the Nationalmuseet prides itself on being selfie-friendly, I took a selfie in this old-fashioned bedroom.

On the walk home, I passed the pretty Christiansborg Palace (from behind).

Hungry from my journey, I bought dessert (bottom left corner, second pastry from left) at a random bakery for part of my late lunch.

I took the long way home and walked past one of the Big Four accounting firms.  Nothing like a good reminder of why I'm here.  (Okay, classes towards my degree is only part of the reason!)

After Monday's finance exam, I finally was able to exerience Christiania.  Christiania is world-famous for being a free town or hippie commune.  No photography is allowed, which adds to the mystique (though I did sneak a few shots of the nature path we took inside and a pretty view of the water).  The area doesn't have the greatest reputation, which is why I hadn't checked it out earlier by myself, but I felt completely fine.  Walking around with Ronnie and Elyse during the day, nothing was unsafe about our being there.  I even made a purchase: nothing bad, just a 20 DKK braided-leather bracelet.

Our Savior's Church in Christianshavn on the way to Christiania

Approaching Christiania!

Leaving Christiania, going back home to the European Union.

Afterwards, we grabbed waffle cones and headed for Frederiksberg Have.  A friend was playing a mini-concert, so we sat in the grass, relaxed, and listened to some songs to cap off a long but successful day.

One of the best waffle cones I have ever had, and the ice cream was pretty good, too!

My view in the park.

How picturesque is Frederiksberg Have?!

Yesterday (Tuesday), I met my friend Lauren at the Danish coffee chain Baresso at Norreport.  After purchasing a muffin and Chaiz (frozen chai-cino), we were off to the train station.  For only a two-supplement ticket (24 DKK) to my monthly metro pass, I was able to ride to Klampenborg, where Bakken, the world's oldest amusement park is located.  Along the way, a friendly woman noticed the uncertainty Lauren and I had regarding which trains to take and said, "Follow me!"  Thanks to her kindness, we successfully made it to our destination with plenty of time to buy wristbands and ride "alllll the rides."

We ended up not quite going on every ride--as I wasn't feeling the best towards the end--but we hit all the big rides, nonetheless.  I had fun again being an amusement park guest, knowing that exactly one week later, I'll be back to work as an amusement park associate.

These moving/spinning platforms are a common way to hop on and off amusement park rides in Denmark, I've noticed.

Before getting soaked on the very first ride!

Looks harmless, right?  The ride turned out to be kind of scary, like a haunted house.

I enjoyed being at the world's oldest amusement park; going was definitely a necessity while living in Copenhagen.

I love the coasters in the sun. ;) The ride at the front, Tornado, was quite thrilling.  I didn't realize I chose the wrong side to sit on, so Lauren and I were backwards riding this roller coaster.  Across from us were two Danish children: one, a boy with a maniacal laugh.  Going on rides with random Danes did enhance the experience of Bakken, that's for sure.

Let's fly!

I beat Lauren on this shooting ride.  All the while, I hadn't realized I was hitting many targets or that it was even working!

Trying to decide where to eat, we found this 25-kroner place!  Not a bad deal.

Oh so Danish.. my two-scoop waffle cone topped with whipped cream and jam!

Finishing off my second ice cream cone in two days--yes, I have had a good number of waffle cones here, it's fine--is where some excitement happens.  I say excitement loosely, because I'm not entirely thrilled with the outcome, but the story does get interesting.  We sat down to eat our desserts, so when I was done, I was going through my bag (drawstring CMU backpack, fire up!).  Rummaging through everything, I knew something was missing, and patting my pockets, my phone was nowhere to be found.  The last time I recall using it was at the train station, checking the time; somewhere between Norreport and Bakken, 12:12 to roughly 4:30 pm, my phone either fell or was taken from my pocket or bag.  I went to both information sites for lost-and-found as well as several of the rides I went on, and nobody found a phone, though the ride operators were extremely nice about trying to help.  Feeling sure that further searching wouldn't yield advantageous results, I resolved to email the address given to me by the park, and we left Bakken.

Fun times at Bakken!  Lost my phone but gained some memories, right?

Before leaving Klampenborg, at the suggestion of our friend from earlier in the day, we went to the beach.  We wished we had swimsuits and other beach gear, because it turned out to be so nice!  The water wasn't cold, and the beach was sandy.  Pretty perfect.

This side of the beach appeared to have a pier.  Walking the pier in Grand Haven on Lake Michigan is one of my favorite pastimes, so I suggested we go walk the pier.  As we approached the area, however, there were several nude people; awkwardly, we turned around and walked away!  Not at all what we were expecting.  That moment was definitely one of the strangest and uncomfortable (culture shock, I guess) moments of studying abroad here! 

Once I got back to my dorm, I contacted my mom regarding my phone.  There had been no activity on my phone, which is good and bad I guess.  Since I don't have an international plan, I was primarily concerned about the fees if someone tries using my American phone.  Unfortunately, being abroad, there's no way to call my phone and find it (my phone has been on airplane mode this entire time), and I'm pretty sure it's gone forever.  Who knows what happened, and why I'm phone-less indefinitely, but I'm mostly sad about all of the pictures I'll never get back.  Before coming to Denmark, I literally never used my camera, so all of the other fun activities I've done in the past year or so (including my Alternative Breaks, mission trip, and second-year college life in general) were documented on that Droid Mini.  (In Copenhagen, I still took quite a bit of photos with my phone.)  I will never have those reminders back, so for that, I'm disappointed.

On the other hand, phones aren't everything.  They can be replaced.  I'm sure I'll get another cell phone to use once I return home.  Until then, I'm going to enjoy not having a phone to stare at.  Living in the moment is underrated.  As I keep saying, my peers and I only have so much time in Copenhagen.  For most of these people (hopefully not all), I know that goodbyes are fast approaching.  Until then, I want to make the most of my final time here.

Thus, it is time to study up for tomorrow's four-question essay exam in hopes of a successful ending to Introduction to Marketing and to the rest of the week.