What I Hope to Learn on Exchange in Copenhagen, Denmark
This semester I will be crossing one item off of my bucket list, which is to study abroad in Europe. After weeks and months of paperwork, organization, and patience, the fun can finally begin.
I will be attending the University of Copenhagen. I thought about going to Denmark rather spontaneously because I had never been to any Nordic countries and it had a lot of really great political science classes.
Copenhagen is also one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and the Danes are considered the happiest people on Earth. So what’s not to like? I hope that my exchange will help me learn some new ways of living and give me some tools to come back with.
My first month there I will be taking a Danish language course. Hopefully I will then be able to read signs more easily and order my coffee with a few Danish words.
Of course, as many point out to me, English is widely spoken in Denmark. However, anyone going on exchange in a country where the first language is not English should at least try to learn a little bit of the language. This is a way of respecting the country that is accommodating you and give you an easier time in making local friends.
While I don’t expect to come back a fluent Danish speaker, as it is considered one of the hardest languages to learn, I hope to at least be able to read what I’m buying.
The Danes have an infamous saying known as hygge. The term is untranslatable in English and has different meanings to different people. However, it essentially means fun or a special moment or feeling. It is usually found with friends, at home, and signifies simple pleasures.
This term can be largely found in the way Danish architecture and culture is structured. It emphasizes simple pleasures over material understandings of living. I hope I can bring a little bit of this mentality when I return. I tend to be a very unorganized person and could use some simplicity in my life.
I admire the simplicity of Danish design and architecture. It is largely similar to the style of IKEA furniture, which has classy and minimalist features. I think this style would help me cut down and help me stay more organized through decluttering. A chic, simple style is what I need.
Studying abroad will hopefully allow me to be more spontaneous and find joy in days with no plans. I tend to be very neurotic about making everything in my life planned out to perfection. I also am hard on myself when these plans don’t work out.
People I have spoken to who have also gone on exchange have said to me that the ability to travel when abroad makes it easier to lose your sense of constant control. I hope that I am able to build this skill while I’m here and take it with me when I return. Hopefully I will lose my fear of flying as well :).
The World Happiness Report has consistently ranked Denmark as the happiest country on Earth. This is rather interesting in my opinion for a country that is dark and cold for most of the year. However, the easy-going Danish attitudes and generous welfare system likely contribute to this.
Not only is health care universal and free of charge, students are paid monthly to go to university. Wages are also very high compared to most countries. Therefore, people have a net of security they can rely on.
Of course the flip side is that Denmark has the highest income taxes in the world. However, most Danes are quite happy to pay high taxes due to the benefits they receive from them. If I am able to leave with a few ways to become a happier person, this exchange will have been a success.
How to Make Friends in New Places
Lastly, I hope that I meet as many people from around the world as possible. This may be one of my biggest challenges as I am often nervous at the prospect of meeting new people. However, I hope to become more comfortable with spontaneous social interactions with people.
I think that one of the great things about going on exchange is that you can meet people from different parts of the world and have a permanent connection to your host country and to others. A goal is definitely to make a few local friends. This will give me an excuse to come back again once I leave!
Stay tuned as I will be writing for this blog throughout my semester here! If you have any questions about the process of going on exchange and how to choose your country do not hesitate to ask in the comments. That is, if I get over this jet lag.