“You’re going to Copenhagen? Wait, where is that again? Why there?” During the months leading up to my nine-hour flight to Denmark, these were the typical responses that I received from friends and family upon telling them that I was embarking on a semester overseas in Copenhagen. Now, I can’t wait to catch them up on all of the Danish habits that I picked up.
For starters, anyone who knows me knows that I am a Stonehill enthusiast- I love it all: the incessant door-holding, the “community” atmosphere that it fosters, the beautifully manicured campus, the athletics, the friendships that I have formed since being a student here, and the values that it upholds as an institution.
I knew that at some point over the course of my four and a half month whirlwind adventure, I would find myself seeking all of those things, for I was temporarily displaced from my identity at Stonehill. I am beyond thankful for that, however, because I was given the opportunity to rely on others in a new place and partake in a new culture, while simultaneously becoming much more independent.
While I was in Denmark, I learned not to take anything for granted but rather to take risks. I remember Skyping with my mom on my two-week mark of being in Copenhagen and, while I was already adjusted and had made close friends with everyone in my apartment, was sharing with her my anxieties and “what-ifs” about travel plans and living on a budget. I will never forget her words when she replied, “Catie, honey, think about all of the people who aren’t fortunate enough to receive an education, let alone do it in another country while traveling all around the world.” It was all I needed to hear. From that point on, whenever I was anxious about something, I just thought about those words.
When I was confronted with any sort of decision, I took the risk. When again in my life would I get to press “repeat” on this opportunity?
The semester then became a conglomeration of experiences in which I seized the moment: volunteering to hand out flyers to high-end designers for Copenhagen Fashion Week, staying up until six in the morning to watch the sunrise over the Nørrebro lakes in the city center, renting a bicycle for the semester to really immerse myself in the Danish biking culture (Everyone does it!), teaching myself how to cook (including my Danish favorite- “frugtsalat,” fruit salad with whipped cream and dark chocolate pieces!), celebrating “May Day” (a massive gathering in the city’s largest public park, Faelledparken, where thousands of people gather to enjoy a day off of work and celebrate the working class), and hanging out with my Danish visiting family, including two awesome sisters, as much as possible!
I learned that Danes are without a doubt some of the most happy-go-lucky, down to earth people that I have ever known. Starting at a young age, they focus on social development and overall happiness of their children rather than on test scores, one of the reasons why Denmark is known as “The happiest country in the world!” There is really no exaggeration there, I promise you.
The standard of living is rather high in Denmark due to the welfare model of living: high taxes, with the byproducts of universal healthcare and education, free of charge. That’s it, I thought. I’m moving there, I was sold after day one. With each passing day, I grew to love Copenhagen more and more. I was taking beginner Danish language and living smack dab in the center of a large metropolis, so the fact that I could say “Tusind tak!” (Thanks so much!) to someone who held the door for me or “Vi ses” (See you later!) whenever I left class, made me feel that much more at home.
Ten countries later, I am sometimes in disbelief that this semester even happened because it was gone in the blink of an eye, but with each week of travel or after any weekend trip, I always looked forward to being back “home” in Cope.
As far as how my semester abroad ties in with my Stonehill experience in general, I have come to realize how much I truly value the role that Stonehill plays in my life. If you were to ask any of the other ten American students that lived in my apartment, they would attest to the fact that a majority of our conversations revolved around me discussing Stonehill.
One of my friends became notorious for sarcastically asking me, “Wait, do you go to Stonehill?” because I wore my Stonehill apparel and talked about it incessantly. I can’t wait to teach my friends all about “hygge,” (pronounced “who-gah”) the Danish tradition that doesn’t have a direct translation but essentially means relaxing with good friends and loved ones while enjoying good food and drink accompanied by an essential of Danish culture, candles. Looking back on my semester abroad, it truly went by in an instant and everyday I think back to those memories and am forever grateful for the life changing experiences. For now, however, I couldn’t be more excited to be back at Stonehill.