Well, we have officially been in Denmark for one week and I have absolutely fallen in love.
The plane to CPH was uneventful and super easy. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the DIS housing staff who immediately started some sort of orientation. I wish I could remember more details but honestly, the first day was fuzzy due to the lack of sleep, cultural shock, and the idea of moving in with a new family.
After a brief orientation, Sarah and I were greeted by our host mother Gitte. Our homestay is located in the small country town Køge (pronounced coo-ja). Our host family consists of our parents, Gitte and Robert, and their two children Frederik and Charlotte.
- Gitte is a retired prison guard (YEAH she is a badass) who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s so she spends the majority of her day exercising and cooking (BTW she is a phenomenal cook). The prison she worked at was maximum security and we have had many conversations about murder and cults it’s like real life Law and Order SVU and it’s amazing.
- Robert is the family jokester. I believe that he is some sort of janitor (not really sure), but he spent about 6 months building the beautiful house we are currently living in.
- Frederik is 17 years old and has the best English out of everyone in the house. He has Autism and loves all types of animals. Most of the meal conversations revolve around animal facts and talking about what he sees on animal planet. He attends a horse school which focuses their classes and lessons around riding and handling their horses.
- Charlotte, their 27 year old daughter is a nurse and does not live at home. She visits on the weekends for family dinners and for 40km bike rides with Robert.
Køge is about an hour south of Copenhagen, meaning our daily commute starts at 6:50 am with a 3km bike ride to the station before a 45-minute train ride. Fun Fact: the Danish have a very trusting society — they regularly leave their babies unattended in the pram outside of stores and restaurants while they dine, drink, and shop– so they rarely check to see if you have a transportation pass while you are on the train they just trust that you have bought and paid for one or you wouldn’t be on the train. The combination of bike and train is how we get to campus every day.
The DIS campus is not a traditional “campus” it is a cluster of random buildings that serve as classrooms, computer labs, library’s, and work spaces spread out in random buildings throughout the city. Google Maps has become my best friend as I try to navigate myself from one side of CPH to the other. Many people may wonder why I don’t use my handy dandy bike… WELL, CPH rush hour biking is the most terrifying thing I have ever witnessed. I’m still in disbelief. Imagine hundreds of bicycles constantly overlapping each other at high speeds rush hour– it’s no joke. Our host mother has advised us not bike in the city unless we absolutely need to.
Sarah and I spent the first three days of the week in an orientation type setting aimed at exploring the city and making new friends. Then, unfortunately, classes started. We have met many new students, but find comfort in the familiar Furman faces also studying at DIS. Although we are all spread out in different housing options and take different course loads Carly, Jay, and Celia are all current juniors who we see and spend the most amount of time with.
Overall, the week has been a whirlwind of events including but not limited to: walking 11 miles in 1 day DIScovering new places. Watching a student faint in the Danish version of the DMV because she was an epileptic and was not prepared for the flash. Trying to figure out how to take our bikes on and off the train. Making new friends over the obligatory after class 4 pm drinks at the Studenterhuset (a non-profit student cafe/bar/workspace). Having children and adults laugh at us because we are obviously clueless about whats going on. Joining a Danish Gym. Jay’s 21st birthday. Finding a gluten free pie shop. Partaking in a free 5 Seconds of Summer Concert. And biking at midnight.
Although I started the week with doubts about the distance between my homestay and the city, I am seeing how the peacefulness of Køge will be such a blessing. Our homestay has a beautiful garden which supplies the ingredients for most of our family meals, AND we are surrounded by amazing pastures/ fields which have increased my motivation for my early morning runs.
The Johnsens have slowly started warming up to us as we become members of their family. It makes Denmark feel more and more like home every day.
P.S. Here are some things I have learned about the Danes and Denmark:
- Beer, cider, and wine are cheaper than water.
- Water can only be purchased, and it is only sparkling.
- After you shower you have to hand dry the shower with a towel.
- Every meal is accompanied by coffee.
- Very few Danes buy or wear makeup.