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Things I’ve noticed when traveling through Europe

Tips for travelers that I have discovered or re-discovered throughout my semester abroad:

1) Siestas are effective (eat lunch late, rest from early mornings, eat dinner late, and make and use of nightlife)
2) Nightlife= wee-hours-of-morning life
3) The dollar fluctuation actually matters in the real world!
4) Use of the metro is SUPER convenient.
5) When packing a suitcase to travel, it’s better to pack an L.L. Bean backpack instead (airlines are a crapshoot and sometimes tell you that suitcases are too big, re-wearing jeans is necessary evil, you may be doing extensive walking on cobblestones so rolling bags are not ideal, weather can be difficult to pack for so be realistic about the forecast and be prepared!)
6) Americans are not always well received, especially by rude Italians
7) Overall levels of trust and social responsibility are different in every country. Thus, you and your possessions will be safer in some places than others.
8) YOU must find you own balance between wandering vs sightseeing/doing both.
9) People within certain cities act differently (Italians have a more leisurely walk than Danes, Greeks sit around in squares, Italians spend much time at cafes/trattorias, London metro is brisk)
10) ALWAYS have a charger for all devices AND an extra adapter (or else our plugs are useless)
11) 3 things to never leave home without: debit card, granola bar, shower flip flops!

With these tips, everyone can learn from my mistakes and misconceptions. I hope you have safe and comfortable travels!

Much love.

Things We Take For Granted in America & at Villanova

If you think American life is boring and annoying, you’re not alone. A bunch of people here hate on America and think they are going to turn into a real live European (or even a Dane!) just because they’re studying abroad.

While I think there is some value in appreciating the Danish culture and taking aspects of it home, I disagree with this “high on study abroad” attitude. America is a considerable part of who we are, from our habits to our values.

Now that Mia and I  have spent much time outside of America, we have thought about the things we miss about living in America, at Villanova, with our friends and family surrounding us. In a particularly long ab ride, we decided to write them down for our readers!

Take a look at Mia’s and My Compiled List of Things We Take For Granted. (click on the words, they’re a link!)

Warning: More lists to come, this is how I process things.

Much love.

SLOW DOWN, TIME!

Time seriously needs to slow down. It’s 3 AM here in Copenhagen, and I’m starting to think that I’ll be sleeping a bit less in these last 17 (technically 16 now!) days abroad. 

In a sudden burst of energy, I finished my presentation and two of my final papers today! This ridiculous burst of motivation and energy usually happens to me once a semester, so I guess this was my one turbo-charged school day. Combined with my arts and crafts day yesterday, my obligations for the semester have been trimmed down to ONE remaining paper and ONE remaining final exam!! I couldn’t feel more accomplished.

Why, then, should I quit sleeping?! The answer is obvious: TIME IS RUNNING OUT!! Although I am getting excited to see my family and friends back home, I still feel like there is so much love I have yet to express to Copenhagen. More pictures need to be taken, more sights seen, more windows shopped. Even if I was here for a year, I probably wouldn’t do it all. While that is the amazing part of living in such a dynamic and beautiful city, the truth is, I’m a little bummed that I won’t be able to feel like “I came, I saw, I conquered.” 

In the end, I know that I will have made the best of my study abroad experience. Especially now, since much of my To Do List has been accomplished, I have room for more fun stuff!

Look out Copenhagen, here I come! (again, and probably not for the final time in my life, either)

Much love.

This Morning I WAS Sad.

This morning I was sad. 

Sleeping was not an option because of the jackhammering outside my window from 7:45 on. So I had to think of a new diversion. The gym worked wonders, but I still felt something missing. 

Then I remembered, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, all the amazing people in my life. Starting with yesterday on my Facebook, I looked back on ALL the pictures at the great fun I was having with great people. This semester, summertime, sophomore year, the holidays–all the time I’ve been smiling my head off, having a grand old time.

That’s when I decided, even though I miss home, I’m going to make these last 25 days the most fun days of the semester! (This will require that I bang out my bigscaryresearch papers and study smart for finals, but who says I can’t do that?) Tomorrow is “Thanksgiving.” I’ve got an art project in the making for an exhibition with my Learning Community. The streets are starting to look like Christmas. Hell, I’m doing just fine!

So now that I’ve given you a look into my mentality for today, I hope you will have a similarly uplifting experience today. Look around you, and think of something to appreciate. Laugh about a silly memory. Then, get up and go make another one!

Much love. 

Honesty Corner

Readers, I have to be honest. While studying abroad has been a really positive experience for me, this has been an emotional week. Since this blog is about staying true to my actual experience, I want to be honest and tell you how horrible I’ve felt at times during the past week.

Coming off of Winter Welcome Week, I thought I would be all set to survive the winter, having welcomed it with such enthusiasm. I guess I don’t know myself as well as I thought I did. No amount of celebration can fool me. Winter here is cold, dark, and wet, and there is no way around it. I have obligations to fulfill, and the papers and oral Danish exam I had due today were not going to write or study themselves! Usually, at home, I need a personal invitation between December 1 and February 1 to do ANYTHING, including go to the gym, attend class, or really just leave my bed. All I want to do is cuddle with my closest friends in my giant warm bed and chat. That’s basically the definition of the Danish concept hygge, or cozy, which the Danes use as a cultural rule to foster community and relationships in their otherwise private personal lives. Anyway, Danes like to be hygge  in their time off and think that this weather is no big deal. Even when it rains they just keep on biking to and from work, walking around, even wearing heels! But for some reason, I can’t quite seem to get over it. Cognitively, I know that it is so stupid to cry because it got dark out at 3:15 PM, but on Monday, that’s what I did. I cried, called my mom, and told her I wanted to go home. For the FIRST TIME this trip. And it felt awful.

Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe it’s me finally getting homesick, but for some reason I’ve just been bumming this week. Beneath everything I’ve done has been an undercurrent of despair that I can’t seem to shake. Last night, my friends even noticed it on the dance floor at a Copenhagen Business School party, which is a red flag for me. If I’m not one of the spunkiest people at the party, you know there’s a problem.

So my plan thus far is to get more sleep (now that my 8:30 AM class just ended for the semester), go to the gym consistently (no more skipping for self-made holidays), and take Vitamin D pills that I bought from the health store under my apartment. My little fitness instructor (and brother) Ben says that exercise is a great way to feel better, so I should definitely continue to go even when I don’t feel like moving at all.

Equally important, I will continue to make the best of the remaining days I have to spend in Copenhagen. While my funk could be from homesickness, I also DO NOT want to leave my city! I’ve made such a functional, enjoyable life here with new friends and a comfortable routine. We were making a list of things we still want to do as we sat around the candles tonight, and that list is much smaller than the list of things we have already accomplished. I am so proud of myself for making this semester so unforgettable, and grateful for the opportunity that I have here. So, while homesickness is a natural thing to feel, I am not convinced that this is why I’m feeling blue. I honestly think it might just be this damn weather!!

Actually, I’m feeling a bit better already. Sometimes if I write my thoughts out on paper, they seem easier to manage. In this case, I’m doing all the right things to counter my feeling of despair. Even if it’s just Seasonal Affective Disorder (which I am pretty sure that I have, along with half the people I know) then I’ll be able to handle it for the next month until I can go home to America, where somehow things like this don’t seem so unsurmountable. I’m a big girl now… or at least, I’m getting there.

Much love, and a few tears, and 37 days left to make this semester my own!

Art Museums & Bike Tours

By now I have visited more art museums than ever in my life. I am officially the SuperTourist. Every Wednesday, we have Field Studies for our classes (sometimes multiple trips in a day, for up to five hours each!) which have provided me with free guided access to museums and attractions all over Denmark.

Between my Short Study Tour in Western Denmark (Odense, Skanderborg, & Aarhus), and Field Studies for my classes, I have visited the Nationalmusset, Aros, Statens, and Danish Design Museum. With my Living & Learning Community, we did a 10 mile bike tour of Copenhagen’s architectural sites. We have also seen the Red Square, Round Tower (right down the block from our house!) and the Church of Our Savior. Then of course there’s the Glass Market, Torvehallerne, which feels more like home than a tourist attraction.

If you’re overwhelmed, imagine my thought when I looked at my calendar for tomorrow. Positive Psychology guest lecture, Scandinavian Crime Fiction walking tour of Copenhagen, and a five hour visit to the Louisiana with my LLC.

Just to catch you up, here are some pictures of my favorite things at the Design Museum… which focused on innovative clothing and furniture design. Since mixed media/applied art is my favorite kind, the Design Museum was especially intriguing for me. My favorite part was a dress made out of straws!

The butt-breaking bike tour was another must-see, so I took some pictures to show everyone the gist of what we saw. Of course, no photo can do justice to the atmosphere these buildings create. The city of Copenhagen, with its mix of old and new architecture, canals, and windmills, is so amazing that mere pictures cannot possibly contain it. You’ll just have to come here and see for yourself.

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Thinking Straight? First Week Reflection

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I smile as I type this because I know, already, that I am a bigger person than I was one week ago. Triumph.

My favorite way to write is to pick a song that speaks to me, put it on loop, and play it as the background to my thoughts until I am finished spilling the contents of my oft-scattered brain onto a page. This time, it’s TLC’s Unpretty. Even in Denmark, this song reminds me to keep it real when I am quite convinced that this is a dream world.

Now that I have had a chance to shake the jetlag and make some friends, it is becoming obvious to me that my life will never be the same again. Even after one week, I can tell that some of these friendships will last a lifetime. I will never get into a car again without remembering the first time I almost fell off my bike, never put the windshield wipers on without remembering the time I was biking into a rain storm with twenty other (quite unfazed) Danes, never put my blinker on to turn without subconsciously sticking my hand out in a biker turn signal. Life can change so quickly. Mine already has, and I know this is just the beginning.

The most amazing part of this experience has been watching myself learn. For someone who has never been out of the country (nevermind by myself!), two intercontinental flights were a daunting obstacle. On the other side of those eleven hours of travel were an unknown world–a world that I have lived in for one week and am already adapting to and learning about. Here, I hope to develop a deeper understanding of myself and this wonderful new place that will become part of my history. Independent of every familiar environment, who will I become?

Inevitably, homesickness has been a presence, but not a burden. Like a shadow, it follows me around but does not assert itself as a full-bodied being that walks beside me. Whenever I see something new or beautiful, the feeling of awe is immediately coupled by the desire to share my discoveries with those I love. My overwhelming joy is tempered with this feeling of longing for the closeness and warmth that I take comfort in. Missing my circles of supportive, loving, attentive friends and family would be crippling without the knowledge that I will return to them with even more love than I left with. And stories. Each life is a story, and now, I am writing mine.

Much love ❤

Predeparture

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PREDEPARTURE Packet arrives and I don’t know whether I am more excited or terrified. I made the cut, got my acceptance, and shelved it in the “Don’t Need This Yet” section of my brain. It was all just a far-off fantasy. But now it’s real.

I will be studying abroad in Copenhagen.

My new home from August through December will be vastly different from Villanova University, where I am a junior Psychology and Communications double major. It will be far from my family in Connecticut. But I will make it a home away from home.

I believe that life is made up of moments. This blog will accompany me through my moments, and hopefully readers can learn as I learn along this journey.

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