I have been in Europe for almost two months now and in Copenhagen close to a month and a half, and it is safe to say I am beginning to love it here. With all the anticipation and build up to this trip it is still hard to believe I am actually here living in Europe now and I cannot believe how quickly time is beginning to go by! I said my tearful goodbyes to my family on August 1st from Austin Airport. But I am incredibly blessed that my best friend, Madison Seidel is also going on a Reciprocal Exchange to Copenhagen Business School and is rooming with me this entire semester.
The flight to Europe was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated it to be which was great. A very nice aggie happened to be sitting behind us so that was very comforting as we were full of nervous energy and excitement! We bought our tickets through Lufthansa round trip (flying home December 20th) since they have a website called generationfly.com allowing you to change one of your tickets travel days if needed. This was very helpful since you don’t find out when your finals are until late September, we thought this may come in handy later to avoid an extra fee if we did ended up having to fly home later.
Once we landed in Copenhagen we stayed at a hotel, since we could not get into our dorm for another 2 weeks. We took our extra bags to a family friend who lives in Sweden (a short 15 minute train ride) for storage while we traveled around to Barcelona, Rome, Cinque Terre, Venice, and Florence before returning to Copenhagen on August 16th. If anyone is planning on traveling before classes start and don’t want to carry a semesters worth of luggage around Europe with you, another option is the International Office at CBS. The International Office is happy to store any luggage for you while you travel free of charge as long as you drop it off during office hours but since we arrived on a Saturday and were leaving for Barcelona on a Sunday this wasn’t an option for us!
The first four days of traveling is when I experienced the worst culture shock and homesickness. I am very independent and was traveling with my best friend so I was convinced before leaving there was no way I would be homesick but trust me it gets even the best of us! I called my parents crying and thought I was going to be miserable the entire semester but I after forcing myself to get out of bed and do things it all began to get better. I learned the importance of having a strong support system and the value of great friends and family through the experience!
We had a few ups and downs along this trip while learning how to use rail passes and adjusting to the culture in Europe but we made it through and had such an amazing experience filled with so many great memories! Granted we learned a few lessons the hard way like when Madison got a train ticket in Italy for filling out her rail pass wrong, or when we came within seconds of ending up stuck on a non-stop train to Pisa when trying to get to Monterosso, or having to sprint across crowded train stations with full backpacks to avoid missing trains we showed up late for. We just laughed it off and called it part of the experience!
As the two-week trip was coming to an end we were exhausted and ready to get to a place we could finally call home! Copenhagen Business School has an optional program (which you need to sign up for) that partners each student with a “buddy” who helps you find your new apartment and can just help in general with any questions you have about the new city. Unfortunately, my “buddy” was out of town on the day we were arriving but lucky Madison’s buddy was able to meet us at the airport with her roommate to show us to our new home!
Our dorm, Kathrine Kollegiet, is on the opposite side of Copenhagen as the airport so it took about 25 minutes to get to it on the metro and by the time we arrived at the front door the anticipation was killing us since we had very little idea of what the room would actually look like. The room is in a U-shape and it gives us the ability to both have somewhat of our own private areas, which is fantastic. The room is on the first floor, which in America would technically be considered the second floor. Our room is one of the few that was completely re-done with new everything (paint, flooring, updated kitchen area, and furniture)! We are so lucky with the room we were assigned and we absolutely love it!
Since classes did not start until September we did not have anything required of us during our first two weeks here but we had signed up for some optional two social week programs, which gave us a fantastic opportunity to meet so new many people! These programs were hosted through Copenhagen Business School and included a combination of day and evening events ranging from international dinners, to mardi gras parties, to sight-seeing canal tours, to renting out a clubs from 10pm-3am with drink specials! These events were an amazing way to meet so many new people so fast from all over the world. These first two weeks in Copenhagen were incredible and were what really made me fall in love with the city. Copenhagen is so incredibly beautiful everywhere you look! The main method of transportation here is bike so it is also much more peaceful than other large cities, and the people here are very concerned about the environment so it is very clean. Many people ask me about the language barrier with the people here speaking Danish but almost every person in Denmark speaks perfect English and as soon as you start speaking they will switch over and talk to you in it.
Some of the things I can tell you now about Copenhagen is that everyone in Copenhagen loves the color black so if you want to fit in with the crowd bring every black-colored clothing item you own! I would invest in a nice raincoat with a hood because that will become a staple of your wardrobe; personally I would recommend a black one. No one here wears wedges out so no need to even pack them, but you should bring a nice pair of Nikes because people here love wearing nice running shoes with everything (dresses and jeans alike). Pack lots of the medicine you typically take because they don’t sell the normal brands you buy at home here and it is all very different here any you will get sick (everyone’s allergies here are terrible)!
When the first day of school came both Madison and I were a little nervous but luckily we have ¾ of our classes together! I am taking Events and Festival Management, Language of Negotiation, Web Interaction and Design and Communication – New Forms of Interaction, Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration, and Organizational Behavior. The class structure here is set up a bit different than what we are used to at A&M. Instead of having classes twice or three times a week for a shorter time we have class once a week for two hours and thirty-five minutes (we get 2 breaks for 5-10 minutes during class). Also, there is no required attendance, your class schedule is allowed to overlap, and no grades other than the final. All my classes are in taught English and for the most part the teachers are not from Denmark but from other parts of Europe and don’t have too strong of an accent.
As to my finals, a majority of them consist of theoretical essay topics given anywhere from 72 hours before they are due, to one week before they are due. Depending on the class the essays are required to be anywhere from 6 pages to 14 pages long. Some of my finals also have an oral portion. For example, my events and festivals management class, has a 20 minute one-on-one session with the professor (with an expert in the field observing to make sure the grading is fair) building upon the theoretical essay you turned in where he can ask you anything he would like then you are graded immediately following this discussion. Another class has a group presentation for 15-20 minutes prior to the written essay, which stands as a basis for the essay.
The hardest part about classes is trying to force myself to read the textbooks, as there is very little incentive. I know I have no upcoming test I just have to keep reminding myself if I don’t read them than the finals will be impossible! Classes here are also very teacher-student interactive which is a little intimating at times, the students are encouraged to speak up during lectures and challenge views as well as comment thoughts and view points which is extremely different then the large lecture style I have been used to.
While I value the importance of class while I am studying abroad I also find that there is so much to be learned outside of the classroom while I am here in Europe through the people and places around me so we have made it a point to travel as much as possible. We have done a day trip to Malmo, Sweden. We took a trip to London, UK for three days and from there went to Dublin, Ireland for two days. We just got back from an amazing trip to Prague, Czech Republic for two days traveling by train to Munich, Germany for three days to attend Oktoberfest. We have met so many wonderful people while traveling and seen so many amazing things on these trips!
I cannot wait to see what the next for weeks has in store for us with fall break coming up we have a pretty big trip planned and my family is coming in just over 20 days to visit! So far I have had such an amazing experience and have learned so much about the world around me and myself and I cannot wait to learn even more.