March 5, 2017

Howdy Ags! I can’t believe it’s March already. Please accept this blog post as a little snippet of my life in Copenhagen during February, along with my sincere apologies for the delay. I think at the very least you should know life has been SO great that I hardly noticed the months change a couple weeks back. Even though student life creates some routine in my day-to-day, there is still never a dull moment between lectures, making new friends, adventures in the city, and excursions beyond Denmark’s borders. We’ll get to those things later. But first, I have to talk about an overarching theme for the month of February….

Cold weather.

Now I realize that anything is cold compared to College Station, but having lived in South Bend, Indiana during undergrad and in Denver, Colorado before starting the Mays MBA, I certainly am familiar with “real” winter. That being said, the Copenhagen cold took me by surprise! I now realize there were a couple of factors at play. Firstly, the winter weather here is chaotic. Just when you’ve bundled yourself up for the cold, rain starts pouring down. And once you’ve gotten your umbrella, the rain turns into snow. This coupled with cloudy short days makes dressing for the weather, and staying chipper in the midst of it, kind of hard. Second, I’ve never been a pedestrian/bicycle commuter in a very cold place. In the absence of a car, everyone really is forced to carry on through all of the elements. Have you ever ridden a bike as fast as you can against wind? Against rain?? Against snow??? For your sake, I hope you never have to. But it certainly builds character! Jokes aside, I think the winter weather helps explains how the Danish concept of Hygge (pronounced “hoo-guh”) has carved out such a critical place in social culture.

Hygge explained: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-year-of-hygge-the-danish-obsession-with-getting-cozy

As an outsider, even I am still figuring out exactly what hygge is. However, if I had to put it simply, hygge is a combination of coziness, warmth, and intimacy created by nesting and retreating with your friends, family, or even alone. This takes on various forms depending on who you are, but it almost always includes candles, dim lighting, blankets and pillows, and whatever beverages and foods are your comfort. Even simpler put, hygge is getting out of the cold and into the warmth to find some simple personal contentment. When the alternative is being pelleted with unpredictable precipitation, I choose hygge too! Haha

My version of hygge

It wasn’t always so cold though. And when it wasn’t, my exchange friends and I took advantage. I’ve spent countless free days in Copenhagen’s museums and meandering along the waterways that cut through the city center. Also, pastries. Lots of Danish pastries. And as a student at CBS, I’ve also enjoyed just being a member of the university community. By attending on campus panels, playing pick-up soccer matches, and studying in the various cafes around campus, I’ve gotten to meet a variety of non-exchange CBS students. As in most cases, I’ve found the community to be smaller and less intimidating than it seems, with faces becoming more and more familiar. Most recently, a local Gymnasium (a Danish hybrid between high-school and associate’s degree) just north of the city requested an exchange student come speak with some students about cultural differences between Denmark and the outside world. I volunteered to speak with two Ordrup Gymnasium classes, and as it turns out, I actually benefited a lot from learning about their academic system and youth culture.

Ordrup Gymnasium talks

Ordrup Gymnasium talks

We talked about the perceived outgoing nature of Americans versus the more reserved Danes, Donald Trump, Taylor Swift vs. Drake, drinking culture (the legal purchasing age is 16 in Denmark!!), and everything in between. The students were curious and open, but most impressively, well informed. One of the key takeaways for me was that as a nation of 5.6 million, it is encouraged if not critical, that Danes know a lot about what is happening in the rest of the world. Much of what happens in America ripples (very quickly) into their lives. If I’m honest with myself, my worldview was nowhere near as perceptive at that age, so I left the school very impressed.

I’ll round things out by talking about one of the biggest perks of Europe – everything is relatively close. I’ve been able to get to France, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, and the UK on a student budget, and it’s been fun to compare those cultures not just to America, but to Denmark, which now feels a little like “home.” The gymnasium students I spoke with asked me what’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from all of my travels (both on this stint and other treks abroad). I told them this, which seems to ring louder and louder true – The more countries I visit and people I meet, the more I am convinced that more connects us as people than separates us. This is a core reason for my love of travel, and also one of the biggest benefits of being a traveler. It’s nice to feel that oceans away, things can still seem familiar and that people my age share similar ambitions and challenges, interests and passions. It creates a lot of optimism for what we as future professionals can accomplish back at home and across borders.

Bergen, Norway

Nice, France

 

Until next time…

Isabel