This is Ngoc Huynh, Class of ’23, and a Management-HRM Major with a Minor in Psychology. I am writing this about 98% through my Exchange in Copenhagen, Denmark (DK). I am officially done with exams, sightseeing, and Semester Exchange Journey! I originally pursued this opportunity to obtain an International Business Certificate and improve my resumé. In addition to that, I had a large interest in working abroad and expatriates. However, I got a lot more than that—as cheesy as this is, but I understand why people say going abroad is life-changing.
(Amager Strandpark; the water is very clear. This is technically still a part of Copenhagen, but it is a good breather from the city life.)
Going to Copenhagen made me become more mindful. I knew that Danes had a strong belief in giving equal opportunities and being open-minded while keeping to themselves. It is common for them to do their own things. When you are out, it is just you. Do not expect people to help/assist unless you are vocal and ask. There are no assumptions. Seeing it in real life was a totally different story, and I was shocked. Even so, I did not realize how vocal/active they can be about fighting for people’s rights. When the Abortion Crisis occurred in the US, Danes were protesting in front of the US Embassy—fighting for the rights of women. What they were doing would not affect what happens in the US. They cannot vote and did not put it on social media, but they still did it to show their solidarity to the cause. There is graffiti all over Copenhagen referencing #BlackLivesMatter, what is going on in Ukraine, legalization of marijuana, etc. These things do not directly affect them, but they are still creating awareness and helping these voices be heard. These people are not internet social justice warriors—they are in the trenches, and I wish the US was like that as well. I love that they are willing to pay high taxes to give people in their country free education, free healthcare, and basically an opportunity to have a better life.
(A poster about a Global Marijuana March in Christiania. Marijuana is not legalized in Denmark, however, in Christiania—“no man’s land,” the laws of the land become murky, however, this is where recreational marijuana occurs. Police are stationed there, but its usage is overlooked! Long story short, it is complicated.)
A course that helped me assimilate into the Danish culture, stimulate my brain, and recognize mindfulness was Negotiations. My professor was a whole show. He taught workshops, wrote multiple books, and was an International Business negotiator himself. He was well-versed in everyone’s cultural background—he explained nuances, folklore, stereotypes, etc., and was a great facilitator. The class was his stage, and the students were the audience. Most of us were International Exchange students, but there were some Danish students as well. As a result, whenever did our Negotiation Exercises, we all had to remember the cultural differences we had and adjust to them. It was interesting to see Hofstede’s 6 Dimensions of Culture in real life. To have a successful negotiation and come out with a deal, you must think and be mindful. As a Human Resources major with a Psychology minor, I loved the class. It appealed to all of my senses. Also, the last negotiation we did, in his words—was “so Danish.” By then, 4 months had passed, and everyone was a different cultural animal. I thought that showed how effective he was in teaching us. Sadly, this was the professor’s last semester before retiring, but he was truly one of the best I was under. Typically, I shop for all of my professors at TAMU. If I am paying tuition, then I want to learn under professors who would benefit me intellectually. I typically end up with professors who I enjoy even if they are tough and do not obtain an A; it is about the intrinsic benefit. I was not able to do that this time due to the Course Selection Process—which honestly could be improved (10/10 prefer Howdy, even though I keep getting assigned to the 4AM timeslots), so getting assigned to this man was luck of the draw.
Overall, my assumptions were correct about Copenhagen. I did A LOT of research beforehand, and it came in handy. There was an assumption that everyone wore black, and they did. There was another assumption of them keeping to themselves and having dark humor, and they did as well. But, most importantly, there was an assumption of them being progressive, and they were. This is hard to live up to, but they succeeded in my opinion. They were one of the first countries to legalize same-sex marriage, advocate for gender equality (before it was cool, and this is reflected in work and romantic life), free education, free healthcare, etc. As someone who was required to obtain a Residence Permit, I was essentially given the same rights as a Danish Citizen. I had access to these. Luckily, I did not have to use them, but it would have been beneficial. There are people in the US that cannot afford healthcare, and it is sad. When I see what is going on in Copenhagen, I cannot help but be wishful for the US to reach that level one day.
Before I came to Copenhagen, I was burnt out. There was a lot going on, and I felt like I could not remove myself from the situation. I was academically successful, my private was relatively good, and this was the healthiest I have been in the longest. Even so, I could not help but feel dissatisfied and like a failure. Everyone around me was getting married or pregnant. They were getting jobs and moving on with their lives. I could not relate. However, thanks to this experience, my professors, my roommate, the people I met there, I feel like I have my groove back. My exchange gave me the privilege to take myself out of where I was and be put in a different setting. There were obviously ups and downs during this Exchange, but that is life. This made me realize that I would like to go abroad again one day—for work, pleasure, or to live wherever. You are where you are, but it is how you adapt and prevail!
(A very large sculpture located in Christiania! It is nice to look at and a great message; the world is in our hands, and it is, however, you would like to interpret it!)
Lastly, I want to thank my sponsors, advisors, friends, and family for being a part of this journey. I would also like to thank Mays Business School and the Center for International Business Studies (CIBS) for creating opportunities like this for students like me! It has truly been one of a kind, and this would not have ever occurred without their love and support. I got more than what I expected from this opportunity, and I am truly grateful and humbled.
This is my last blog EVER, and goodbye for now Copenhagen. I will be back one day!