This is more than just my first time in Denmark, but this is my first time in Europe. The first couple of days seemed unreal; it felt like I was in a never-ending fantasy. Before my arrival, I was given some impressions with the program, city, and the country and most of them seemed exactly what I expected. However, there was still so many things that continue to surprise me as I continue living in Copenhagen. First, I got introduced to the city. The buildings are much more colorful, and the roads are a lot narrower. One thing that is very different is the dependency of public transportation. Biking is HUGE and arguably the most used (and cheapest) method of travel. I went from biking just for leisure to biking with a purpose and I can finally understand why the Danes always top placers in the Olympics for biking. A personal goal I have for myself is to complete a ride in the time Google Maps tells me it will take because right now I always add an additional 5-10 minutes. Then, I met the people. I was told Danes were incredibly reserved and making relationships were going to be difficult. I was fortunately placed in housing that allows me to live and share a kitchen with 11 other Danes, so I was exposed to the “common Danish personality” early on. I agree that they are a lot more reserved, however, that doesn’t mean they are not friendly. They present themselves as people who will be there if you need anything, but they will not be your best friend and at first, I found that a little difficult to interact with. As someone who is extremely friendly, I did not really understand the idea of just a “acquaintance”. However, I learned that relationships here are just about effort and if you really try you can be anyone’s friend. Lastly the program. I find the program to be a little more independent than the courses that I have taken at A&M. One big difference is how our grades are distributed. In Denmark there is no homework or quizzes, and your grade is 100% contingent on your final exam (no pressure). Additionally, there are multiple types of exams (written, sit-in, oral). Another difference is how the courses are planned. School starts during the first week of September and their courses are on either a semester-based system or a quarter system (Sep – mid Oct. or mid. Oct – Jan). I’m excited to continue to learn more about Denmark and continue to challenge and immerse myself into this new experience. I look forward to what the next few months has in store for me.
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!
This is Ngoc Huynh, Class of ’23, and a Management-HRM Major with a Minor in Psychology. I am writing this about 85% through my Exchange in Copenhagen, Denmark (DK). At this point, I have only 1 take-home exam left (05/31/22 – 06/07/22), and there is about 1 month left to go. I am attending Copenhagen Business School (CBS) and taking 12 credit hours over here. I can finally say that I am feeling homesick. However, a large factor contributing to that is my roommate leaving to go back home to Hong Kong. I literally went to the airport and sent her off. When I came back to our place, it still did not feel real until I woke up and saw her side of the room empty. We really bonded and I will miss her. Thanks to the power of the internet and WhatsApp, we can keep in contact! Anyway, I will be exploring and having fun in Copenhagen in her name! I believe I am just feeling homesick because the end is coming. Though it is fun, there are just some things you do miss. I usually do not travel back and forth from College Station to my hometown because it is an 8+ hours drive to and back. Because of that, I cherish summer because it means family and friends time for me. In addition to that, many of my close friends are graduating, so it sucks that I could not physically be there for them. Me staying until June 14 does put a damper in my original summer plans, but I chose that because CBS did not release their exam date until basically the start of the semester (February 1-ish) and I wanted to be safe.
Me and my roommate, Tiffany, at the airport before she left and after we were fighting against Father Time.
Right now, I am preparing for the end by preparing for my last exam, buying souvenirs, and trying to figure out my coming-back meal. From what I noticed, I believe that Danes love the Japanese culture, artisanal goods, and sweets. (They have one of the highest candy consumptions in the world!). They have that all around, so I am keeping an eye out. Also, I am starting this process early because I do not know if COVID regulations will be changing, so it is better to start a head of time. I will not have to fight against time, COVID, and government/company regulations. Moving on, typically, I do not support Pandora USA because it is just very simple and basic jewelry, but I will admit that Pandora DK hits differently. It makes sense since Denmark is the birthplace of Pandora. They have so many beautiful pieces and these designs are not available in the US market. Because of that, I bought my mom a whole set for Mother’s Day, her souvenir, her whatever, etc. It is kind of “one-of-a-kind” and a great set that encapsulates “Denmark.” My other 3 sisters are all figured out. Luckily, I am able to find almost everyone in my nucleus family something that relates to their interests, my wallet, and Denmark. I am just struggling to find a gift for my dad since he does not care for food, clothes, alcohols, etc.—he is a succulent; he just needs water and sunlight. My roommate, for her souvenirs, focused on artisanal foods and craftsmanship, so she got chocolates, cheeses from specialty stores in Torvehallerne (Copenhagen Food Hall/Market) and pottery/porcelain from places like the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain and Studio Arhoj.
My view when I was going around and buying souvenirs.
Yeah, there’s really not much to say this blog. I was literally fighting for my life against a Principles of Corporate Finance exam, so I could not physically allow myself to go out and about. I was just more focused on the exam because if I did not pass this course—literally, only this course, I would have had to graduate a whole semester later. This course is a prerequisite to my capstone course, and I really needed it. No pressure, of course. Now, it is just me trying to finish up a few things. I just want to be able to see more sites, buy more souvenirs, and just leisurely enjoy my last month here!
This is Ngoc Huynh, Class of ’23, and a Management-HRM Major with a Minor in Psychology. I am writing this about halfway through my Exchange in Copenhagen, Denmark (DK). I am attending Copenhagen Business School (CBS) and taking 12 credit hours over here. I believe I have finally made it over the honeymoon period because I am finally experiencing some homesickness. I am not really missing my family—luckily, my mom calls me every other night, my sibling group chat is still going hard, and my friends are staying in contact. Because there is a 7-hour gap, my mom calls while she is picking up the kids (3:00 PM) while I am preparing for bed (10:00 PM). In general, I love telling everyone that I am keeping in contact with that “I am in the future.” The one thing I am really missing is food. I miss my mom’s kitchen and the vastness of the American grocery store. I find it hilarious that Denmark’s grocery stores have aisles for “Tex-Mex” (their idea of what Tex-Mex is) and Asian food. Everything else is pretty Danish. Sadly, this wiki link perfectly explains why the grocery and food options are the way they are: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danish_cuisine. I only say “sadly” because you should not really be able to fit a majority of one’s cultural food in 1 Wikipedia page. Other than that, I am still having fun.
A large factor in this is the fact that I have taken 2/4 of my exams! Honestly, the 2 examination periods were interesting. Because your grade at CBS depends on your exam grade, you do not get homework, projects, reports, or anything. You just have your lectures, readings, and supplement materials. Though that does give you more time, personally, I hate that. I hate that my entire semester is based on 1 thing. Luckily, I knew that before coming, but still. I would rather have 2-3 exams along with homework and participation grades than just 1 exam. I am not a gambler or an information regurgitator so that just made me a little sad. Anyways, I had a 72-hour take-home exam and an oral exam based on a written report. The take-home exam was honestly very reminiscent of a final project. I had all my notes, textbooks, videos, etc. to reference, so it was not too crazy. It was stressful, but not impossible. The oral exam, however, was different. This was literally an “if-you-know-you-know” type of thing, so that was nerve-racking. Either way, for May Business School (I am not going to speak for Texas A&M overall), you just need a 4 (basically a D) for the credit to be transferable. HOWEVER, there is a weird gap. For some reason, for CBS, a 02 (basically an E) is the lowest passing grade, so if you get that, you are not eligible for their retake exam and that credit is not transferable. The only thing you can do is submit a grade complaint to make it lowered to a 00 and do the retake. But, per usual, retakes are usually more insane than the original, so try to avoid that—I know I am. It would also be annoying if your retake date is after the Exchange because that means you would have to be very conscious of the time and date since you will be taking it based on Denmark time in the United States. Also, CBS is very kind, so you have a whole portal dedicated to your exams.
(Literally, the exam portal. It is very easy to use, so don’t worry.)
On a lighter note, I have more time for myself. To celebrate my freedom, I went on a trip to Malmö, Sweden with my roommate (Tiffany) and her friends. Denmark and Sweden are so close to each other that it just takes 30 minutes to get there by train. Also, I would recommend going because it is very common for Danes to take trips there and it is less expensive than Copenhagen. All of this is within walking distance, so you do not have to deal with transportation other than going on the train to and back from Malmo. Overall, we all had a great time. Here is the itinerary; Tiffany literally found a blog and we based our trip on that:
09:30 Breakfast: Lilla Kafferosteriet
10:30 St. Peter’s Church (Free)
11:00 City Hall (Free)
11:15 Form Design Museum (Free)
12:30 Moderna Museet Malmö (Free)
13:00 Disgusting Food Museum (160 SEK)
14:30 Lunch: Jensen’s Bøfhus
15:45 City Library (Free)
16:45 Malmö Castle (20 SEK)
18:15 Turning Torso (Uhhh, you can only look at it and not enter. This is a residential area, but Free)
18:45 Skatepark (Free)
19:15 Dinner: Max Burger
We did not visit turning Torso and the Skatepark, but it is something that is possible. We got really tired and hungry after the Malmö Castle—which is not just a castle. It is essentially a museum with multiple exhibitions within a castle.
(Me on a train in Copenhagen Central Station/København H waiting to depart.)
(Random place we found when we were walking on a bridge in Malmö, Sweden)
(Me in St. Peter’s Church in the children’s area.)
Anyways, by now, I only have about 2 months and 2 exams left of this Exchange. Time has gone by quickly, but it was kind of anticlimactic. I was expecting to be like Selena Gomez in her movie, Monte Carlo—somehow find a cute guy, fall in love, dramatically leave each other, and then unite. However, in all fairness, I have literally been trying to go for the past 2 years and I live humbly in comparison to my peers. Hopefully, I will be exploring more of Denmark in the next blog, so I am looking forward to that.
This is Ngoc Huynh, Class of ’23, and a Management-HRM Major with a Minor in Psychology. I am writing this over a month in Copenhagen, Denmark (DK). I am attending Copenhagen Business School (CBS) and taking 12 credit hours over here. I am finally getting used to it here and I am honestly still loving it. It is literally a fancy version of Texas, however, I will admit, I am not a partygoer in the US—and I am definitely not one here—so my view is probably not like many. My roommate, who is from Hong Kong (HK), along with her peers all find DK boring, but, in all fairness, HK is DEFINITELY one of the faster-paced countries due to their competitive work-life, food hubs, and never-ending commute. For this blog, I am just writing to update on what’s going on with my life. No one really goes to DK from Texas A&M, so there is really not much to go from.
Anyways, my housing location (Svanejev—located in Nørrebro), takes about 40 minutes to walk from the campus. At first, I was dissatisfied with how far away I was from the other students, but I am kind of grateful for it. Nørrebro is where the “normal” people live and I love that I can actually see a snapshot of how Danish people actually live. There is literally a school in front and to the side, businesses all over, and grocery stores nearby. I love how easy it is to buy groceries; the closest store (REMA 1000) is 3 minutes away and down the street-ish is Fotex and Netto. There are also local businesses that sell fruits, vegetables, and knick-knacks. You can literally say, “Honey, I am going to get some milk. Be back in 5.” Interestingly enough, because DK has a focus on sustainability, you cannot buy in bulk and there is not a lot of variety. In the US, I go shopping every 2 weeks, but here, I have to go weekly because my food will actually go bad and I have limited fridge space. I am slightly better than most in expense and waste-wise because I meal-prep. Once again, I really recommend honing your cooking skills because eating out is very expensive. I do not know what’s going on, but what I spend for a week’s worth of groceries (~125 DK) is about 1 meal (~100 DK). If that is not ridiculous, I do not know what is. Also, just in case, I do buy random snacks, drinks, and knick-knacks as well. I already have a few favorite bakeries, and I am not starving. Shout out to Krumme & Co. (great Romkuglers), Andersen & Maillard (great Expresso Croissant), and Favori Baklavaci (everything is great)—the owner is a kind older gentleman, and the desserts are divine. I enjoy their walnut baklavas and chocolate cakes.
(A meal at Shake Down near CBS, however, I will admit that it was actually expensive, and I will only go if there is a deal—I’m sorry that I am not sorry.)
But, moving on, by now, I have finally established a schedule for myself—commuting, studying, meal-prepping, me time, etc. Commuting to school is honestly wild, but I can only become stronger and grow from it. I am sadly too short for the bikes at Swapfiets, a business collaborating with CBS that rent out bikes, so I cannot ride. I am also very stubborn and refuse to pay for the Metro, so I walk. The costs add up (140 DK per week) and I could honestly use that money for something else. Luckily, it is very therapeutic, and it wakes me up for my 8AMs. This is my cardio—period. Anyways, at CBS, almost every week has a different schedule. It changes a bit—be it room, class time, or format, and it is kind out of sudden. The professors are typically not even aware of the changes, so I recommend checking daily. I have had 3 incidents where something at the last second got changed. In addition to that, there are certain courses that start and end at different times. My roommate, who is taking the same number of courses as me, goes to campus literally twice a week and I go from Monday to Friday. Then, 2/4 of my courses are ending this month, while her exams are more concentrated in May. Your grade is dependent on that 1 exam, so there is pressure to it. There are pros and cons, but I am just grateful that I will have more time to explore DK after that. In all honesty, I believe if you do what you are supposed to do, you will be fine. This is a semester exchange—not a trip. Calm down. Please go to school, but do not take yourself so seriously as this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
(Please notice how the trees are purposefully trimmed bald. If you took HORT 201 with Professor David Reed, this is a throwback.)
Basically, right now, I am just fighting for my life with school. I am basically taking 2 summer courses with 2 normal Spring courses. I am still enjoying DK, but I believe I am still in the honeymoon phase. I literally go check out a bakery every week to try something new, cook whatever I want, go to school, and keep in contact with my family. However, it has been interesting to hear the different experiences my peers have been experiencing. For example, because DK is small and quite homogenous (93.7% White), they are not used to Asians. As an Asian myself, personally, I have not experienced anything crazy. They, on the other hand, have been assumed to come from Wuhan even though they are Singaporean. In all fairness, I look like I bite, and I do carry self-defense weapons on my body. But sadly, when you are Asian and if you are not in Asia, you are a minority and that is just the reality of the situation. On a lighter note, the days are being longer, warmer, and less windy, so I am looking forward to that.
This is Ngoc Huynh, Class of ’23, and a Management-HRM Major with a Minor in Psychology. I am writing this on my 1 week-versary in Copenhagen, Denmark. I will be attending Copenhagen Business School (CBS) and taking 12 credit hours over there. My stay started rocky, but I am enjoying it so far.
To give some background on my REEP Journey, I have been trying to go abroad for the past 1.5 years (Spring 2021), and I have been with Mays for 2. If you could not infer by now—COVID was primarily the reason why I could not. My first 2 attempts with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) were due to the low costs and expenses associated. It got deferred then canceled. The Exchange I am writing on is my 3rd and only successful attempt; I chose this based on the courses necessary for my degree planner. I had to make an executive decision to change my program due to me wanting the International Business Certificate—which I recommend everyone take advantage of if you are planning to go abroad, and COVID-19 still wreaking havoc. It was also the last time I was even eligible for one as well because I will be graduating in Fall 2022, so I was not risking another Exchange getting canceled.
Anyways, before arriving here, I did research. It is very nerdy, however, one of the most ignorant things you can do is not. Thankfully, it paid off and I have managed to save money and time, and my safety. Some things I got that were correct:
Get a lot of dark clothing! Danish people wear a lot of black. It is honestly okay if you do not, however, if you do not, there is a possibility you can bring attention to yourself and make it obvious that you do not “belong” there. That can be dangerous.
Everything is more expensive—please, save your money and create a nest. Sign up for the scholarships. Denmark is a hub for foodies and Michelin-Star restaurants, so it would be a shame not to go. In addition, conversion and transaction fees do add up, and it hurts. To give an estimate, it costs $13.50 for a burger, shake, and fries at Burger Mojo and $30 over here. Do not fret, there are cheaper foods, but burgers (fries and shakes) are my guilty pleasure.
Surprisingly, almost everyone spoke English. I thought it was an exaggeration. I do recommend going on Duolingo because it will teach you some words. Though everyone does speak English, signs, packaging, directions, etc. are all in Danish. When you do not have LTE or a Danish SIM, it will help make going grocery shopping, eating out, and navigating around easier.
When I finally arrived, I immediately got lost. CBS arranges for exchange students to have a “Buddy.” They help you assimilate into Danish society and CBS itself. Typically, your Buddy picks you up and brings you to your residence (the one the school helps you get connected with) and they have your new SIM, your keys, etc. My Buddy did not do that—but that’s an entirely different story. They are not expected to do so, so definitely be prepared if you are in that position. I emailed my landlady and she helped with transportation. After that, it was crazy because I did not have LTE, a Danish SIM, my Buddy, etc. I could not go onto Maps and find the directions. Long story short, I thought I was going to be sleeping on the streets. I did not.
But, after finding my way with some help, things started to look up. I settled my area of the room and cleaned out my luggage. I found out that my adapter (that also converts voltage because Denmark uses 230V instead of the 120V in the US) worked—and that is crucial. I would not have power anything. I got my Danish SIM, my keys, my leasing contract from a friend of my Buddy a day later. I managed to go grocery shopping. I also finished up my Mandatory Social Activities provided by CBS to get to know the school, its resources, and its many accomplishments.
Since then, I have just been slowly exploring and relaxing. This is the opposite of what I have been doing these past few years. People from Denmark live a slow and steady life. They walk everywhere. They are sustainable. They are just vibing, and I have a chance to be a part of that. Though I did come to CBS to learn and fulfill the criterion for an International Business Certificate, I also came for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Realistically, I am never going to have a chance like this. As of the moment, I do not have a pet, a partner, or kids. All I have is my time. Moving on, right now, Denmark is honestly what I imagined it to be. It is open, people do not care about what you do, and it is more “clean.” I will admit that it is not as cold as I thought it would be and it is definitely windier as well. Other than that, I am excited for what is to come, and I am truly grateful for this experience. Though it was rocky, I laugh (out of hysteria or humor—I do not even know anymore) anytime I think about my first day. I am grateful for that experience as well because I do not think things can get even worse than that.
Lastly, I just wanted to thank those who supported me financially and emotionally. I really could not have made it here without them. Though it is early to say thank you, I would not be here without them. I would not have felt certain stability and safeness. My family has managed to keep me not homesick by regularly keeping in contact and helping me prepare. Director Katy Lane, Program Coordinator Kerri Vance, my Academic Advisor Maria Martinez, and ex-Program Coordinator Natsuki Hara were rocks through this 1.5-year process as well. Finally, my sponsors (yes, sponsors) helped me help my parents. I could not even imagine an opportunity like this coming true due to our finance and the fact that there are 4 sisters, including me, they must care for.
note: I am very intentionally and knowingly completely going off-topic for this post because… you’ll see. There is a point.
I lied. Well, not technically. And definitely not in what really matters. I changed the nuances, which matters to me, though not much to anyone else.
To everyone I had to pitch ‘going to Denmark on an exchange’ to, I had said I needed it to further develop my career:
1. That it doesn’t help to have this one sided- America focused- viewpoint of business and not know anything about the rest of the world (do you spot the issue here? again, intentional. hint: my word choice. answer: “the rest of the world”. What does that even mean? It’s like looking at a map and seeing America vs. whatever those other countries are. I would never in a million years admit that’s the way I thought of business; I most definitely do NOT think like that when it comes to society and people and everything else I care about like food or art or literature or theatre, but as far as business goes, that is all I have ever known because it’s all I have ever been exposed to: America, China, and the “rest of the world”).
whoa, that was a long bullet point. sorry.
2. That when my frame of reference is America, which possesses more than half of the WORLD’S equity market value (in comparison to Japan as a distant second- 7.4% and China right below Japan at 5.4%), my understanding of finance is bound to be more biased than the rest of global finance looking in on Wall Street.
3. That going to Denmark would eliminate some of the bias because I’d start to see things from Scandinavia’s perspective. It’d never be my frame of reference unless I spent more time there, but I’d be learning infinitely more just by being there.
4. Denmark is the happiest country in the world. How? I need to find out! The curiosity was killing me.
I had to pitch it because it was in the middle of a global pandemic and my reasoning for it had better have more value than my life or I wasn’t going, period. Kidding. I meant it was hard for me to get the ‘go-ahead’ due to the nature of our circumstances at the time.
While all of my points were true, I had left out the part where I was looking to find inspiration. The part where I didn’t even want to think about my full time career while I was there because I needed the time to cultivate my creativity. I always wanted to do something creative. I never knew what that could be. I never thought I could devote too much time to it now, where I was still learning the basics of financial analysis. I knew I was bad at the numbers, but my reasoning was that, at 21, with decades of time left in my career, I have the liberty to spend a few years being bad at my job so I’d have the foundations to move on from there and eventually go into something I know that, with time, I’d get very good at, like international negotiations or M&A.
But Denmark opened my eyes to a whole new idea: I am a free woman. I can be doing what I want while I make money. There is no rat race I need to be caught up in because I am not a rat. It’s that simple, yet just as complicated as it is simple. Every way we were taught we had to live were preconceptions, patterns people created, fed to us to feed a capital economy that needed to be developed as fast as possible essentially due to the timing of our history. I can live in a van if that lifestyle is what I crave; I didn’t think I could do that before I believed I am a free woman. I can be a traveling author if it’s what I really want; before Denmark, I didn’t think that was possible the minute I stepped into business school. Things change. I can change. My point is that, none of my circumstances changed just because I went to Denmark and came back. Financial analysis still doesn’t come easily to me. Finance is still my major. I still can’t make the cut for Wall Street. I still want to be a consultant for big 4 but haven’t been doing anything about it in the past year. I still don’t think I have the credentials to get in just yet. But what made all the difference in the world was my perception that I am free.
With that, I started writing a book that will be published the end of this year (Cacophony). I started a podcast (Wei Back When). I started updating my blog more (rubywei.com). All because I believed I was free. Too many times I let responsibility (or what I thought was responsibility) and money get in the way of my art, stifling my creativity.
And that, right there, is precisely what absolutely stuns me about Danes: they believe they’re not constricted. They aspire to be happy, to be more average than to get ahead. In turn, that has gotten them “ahead” in many spectrums, with happiness the primary one. My initial perception was that this country values life- they’re happy, they turn out innovative solutions, they really have their work-life balance down. My constant impression was how reserved they are to strangers and how utterly rule-following they are. I mean, they follow rules down to the comma; they don’t ever bend them. During quarantine, when the law said no more than five people can gather together, five is EXACTLY the number they stuck by. Why five? If two people gather together and one of them have covid, it’d spread regardless. If six people gathered together and none of them have been exposed, it’s highly unlikely any of them would get it. Five is not some magic number. It made more sense to me to be responsible about mask-wearing for yourself, make sure you’re meeting people you trust are responsible, have everyone in the group get tested and then a few additional people wouldn’t matter. But no, they had to stick to five. Or four. Or whatever the number the government said was the law. This constant- follow the rules precisely- was what I repeatedly saw: group projects, assignments, biking, walking, booking Airbnbs (quick example: I tried to stay for one more day at an Airbnb I’ve bent the rules many times in in the states, but the host said I had to go in and manually book another day even though I was trying to pay her the same amount minus the money that would go to Airbnb), etc.
Ultimately I came back with more of a conundrum than insights: why is Denmark a leader in innovation when the culture encourages sticking inside the box? Am I making false assumptions? Is there gray area I didn’t see through? Something I’m doing right now like spend most of my post going off topic so I can make my point that this is something that wouldn’t be tried in a Danish classroom… would not be tried in a Danish classroom. And YET, the NATURE of the education system has ambiguity and thus the need for creativity built INTO it- perhaps this is the answer to my conundrum, but I don’t know. And I am perfectly okay with not knowing. We- America looped into one culture (largely simplified and untrue, I know; just let me go for the sake of ending this blog post)- are incredibly results oriented. We’re good at solving problems (just look at our covid response), though not as good at preventing them (again, covid). But what if we approached business-innovation-education as needing creativity to be built into the system instead of bending rules after the fact? I don’t know. What if it won’t work because of predetermined factors such as the status of our country? I think I’m getting somewhere grand, but there are too many factors I haven’t thought of, yet I am completely okay with not knowing… for now.
I signed up for Danish class! Strategically, Spanish or Portuguese would be more “useful” because of the sheer number of Danes that speak English, but I think the greatest way I can respect a country is through the process of trying to learn their language. Am I going to forget everything as soon as I come back? Yes. But the process of trying garners more room for respect in my mind.
Today, well yesterday now, my SIM card plan expired. No internet. Which means I’ll be lost again. It’s okay, I’m used to it. Sometimes it’s fun. Like when I found a white-tailed deer. They’re not supposed to be active in the harsh winter, so I was lucky. Also, where I was, I could’ve just as easily been eaten by a wolf, but… I was lucky. Why didn’t I top it up? Well, when I went into 7-11 where I got the card from, the guy told me I had to repurchase a new card every month. ‘Wait that’s not how SIM cards work’, I argued, ‘I’ve never bought a SIM card like that’. I showed him my plan and even my receipt; he shook his head and assured me I needed a new card. A new number. I mean, I’m not a phone plan (or anything) expert, but I know people don’t change their numbers every month, even when the plan is for foreigners. Confused, I headed out to grab my textbooks at an electronic store.
I miss Prime. Amazon, where’s your next expansion effort located? S *my* S here. I need a foolproof method. These textbooks technically only took a week, but I was dumb and kept waiting for the textbook company to text me the number I needed to grab it when all along it was the shipping company who already texted me but I ignored it- it’d been half a month by the time I got it. Without data, I couldn’t check anything. “Is there a way you can look up…”. “That’s not my job” he interrupted. I’ll figure it out later, I sighed. Confused, I headed out to meet a friend.
Her apartment made me rethink what I’ve been doing with my life. She was paying less, had a gym, a music room, amazing architecture, incredible interior design, and with online class, being located away from school wasn’t a huge issue. It’s okay, I have some doves that hang out around my window sometimes. and a garage door across the street that wakes me up at night. Construction noise every day. Nice. One thing I do love – hearing all the laughter coming from the daycare when the weather’s nice.
When we walked into their open, spacious, elegantly designed kitchen (trademark of Danish society – even the most plain-looking exterior involves thoughtfully designed interiors), someone was already there, toasting bread.
“what are your plans for today?” she asked casually.
“absolutely nothing,” he declared, ever so confidently.
My mouth dropped open… “Ruby, you good?” they asked.
I snapped out of it, covered my awkwardness up with a laugh, “Yeah, yeah, sorry”, and smiled.
What shocked me, was his confidence in what he was saying. Absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! It wasn’t that I’ve never not done nothing- believe me, I’ve had my fair share of ‘absolutely nothings’ (I procrastinate. I’ve never been efficient. I’m still trying to learn how to manage my time); I was SO guilty about them, hated myself SO much when it happened, and never PLANNED for nothing before. I’ve never declared it so boldly- because if I ever did, I wouldn’t be able to trick myself into thinking ‘I’ll do ___ as soon as I ___”.
My first thought: wow, you are too cool.
My second thought: wow, I am so behind.
My thoughts afterwards: He must be SO fulfilled in who he is, SO satisfied in the work he’d already done, that doing nothing wasn’t a problem for a day.
what do I have to do to get to that point in my life?
I won’t lie, leaving my time abroad was very difficult. I had the most wonderful time and made the most amazing friends. My experience abroad completely exceeded my expectations and ended up being the best semester of my time at college. I learned so much about the world and myself. I even learned about the US and how much of an impact it makes on the world, which I feel like I wouldn’t have understood if I had never gone abroad. It is hard to imagine myself ever having doubts about going, because I would give anything to go back!
I would have to say my favorite part of my experience abroad was the people I met in my time in Denmark. While I made lovely friends from the US, Korea, France, and Australia, my closest friends were from Denmark. They embraced me so warmly and made Denmark feel like home. They showed me parts of their culture, places they loved, and how warm Danes can be! I got to visit their hometowns and spend lots of time learning about what makes Denmark so special. The hardest part of returning to the US was leaving them and not knowing when I would see them again. I still keep in touch with them and will probably go back to Denmark in the summer to visit them.
I didn’t expect to find so many differences between Denmark and the US, however the more time I spent there, the more I understood how different they are. I found that Americans can be very individualistic and reward-driven which makes the US have the energy that Americans are so proud of. Denmark on the other hand is much more community-driven and focused on work/life balance. Danes expect to be brought into the lives of their coworkers in ways that Americans would find to be extremely unprofessional. For instance, in an interview in the US, it would be pretty inappropriate to talk about your family life and hobbies. However, in Denmark that would actually be encouraged. Also, Americans are more driven, in the workplace, by rewards like pay raises and bonuses. In Denmark, the number one reward is time off to spend with friends and family. I found these differences to make a very big difference on the way Danes and Americans interact in the business world.
From my time abroad, I will always feel like Denmark is a little piece of home and will always be extremely grateful for the experience. I would recommend spending a semester abroad to anyone who gets the chance, because as cheesy as it sounds, it is life-changing.
Hi, I’m Rebecca Davidson! I am a junior Management major in Mays Business School. I am currently studying at Copenhagen Business School in Copenhagen, Denmark.
I have been here in Copenhagen, Denmark for 5 weeks! It has already been such a life-changing, transformative experience for me. Denmark is a small country and Copenhagen, the capital, is home to over 602,000 of them. Adjusting to life in another country is much easier in a city with the size and excitement of Copenhagen. In Copenhagen, there are many neighborhoods with different vibes and attractions. The main city center has luxury shopping, historic castles, and the famous Nyhavn. Nørrebro and the Meatpacking District are the younger, more diverse neighborhoods with beautiful parks and hip restaurants. My university has buildings spread across the Fredriksberg, a residential neighborhood. The city is divided by canals and is extremely bike-friendly; It is said that there are more bikes than people here. Though it was intimidating at first, I now love biking around with no place more than a 30 minute bike ride. Copenhagen also has an efficient metro system that runs 24hrs a day and is incredibly clean and reliable.
My favorite thing about Denmark is the people. I soon learned that Danes are polite, giving, warm and silly. They love to use the term hygge, have impeccable English, and love their beer. I live in a dorm with mainly Danish students and have found it to be the biggest blessing of the semester so far; I get to live alongside Danes and experience their culture firsthand. Danes are known for their Scandinavian style featuring cozy layers, minimalist pieces, sneakers, and lots of black. Denmark is governed by a sort of unspoken law called Janteloven or Jante’s Law. The main aspect of this law is, “You are not to think you are anything special.” Though this sounds dark, it is actually a beautiful aspect of Danish life. The best example is how you will see a CEO biking to work just like everyone else. It promotes generosity and humility like nothing I’ve ever seen.
My university in Denmark has really impressed me! Copenhagen Business School is one of the most prestigious business schools in Europe and is very globally-focused. Before I arrived, I had my classes and schedule already laid out. My only complaint is that my class schedule varies in time and location by week. I am enrolled in 4 classes, 2 in Quarter 1, 1 in Quarter 2 and 1 for the full semester. My classes are engaging and taught from a different perspective. My professors are experts in their field and are from all over the world from London to Singapore. I don’t have many assignments, but lots of textbook reading and case studies.
I’m really excited for the next 3 months of living here and I’m so glad I chose Copenhagen to study for the semester!