My time with DIS is officially over, and I have to say goodbye. I’ve been with DIS since the second week of July, starting from Session 2 with my course, Nordic Culinary Culture. I really can’t believe it has only been eight weeks – I’ve experienced and learned so much. I got to live in two countries, Denmark and Greece, because my Session 3 course – Tasting Culture: Nordic and Mediterranean Food, Tradition, and Nutrition – partnered with College Year in Athens (CYA) and taught the latter half of the course on their campus. I’ve been to three different islands – Faroe Islands, Samsø, and Naxøs – as part of my study tours. And I was able to explore different cultures through gastronomy and food. If you want to know all the details, feel free to browse my past blogs where I talk about my study tour adventures and catalog the food I got to taste.
For this blog post, I want to reflect on how my time on DIS impacted me and my future plans. This summer was my first time visiting Europe and my first time “living” outside the States. When I say “living,” I mean staying in a place for an extended period of time and becoming a local. It means doing mundane tasks like laundry, grocery shopping, and apartment cleaning. It’s different from visiting as a tourist, where the goal is to have fun and sightsee. I had to face the challenges of acculturating twice, first in Copenhagen and then again in Athens. I’m fortunate that I started with Copenhagen, where nearly everyone speaks English and the city felt like a standard city from the States. The skills I learned helped me later in Athens, which has a more distinct culture compared to the US.
An example of cultural difference is the bike etiquette. In Copenhagen, there’s a comprehensive set of rules with biking. You have to signal to stop and turn, you can’t make wide turns or ride on pedestrian sidewalks, and you have to ride near the curb if you’re going slowly to let faster cyclists pass by. Back home, in NYC, there are practically no rules with bicycling – I’ve zigzagged through cars, ran red lights, and gone against incoming traffic. It was a shock to see such a formal system and infrastructure for biking. Another example of cultural difference is the restaurant experience. In Greece, many restaurants are taverna style, where the tables get a temporary tablecloth (which is used to quickly clean the table afterwards – they wrap up all the leftover in it) and food is presented in the middle to make it easier to share. In addition, waiters will put receipts of what you order on your table as you order it because of government regulation on accounting fraud. In both Denmark and Greece, you also have to ask the waiter to bring the check. Unlike the US where the waiter will give you the check soon after you finish to turn the table for the next customers, restaurants here will let you sit indefinitely until you want to leave. It’s part of the social norm to spend time after a meal to just talk as oppose to going elsewhere.
Beyond adjusting to new cultures, this summer was also my first time living on my own. Before this, I’ve only lived with my parents or in a school dormitory. I compared the experience to taking off your trainers when learning how to ride a bike. A lot of it feels the same, but you still have to get accustomed to it. For me, a big challenge was all the freedom I now had. The onus was on me for my meals, my travel, and my schedule. I was definitely pushed out of my comfort zone, however now I’m more resilient. I gain a number of practical skills along side the academic knowledge from my Session 2 and 3 courses. It’s really made me appreciate my decision to study abroad; it’s a complete package that challenges you academically, culturally, and personally. I can’t recommend it enough, and especially through DIS, which has made the process so seamless!
I’ll still be in Europe for a week after the program ends, before heading home to the States. I’ll be visiting a couple of European cities (Vienna, Prague, and Berlin) and continuing my journey of self-exploration. I want to end my post with a big thank you to DIS for an amazing study abroad experience and you guys (the readers) for following along. Farewell!