Vishni (she/her), Brandeis University, studied abroad at DIS Copenhagen. She shares her experience and reflections of being brown in Copenhagen, and the challenges of finding a South Asian community.
Read below to learn more about Vishni’s time in Denmark and how she created her own support network abroad.
Cultures Filled with History and Tradition
As someone who grew up in a predominantly white town and then became welcomed into a huge, life-changing, South Asian family in college, the lack of diversity in Copenhagen has been a challenge for me. At Brandeis, my home university, I am very involved in our South Asian Students Association (SASA). It has been a place for me to connect to my Sri Lankan roots and meet others who share experiences of being South-Asian-American. We have such beautiful cultures filled with rich history and traditions, and it has been so special for me to make so many friends at school.
Coming to Copenhagen, I knew it was a very “white” place, but I was honestly surprised by the lack of diversity there really is. I find comfort in being in communities of color and being able to have a safe space to discuss our experiences and perspectives even if we do not share the exact same background. However, here, that space was hard for me to find, and honestly, I am still struggling with it.
I find comfort in being in communities of color and being able to have a safe space to discuss our experiences and perspectives even if we do not share the exact same background.
I can’t say that I have been very homesick here at all. I have been so busy making new memories and friends, that I haven’t really had the time to stop and be sad about missing home. But, a couple of weeks ago, SASA hosted our semester dance night where we all gather in a space on campus and “Naach the Night Away” meaning dance the night away. It is such a fun time where I am surrounded by my South Asian friends and SASA supporting friends dancing to South Asian fusion music. I wanted to be there dancing with my Bollywood dance team friends and screaming out the words to our favorite songs, but I couldn’t be. I made sure to plan something very fun for that night and surround myself with friends here, so I wouldn’t experience the classic FOMO, but it was still sad for me.
Finding a Support Network Abroad
In Copenhagen, I have googled endlessly for classes, communities, dance teams, and events but I have truly struggled to find anything hosted by a South Asian community here. It can feel isolating having to be the only person that looks the way you do and having to explain your culture and experiences when others ask in an insensitive manner. I miss having a community to fall back on and receive advice and support from.
Through DIS, I have made a group of friends that I can have as my support network, all of whom live in my Kollegium.
Being Sri Lankan is seen as so “exotic” here and that can honestly be extremely exhausting. However, through DIS, I have made a group of friends that I can have as my support network, all of whom live in my Kollegium. While there is nobody in my friend group that shares my exact identity, many of them are Asian-American and can relate to this sense of isolation in some way. We are able to understand the sense of loneliness that Scandinavia can bring and we get excited together when we see people of similar backgrounds as us on the street.
Just a Call Away
I have learned that my South Asian friends are just a call away, and I have appreciated my culture in my own ways in Copenhagen. I taught my Danish roommate a dance from my Bollywood dance team back home and we added in some hip hop from her own dance training. I found an actual authentic South Asian store and was able to get Sri Lankan curry powder! I have also been able to share so many positive things about the island I love so much. It has really taught me so much about how lucky I am to share the background I do.
A Sense of Pride
Sometimes being away from your community call give you time to reflect on it and appreciate it more. While it can be isolating to be brown in Copenhagen, I have learned to be very proud and grateful for my Sri Lankan roots and culture.
More about DIS