Embracing Hygge

This week marked the completion of my fourth week in Denmark, officially wrapping up one session and immediately diving into a new one. As I chatted with my new classmates in Artic Ecology, I discovered that the majority of them were here for their first session, having arrived just the day before. It reminded me of my own experience, feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, jetlagged, and very sweaty. I vividly recalled the struggles of navigating the buses and opting to walk to class under the scorching sun.

To add to the chaos, I got lost and ended up sprinting up four flights of stairs. The first day of class can truly be a nerve-wracking ordeal. However, my classmates greeted me with understanding smiles, as their own first-day experiences were still fresh in their minds. We were all navigating this unfamiliar terrain together, forming bonds that would carry us through these few months and potentially even beyond, when we return home.

My European Biodiversity class in Soderasen National Park

But after a few days, something changed. I started to feel more at ease in Denmark, despite the ongoing challenges of attending classes and finding my way around, and I noticed that this city lacked the hustle and bustle of the previous places I had visited. That’s when I discovered the concept of Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”). It’s a Danish term that encompasses a feeling of coziness, contentment, and overall well-being. Hygge is deeply ingrained in Danish society and has gained popularity worldwide. It revolves around the warm and comforting atmosphere created by simple pleasures, fostering relaxation and connections with others. Copenhagen truly embodies this fundamental aspect of Danish lifestyle. It boasts numerous parks and green spaces like the King’s Garden (Kongens Have), Botanical Garden, and waterfront promenades, offering serene retreats amidst nature. When you ride the bus home from class, simply glance out the window, and you’ll spot plenty of people sunbathing on the docks on a Wednesday afternoon.

Make sure to checkout concerts in the area, we got see Maggie Rogers !
The Botanical Gardens has beautiful white stairs that visitors can take to see the top of the greenhouses.

This hygge concept is also incorporated into Copenhagen’s cafes and restaurants. As a student, you can visit the cozy café called The Living Room and experience exactly what the name suggests — a living room ambiance, along with a nice student discount. The soft lighting, comfortable seating, and warm interiors make it the perfect spot to enjoy a nice coffee with friends or cherish some alone time with a good book.

Hygge extends beyond cafes and into the dining experience itself. It encourages preparing and savoring comforting meals with loved ones. Cooking together, relishing the enticing aromas, and engaging in meaningful conversations over leisurely dinners can strengthen your connections. In our case, we incorporated this by organizing rooftop dinners a few times a week, which not only allowed us to enjoy delicious meals but also served as a great way to get to know our fellow residents and foster a sense of community.

Rooftop dinners!

Initially, the apartments we were placed in might have felt cold and bare. However, adding personal touches to your temporary home can make you feel more grounded. My roommate and I decorated our space with leftover art prints and a tapestry from school, alongside some flowers from the farmers market and a basil plant from the grocery store. Lighting a few candles and maintaining a clean apartment helped to alleviate the sense of disconnection and allowed me to truly settle into the routine.

My roommate and our lovely flowers 🙂

When you’re abroad, it’s easy to feel the pressure of making every minute count. The opportunity to be in a foreign country can feel like a constant race against time, making sitting at home seem like a waste. However, this mindset can easily lead to stress and completely disregard the hygge lifestyle.

By giving myself permission to slow down and embrace moments of relaxation, I discovered a renewed sense of energy and creativity. I learned that self-care and embracing the hygge lifestyle were essential to truly make the most of my time abroad. It wasn’t about constantly being on the go and checking off an endless list of must-do activities; rather, it was about finding a balance between exploration and taking care of myself. Embracing hygge taught me that a slower pace and moments of rest are just as important as being out and about in a foreign country.

So, whether you’re heading into your first week abroad or starting to feel burnt out after multiple sessions, I urge you to take a moment to pause and consider the transformative power of embracing the hygge lifestyle. It has the potential to enhance your experience and help you find joy in the simplest of moments.

Amarminoen running trail

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