Name: Jacqueline Scott
Home University: Vanderbilt University
Summer 2014 Courses at DIS:The Enemy Within: Spies, Espionage, and the Cold War, Roskilde Festival: Community, Culture, and Creativity, The World of Vikings: Facts, Fiction, and Fantasy
After two weeks on Danish soil, the novelty of commuting, navigating DIS, and settling into a new classroom environment is fading – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I find myself feeling more confident in my place here. I continuously notice though that life here presents challenges I’ve never dealt with in the comfort of my home university. With only a few hours of class per day and no extracurricular or work commitments, the days feel long and open. All DIS students have different schedules and commutes, so communication and meeting up can be challenging, but this has often forced me to get out of my comfort zone and ask a new acquaintance if they’d like to go to a park, museum, or café after class.
This is quite different from the routine I live at Vanderbilt and that of students on most American college campuses. Although some days have been hard, I know I’m growing greatly in my self-assurance and ability to forge new friendships. I promised myself I’d ‘make the most’ of this experience, and this is goal manifesting not only in academic learning but socially and personally.
Cooking for myself has also been an equal challenge… the grocery store is a bit overwhelming (particularly the dairy aisle, ha!) but I’ve found it fun to use it as a time to step into Danish culture. I’ve also thoroughly mastered a pasta dish and rice and beans… so that’s a start, right? Like I said, not just academic learning.
Balancing ‘Home’ and ‘Here’
While staying busy and maximizing my time in Copenhagen is a priority, staying in touch with home is too. Most students seem to strike a pace of communication with their families while they’re at their home university, but being abroad is very different. Usually both in Central Time, 7 hours now separates my parents and I so Skyping requires some orchestration, and once we’re connected I definitely seem to have more to say than I usually do at school!
They’re so supportive and enjoy quizzing me about my experience – it helps me reflect and digest what I’ve been doing. It seems that being here has given me a renewed appreciations for the ease of home (home even in the macro sense of the United States). One of my friends here even struggled with initial homesickness, but has worked through it. It’s easy to just see the pictures of people abroad and forget that it is a human experience, and sometimes that means emotionally challenging. Finding a balance of home and here and reflecting on how I feel has helped me maintain excitement.
What ‘Making the Most’ Means to Me (So Far)
So what about this “making the most”? I’ve checked 4 museums off my list (most are always free or at least are one day per week), went on a DIS-sponsored biking trip to the Danish island of Bornholm, and visited Frederiksborg Slot – ‘The Versailles of Scandinavia.’
I’ve also ventured to another Kollegium for a night of pizza and Orange is the New Black (American comforts), ate a famous cinnamon “snail” pastry from St. Peders Bageri, and am learning a lot about Danish history and art through the museums.
Danes have a rich history as a powerful but small nation and celebrate their monarchy. It’s neat to step in to a different political culture and history. Another symptom of more exposure is realizing how little I know – Europe provides a vast span of history and events, and I learn more every day.