Like Riding a Bike: Adjusting to Life in Scandinavia

Hej! My name is Ellie, and I am a rising junior at UNC Chapel Hill, studying neuroscience, health policy and management, and Spanish for the medical professions. In my free time, I love dancing aimlessly, reading new books, and going on walks with friends. This summer, I am studying Human Health and Disease, Precision Medicine, and Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience. Welcome to the blog! 🙂

Biking home on a rainy day!

In general, new places freak me out. New people, new noises, new systems. New (or not) possibilities of getting lost on public transportation and new places to sleep at night. Even new toilets.

I’ve only been in Copenhagen, or København, for seven days, but I have seen so many new places. I went to an open air market with some of my classmates and tried lots of great coffee from places like the Living Room and Cafe Fiol. I rode a boat past the famous Hans Christian Andersen Little Mermaid statue and strolled through some of the famous home decor stores. I even saw the inside of a Danish hospital.

My roommates and I made the stinkiest mac n’ cheese ever with swiss slices from the Netto down the street, and I got lost for two hours on my bike on my first day of class. I accidentally bought crunchy peanut butter instead of smooth, and I have yet to find a good shampoo for my hair. I learned new Danish phrases through trial and error and blared “Alaska” by Maggie Rogers on Spotify while doing laundry in very high-tech machines. 

Most of all, I have not felt my regular new-place-jitters once. From flying out of the United States to interacting with people on the bike ride into school, I have felt more at ease here than I ever anticipated. All of the students are excited to connect with each other and seek out opportunities to explore, whether that be eating a meal together or going on a walk to see the painted houses along the Nyhavn river. The people of København have been accommodating and kind, even when I am both confused and confusing. My local flatmates have told me about their favorite parts of the city and even showed me how to use the four bag trash system.

In a cheesy way, adjusting to life here has felt a lot like riding a bike: wobbly but intuitive.

This sense of home was not what I was expecting when I applied to study in Denmark and Sweden. I chose to study at DIS this summer because I am a certified public health enthusiast, and Scandinavia is home to some of the most robust healthcare systems in the world. In fact, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Norway all ranked in the top 5 for healthcare in 2022. As a medical scribe and application counselor for health coverage, I had seen the inequities patients faced in North Carolina. Patients without coverage often faced stigma from practitioners and were buried in medical debt. Doctors rushed through cases in order to see more patients, increasing their income while lowering the standard of patient care. I hoped that learning more about the Danish and Swedish healthcare systems would allow me to advocate for more change within the United States. 

When I arrived here, I quickly learned that the appeals of a Scandinavian summer extended past public health and scientific coursework. As a coffee enthusiast, I could enjoy daily fika, a designated time for coffee and relaxation in Stockholm. I could dance along to ABBA and see the longest public art exhibit in the world along the Stockholm metro. As an outdoor lover, I could take advantage of the beautiful nature surrounding the city from Hellasgården to the archipelago.

I could step away from my routine and step into a new one. I could push myself beyond my comfort zone in a supportive and safe environment and grow in my understanding of healthcare, Danish and Swedish culture, and myself. I could wobble, get my footing, and ride the bike.

I am excited to share my summer with you!

Study Abroad This Summer with DIS:

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