My Transformative Summer in Denmark


It’s only been a week since my last day of class, but it nevertheless feels as if my time in Denmark is far back in the past, now that I’m back at Berkeley for the fall semester here. It’s crazy to think the month passed so quickly. Even with some ups and downs, I have grown so much this summer, and this time I want to reflect on aspects of how the experience at DIS changed me. 

Combined with classes on food landscapes and people’s daily lives in the city of Copenhagen, I became more aware of the city design, and how that can make our lives more sustainable.

Though it is often hard to recognize the overarching structure and built environment that shapes our behaviors, as an outsider who came from a totally different environment, I was able to pick up the little things around me — garbage bins on every street, benches in public spaces, many pedestrianized areas around the city, and parks where people can hang out, read, and take a nap, all of which encourage people to lead more sustainable lives, both for themselves as well as for the planet. 

From the perspective of food, I was made aware of the amount of waste we produce every day, how we can reduce it by making changes in the system itself, and finally, how various initiatives are tackling the problem — by circulating the edible leftovers and handling waste within a restaurant establishment. 

Taking a food-focused class for the first time, though it may sounds obvious, I realized how central food is to our lives. And how, with its many aspects, we can do so much with it. 

Starting with examining how we ‘taste’ and ‘savor’ food by looking at bodily and psychological features, we went on to explore different food cultures within Denmark, wrapping up with how food interacts with our societal systems. 

We can not only work towards social justice through understanding cultural, gender, and class divides made through food and also by making our eating behavior more sustainable, but very importantly, we can also start ‘savoring’ life. 

Rather than using food only as a way of self-optimization and for efficiency, — which capitalism often forces us to do — after taking this class, I now want to make my food experience an ‘inefficient’ one — taking time to really savor, not only through letting in more air into my mouth while chewing, but also to share it with people. 

Delightful meal that we cooked together as a class on the last day

Yes, it can sometimes be time-consuming and unbalanced in nutrients, but if it’s something that helps you connect with others, brings you joy, and widens your perspective, it’s worth it, no matter what the system says. 

In addition to academic learning, I was able to experience some personal growth as well. I became ‘street smart’ — even with my terrible sense of direction, I went around using public transit instructed in the language that I did not understand, and biked around the city following a new set of rules including mastering the ‘Copenhagen turn,’ or two-step left turn. 

I also went thorough an interesting internal change — coming from Japan, I felt an outsider in the US, someone who does not quite ‘fit in.’ I was constantly observing what others were doing — from how they dress to how they talk — to try to become ‘one of them.’ 

However, in Denmark, things were a bit different. It was dominated by a homogenously white population who speak a different language, eat different kinds of food, and have a different attitude towards life.

After all, I am a foreigner anywhere I go as long as I keep moving around, and as much as I enjoy the process, it is almost impossible to ‘fit in’ like a chameleon — then why not just be myself? Yes, I did incorporate some of their tastes in clothes since flower prints and pastel colors were irresistible, but no matter where I go, I feel at home where I can just be myself and establish life, so why not stop feeling the pressure to assimilate? With that pressure off my shoulders, I took the ‘assimilation process’ more like a game, observing how I get perceived by the locals and playing with how that changes my sense of identity.  

The environment itself also helped me relax my view of life. As I wrote in a previous post, one of the things I have enjoyed the most in my time in Denmark is the stroll along the river and taking a nap in one of the parks found everywhere in the city. Leading a stressful life crammed with school, sports, and jobs, I never had the privilege of experiencing that ‘slow’ sense of time. I felt secure and more natural even in this strange land, thanks to the more laid-back attitude towards life that I gained over the summer, the chill Danes, or the latte + pastry combo. 

Little hygge time between classes

Denmark became one of the few cities that I ‘lived’ in for a certain amount of time, and I am forever grateful for this opportunity, especially amid the pandemic. It has not only opened my mind to things that I had not given much thought prior but also helped me grow into a new self. By enabling me to start seeing the whole system that surrounds us, the experience made me slow down — sometimes doing inefficient things and enjoying the moments. There would not be too many other places that could bring me these changes in the span of a month.

At one of my favorite napping spots — love the flowers under the sun!

This summer made me realize many things — that there is a lot more to see in the world, and how living in an unfamiliar environment shifts your framework. Seeking more inspiration, I decided to myself that I will keep exploring, and take every opportunity to bring those changes to my thinking. 

Denmark, however, did not only bring these dynamic paradigm shifts, but it also gave me refuge. In the future, I might come back not just for its tourist attractions, but also for long-term observation, job, or school if I had a chance. This is never certain though, especially for someone like myself who says that I’m going to live in every country I visit. You never know what the future will hold, after all. 

One of the things I miss about Danish summer — ice creams!!!

Anyhow, I just wanted to say tak to everyone who read my blog throughout the summer, and also for the city of Copenhagen that gave me so much more than the sense of hygge. 

With love, 


Study Abroad This Summer with DIS:

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