To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote
To travel is to live.
-H.C. Andersen, The Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography
Studying in and exploring Copenhagen over these last three weeks has been the greatest experience of my life so far, no questions asked. Not to say that it has always been an easy or a perfect experience; I did get yelled at in Danish for not showing my pass once on the bus, I pulled an all-nighter for a paper in class (I am so sorry, Debbie…), and I overpaid for a number of items before realizing that coffee really did cost $7.50. Regardless of the tougher times, the amount that I have learned and have been able to experience in Denmark over the past few weeks has been life-changing.
(Spoiler alert: the 400 stairs are 400% worth the view at the top)
Some of the experiences I have had include climbing the 400 steps to the top of the Church of Our Saviour, admiring the beauty of the Øresund Strait from the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, watching the sun set behind the Copenhagen skyline at 10:30 p.m., going to every “bro” (Nørrebro, Amagerbro, Østerbro, and Vesterbro), seeing the crown jewels and a throne made of narwhal tusks at the Rosenborg Castle, accidentally discovering hidden gardens and tucked-away side streets, plus so much more.
To say that these experiences were amazing truly feels like an understatement. I have loved every single minute of exploring Copenhagen. Although I will cherish the memories I have from these moments, there is something I have gained from Denmark that I cherish even more: a new understanding of the world.
Danish society is dramatically different from American society. The effects of greater gender equality, better work-life balance, and a stronger safety net have been tangible even in my brief time here as a student. More men carry their babies and push them around in strollers. No men have harassed me on the street for the first time in ten years. On a particularly lovely Friday, people at an office my friend visited for her Field Study were allowed to leave early to enjoy the weather. There have been two holidays in my three weeks here for people to take time off from work to relax. I have seen no visible signs of strife as I have walked around. I have felt perpetually safe, around the clock, everywhere I have been, even alone.
All of these small observations and experiences have caused me to challenge, and even change, many of my core beliefs. Such changes have been a theme for me over the course of my time here in Denmark, as my Psychology of Human Sexuality course has also revolutionized my thinking in a number of ways. The course demonstrated for me the effectiveness of therapy for sexual offenders as opposed to just imprisonment, the playful and artistic nature of fetish clubs, the innumerable benefits of Denmark’s all-ages sex-positive sex education model, and so much more.
With my three weeks in Denmark now coming to a close, I am eagerly anticipating what the next three weeks in Sweden and Germany will bring. I’m excited to have a three day weekend to explore my new home in Stockholm, where I will be taking Gender, Equality, and Sexuality in Scandinavia. Then, next weekend, it is off to Berlin for our Study Tour! While I don’t know my specific plans just yet, I know for sure that I’m looking forward to lots of fika in Sweden, as well as even longer summer days.