Visiting Family

My visiting family took me out to dinner last night, wanting to bring me to their favorite Korean restaurant in Copenhagen. Following the meal we went for hot chocolate at this adorable two story cafe near Mark, their son’s, apartment. Meals in Denmark are long and slow, often times containing a dessert course followed by tea or coffee. They truly appreciate the time with one another, never wanting the meal to end. It’s much different than fast paced New York, but as food has the power to bring anyone together, it’s a cultural difference I am slowly falling in love with.

We spent the evening chatting about what I have been up to thus far, planning our future adventures together, and sharing classic comedic parenting stories, something that anyone can relate to regardless of where they are from.

Here we all are!

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Nyhavn

I am taking a Creative Travel Writing class here in Copenhagen and I figured that some of the assignments I complete may be blog worthy. Mainly I just need to prove to my Dad that we actually have to complete assignments here….

When you do a Google image search of Copenhagen, Denmark, the first three pages of images that appear attempt to capture the timeless magic that is Nyhavn. Professional photographs that boast contrasting bright colors are situated along side blurred watercolor paintings of the iconic harbor found in the center of Copenhagen.  It was easily the sight that I was most excited to see upon my arrival, keeping my iPhone at an easy reach so that when I finally found the strip I’d be equipped for an awfully clichéd Instagram post.

After much wandering and complaining about the numbing of toes I turned a corner and could see in the distance the patterned yellows and reds cut the grey sky. A determined strong breeze hinted that I was near the water and I struggled to keep my hair out of my eyes. Welcoming the jolt of adrenaline, I dashed to the bridge, twisting left and right so that my eyes could fall upon either side of the harbor.  The water was a still grey, reflecting the mute sky.  A blurred reflection of the twinkling lights and tightly packed vibrant buildings bounced up and down slowly as the harbor moved. It was vacant, both cold and warm all at once.

Outwardly it was spectacular, a sight unlike any I had seen before.  But after the immediate moment of astonishment, the space began to whisper confessions of loneliness. The boats were covered, out-door seating available with no one to occupy it. Even the strings of star-like lights danced to a sad melody–consistently performing without a single devoted admirer.  I longed for the presence of others and felt that Nyhavn, too, longed for company just as much as I did.

Arhus and Odense

I got home last night from my three day trip to Western Denmark where my Strategic Communication Core Course visited the city of Arhus, the second largest city in Denmark and then the city of Odense, the home town of Hans Christian Andersen. They call it a study tour because they really try to mix the “study” with elements of “touring,” blending company site visits with walking tours and beer tasting. I must admit I was a bit skeptical at first. We didn’t have a ton of information pre-departure and did not know what to expect, but as I am quickly coming to realize there is nothing that DIS does poorly. This trip was incredible. It enabled us to get to know one another as a class, speak to some insanely intelligent and intriguing professionals, and see two cities in Denmark we may not have prioritized before.

Our first stop was Jyllands-Posten, one of the few major newspaper publications in Denmark. A few years back this newspaper published a controversial series of drawings of Muhammed. After the publishing, riots and protesting broke out in Denmark and in the Middle East regarding the decision to publish such culturally sensitive images.  I’m sure some of you back home can remember the news coverage of it in America, but it’s still a huge controversy in Denmark causing a divide in the nation. While some feel that it was a clear practice of freedom of speech, others challenge the editors cultural sensitivity. We were able to question the head of the Communication and Marketing department of the Newspaper about how you handle this sort of publicity, and the continuously blurry line between freedom of speech and cultural sensitivity.

We then moved on to a company called DesignIt, a start up that essentially designs ANYTHING. From making a bottle seem “cool” to developing a program for an Audi showroom in London that would allow people to virtually experience their inventory, they create teams to tackle any company’s design woes. The office had large post-it notes everywhere constantly in brainstorm and creative hipster types roaming the halls. We sat for an hour talking to an account manager about the difficulties they have marketing and branding such a large scope of work while they continue to seek to grow.

The following morning we went a company called Danske Commodities. This was also a start-up in the process of growing exponentially. They are an energy trading company which obviously goes WAY over my head but from what I could understand it seems that a pretty young guy figured out that he could expedite the energy trading process so that energy can be traded minutes before its being used. At this point I was scratching my head at the concept of trading energy—it’s like a trading floor on Wall Street but with energy. Mind blowing. Our speaker, however, was the head of corporate communication at the company. He gave us some invaluable advice about managing the public opinion of a start up on the rise. You want to promote but not over promote, to know your customer and audience, and to prioritize. But perhaps the most simple yet compelling thing he advised was about self value.  “Know your worth. Know where you’re valuable and make that known because when you are not making money for a company it’s easy to be undervalued. Don’t let yourself fall victim to this sort of generalization.” A pretty smart guy, if you ask me.

Following Danske Commodities, we stopped at Aros Art Museum. I’ll give you all a break from my rambling with some photos, but the museum was dark and bright all at once. The concept was as you move up the floors, your moving from Hell to Heaven. It made for a rather dynamic experience.

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We then boarded the bus and departed for Odense which boasts it personal connection with Hans Christian Andersen. For my less literary inspired friends, Hans Christian Andersen is the king of fairytales. A vast majority of the fairytales we heard as kids are variations of his very work, and the town of Odense prides themselves on the preservation of this influential man’s hometown. Upon arrival, I immediately felt as though time had frozen. With statues commemorating his stories and tiny colorful houses lining cobblestone streets, I couldn’t help but imagine myself in a pop-up story book. It was quaint and beautiful, magical in the most simple of ways. I couldn’t stop smiling. He was a man that loved stories and this city felt as though it came out of a story, a perfect kind of reflection.

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ImageFinally, our last stop was a microbrewery called Midtfuns Brughus.  We got a tour of the brewery, learned about the process of making beer, and got to try nine different kinds ranging from light to dark brews. The owner of the brewery was an American who has now lived in Denmark for 21 years so he shared tons of stories about culture shock and adjustments coming from America to Denmark while we all tasted some delicious craft beer.

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There I am grabbing a beer straight from the holding tank!

It was the perfect end to a fabulous trip and has only made my excitement to go to London with the same class stronger. I apologize for the length of this post. So much to share!

Until next time friends.

Museums and Mermaids

We have officially been here for two weeks and I can already sense that time is going to fly by. Somehow it feels like I got here ages ago, forming friends with the other DIS students on my floor faster than any sort of friendship before. We are all so eager to go out and do things. Today alone my friend Richa and I made a trip to a sculpture museum, took a bus to the water to see the iconic Little Mermaid statue, and met Claire at café Paludan which is a café that a friend from home recommended. (Thanks, Ash!) It seems to be a pretty popular spot with cheery chatter and lazy lounging welcoming each new comer. The décor relies on the binding of books and the music of conversation. The food was delicious, reasonably affordable and the cappuccino was a splendid addition to the meal after trekking around in the cold.  It doesn’t quite compare to our cappuccino dates at home, Mom, but it certainly takes a close second.DSCN0291

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I am leaving for my Core Course study tour tomorrow. Here at DIS everyone is involved with a Core Course, mine being Strategic Communication. It’s essentially like a Public Relations class. My professor is actually a partner at a PR firm. Casual, right?  Tomorrow marks the first day of Core course week, which is a 5-day period strictly dedicated to spending time with your Core Class. We are going to western Denmark for a few days tomorrow and London later on in the semester. I could not be more excited. Our agenda for Western Denmark includes stops at a television station and the headquarters of a local newspaper here. More on that upon my arrival back to Denmark, but for now I have to get some sleep.  We have to be on the bus at 6:45 tomorrow.

Some quick highs and lows from the week! I’m sure I’ll have to limit the highs and search for the lows, but it’s a quirky tradition that I just can’t pass up.

HIGHS

Dinner with my visiting family (A Danish family I got matched with by DIS to hang out with while I am here)

Learning a Danish dice game at the bar

THE BLACK DIAMOND LIBRARY

Tiny children in full snowsuits

LOWS

Slippery slush on the street

Wind chills

Bus 26 taking 25 minutes to arrive

Sales on clothing everywhere but having to resist buying

A True Diamond

Today my friends Shelby, Aaron, and I decided to bike to the Black Diamond Library, the Royal library in Copenhagen as well as a public space for habitants of the city.  In true Danish fashion we braved the cold with the assistance of thick scarves, mapped out the route before losing Wi-Fi, and proceeded to begin the brief 10 minute bike ride to what I can now say is the most spectacular library I have ever been to. The sleek black building is situated right on the water, large windows framing the timeless view. It’s modern and fresh, with a keen consideration of space and place. Even before entering I was fixated on its appearance, quickly disrupting my previously held opinion that the most beautiful libraries must be of great age–perhaps even of a different time. When you enter, an open café greets you at the door. The fresh smells of coffee and distant smell of books somehow feel at home in the cold, blank environment. The grey water compliments the white walls, a conscious decision in reflection. Multiple levels pile upon one another, with floating staircases serving as both elements of function as well as being artistically abstract and captivating. In exploring the building more, we discovered each room had a unique atmosphere. Old red bricks and stones were coupled with grey concrete and structured lines. The clear juxtaposition formed contours, old meeting new, history and opportunity.  I have never been so emotionally moved by a space, somehow feeling that in sitting there, with a clear view of the Parliament building just outside my window, the conversations and work of others could magically infiltrate me.  Who knows who has sat in that same seat, looked out the very same window for just a brief moment and imagined something astonishing. I guess the beauty of it all is in the wondering, the absolute luxury of having time to think.

I tried to snap a few shots but quickly gave up as the flash of the camera seemed to bother fellow library goers. Here are the ones I did get, though. They don’t even begin to capture the essence of the place, but heres to trying.

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Bike-able Copenhagen

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”  -Ernest Hemingway 

ImageMeet my new Baby Blue! Copenhagen is acknowledged as one of the most bike-able cities in the world so naturally I had to rent one for the semester. Pray for my safety and my hair.

An Eternal Student’s Paradise

Yesterday was our first day of classes here in Copenhagen, a reality that some conveniently forget is an integral part of a ‘study’ abroad semester. I, however, have been looking forward to the classes I’d be taking here ever since discovering this program. I welcomed the eager excitement I often experience when packing my bag and allowed my self to wonder about the interesting professors I’d soon be exposed to who would help shape my experience here in Denmark. From class one, European Storytelling, to my final class, Danish Language and Culture, I found myself sitting in awe and bewilderment that I’d get to hear from some of the most distinguished members in their fields multiple times a week. Professors here are adjunct professors. Most of them are not typically teachers by profession but instead active members in their respective fields outside of academia.  They stress the applicability of theory, seeming thus far to artfully blend ideas and practice. It’s much different than what I am use to at Villanova, as most of my Liberal Arts classes are based in books, reading, and writing. This change of pace is sure to be both refreshing and helpful, and I keep patting myself on the back for making the decision to apply to this program. I was most surprised by my Creative Travel Writing professor, Lisa Abend, who is a European Correspondant for TIme Magazine. She has also been published in the New York Times, Food and Wine, and National Geographic Traveler, a resume that speaks for itself. I practically fell over in my seat when she gave us a detailed introduction, only after having us critique one of her published pieces without being aware it was hers. Those who know me well know that I must have died and reached heaven. For those who don’t, this is probably how I would describe a dream course. I’m feeling pretty lucky,  a feeling I am sure will stick around for a while.