Friday, December 14, 2012


I'm sitting in my room in my cozy apartment in the hip neighborhood of Vesterbro after four months of living in Copenhagen and I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around where the time has gone. From the day I stepped off the plane, I knew this semester would go by fast but now that I'm packed and ready to leave in just 24 hours, I'm at a loss for how to summarize my time here. This final post from Denmark is my best attempt to do that though I have a feeling that I'll be mulling over this experience for days, weeks and months to come.

(A cold, cozy and colorful Christmas in Copenhagen)

I knew that studying abroad would be a good thing for me; I expected to learn about myself and grow as a young, global citizen but looking back I'm still surprised at how much has happened and how much I've grown. As much as I love Georgetown, I very much needed a break from the Hilltop. The past two years were full of ups and downs and having a semester away to process it all has been incredible. I've been able to really evaluate the things I want to pursue, the passions I want to stick with and the people I want to keep around. I don't look that different (thought my hair is the longest it's been in over two years) and I still feel like "Hillary" but I'd like to think I'm a better, more capable version of myself now. When I think about where and who I was back in August, I'm proud to say that I feel much more confident, independent and interesting now. Call me maybe?

Walking through the streets of Poland a few weeks ago, a friend and I were discussing what it would be like to go home. I said something along the lines of "I can't wait to make chit-chat with people at parties. I am so damn interesting to talk to now!" I half meant it as a joke but in all seriousness, I feel like I have a much broader view of life in general and I've learned a ton about myself and the world around me by living in Denmark. It's so easy to get bogged down in the details of day to day life that sometimes stepping away for a while reminds you that there's more to this big wide world than the drama-du-jour of college life. I tried to keep a list of all the amazing things that have happened and the things that I'll miss in Denmark but it got too long. This is just a snippet of the things that made my heart melt, my eyes water, or my mind grow.
Seeing the wind turbines for the first time; eating fresh baked bread in Jutland; meeting my visiting family; sailing through the Fjords to Norway; biking through Bornholm; realizing that I can read signs in Danish; walking through Hamlet's castle; rock climbing in Sweden for a day; my first Tuborg and Carlsberg beers; finding out that my last name is Danish in origin; Danish desserts and pastries; my visiting family surprising me with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner; climbing the Amsterdam sign; being in Moscow for the first snow of the season; celebrating Polish Independence day in Krakow; deciding to change my minor after taking an amazing class on feminist art and a trip to the Red Lights District; standing on the Acropolis in Greece; Danish babies in their snowsuits and massive buggies; super dense rye bread; spending eight hours at the Louvre; walking through Auschwitz; waking up to fresh snow in Copenhagen; Tivoli at Halloween and Christmas; seeing Putin drive by at the Moscow Kremlin; stumbling through Danish pronunciations in class; learning to read Russian; exploring Cinque Terre; eating crepes with Nutella at the Eiffel tower; talking with Danish students at my visiting family's school; meeting so many amazing people from all over the US and the world; knowing that a little piece of my heart will always be in Denmark should I be fortunate enough to return and find it.
Goodbyes never really hit me until afterwards so for now my eyes are dry, though I'm making no promises that they will stay that way. At this time tomorrow I'll be on a plane to DC and on Monday, a plane to Denver. It's been 118 days since I came to Denmark and I'm proud that I pushed myself outside my comfort zone and learned something new each and every week. As if I haven't said it enough, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I've made an incredible foreign city my home and I cannot wait to return to the States to see everyone and talk all about my adventures. Traveling is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer and I feel like the wealthiest person on the planet right now.

Thank you so much for following my semester abroad through this blog. It's been a fantastic way to chronicle my explorations and work out my thoughts on my time here. Tusind tak, hej hej, og indtil vi mødes igen!


I've always been a fan of honesty. And honestly, studying abroad is a life changing thing no matter where you go in the world. If you have a Facebook and know anyone who is abroad then you're well acquainted with the perks. "OMG Paris for the weekend!" "Wine tasting class? Obvi!" "Soooo tired from traveling! LOL life is good!" 

Yes, studying abroad has been amazing. But if anyone has told you that its one big Eurotrip, they're missing the finer points of the experience. Somewhere in between touring the streets of Moscow, climbing the Acropolis, and biking through Amsterdam you'll find things out about yourself that you never would have expected. I don't mean to go all "soul searcher" on you but I'd be lying if I said studying abroad isn't a challenging semester despite all the amazing things you get to do too. Being in Denmark hasn't changed my affinity for list-making so I wrote up a few things that I learned along the way that I wish I'd known--or at least understood better--before leaving the states

1. Missing home does not mean you're homesick.
I really really really miss Denver and DC. But I also really really really love Copenhagen. Explaining this to friends who aren't abroad always make me feel like a spoiled brat. Yes, I'm having an incredible time in Europe but I still sometimes wish I were back home. This feeling is totally NORMAL! Just because you miss the States doesn't mean you don't appreciate the incredible opportunities you've been given. If anything, studying abroad has made me even more aware of just how lucky I am to have such amazing things to return to. I will never take my friends and life back home for granted again.
2. Not everyone will keep in touch while you're gone and that's ok.
At first this drove me crazy. I didn't want to be "that friend" who left the country and was totally MIA for four months. I actually got really frustrated when I reached out to people from home and got little or no response. Part of this stems from the fact that one of my biggest pet peeves is unanswered and unreturned calls, emails and texts. It took me a little while before I realized that I was actually the one being selfish. The world is still spinning back home and people are busy in America, too. Relationships that really matter won't have changed with time and distance. I've occasionally been pleasantly surprised by who kept in touch the best and those are the friends I'm most excited to see when I return. If you're my friend from home and you're reading this, you'd better act damn excited to see me because I can't wait to see you!
3. "Living" is different than "traveling."
Every counselor and advisor will tell you this but it won't really hit you until you feel comfortable in your new city and even then you may not be able to pinpoint the exact moment when it actually happened. I'm fortunate enough to have travelled a lot before studying abroad and was lucky to be able to continue exploring this whole semester. This difference really hit me when I got back from my first big trip to Amsterdam and I couldn't wait to curl up in my Copenhagen. You'll start calling your new city home and you'll notice differences between the places you travel and the place you're living. It's really a cool thing. If you're considering studying abroad but think you're "well traveled" and don't need it...well sorry, you're wrong. There's so much more to see and learn.
4. You'll learn more about American culture than you think.
As surprising as it sounds, I'm returning to the States with a much better understanding of what American culture is. This seemed weird at first. I'm living in Denmark, aren't I supposed to be a pseudo Dane? Well, not exactly. Have you ever felt like it's easier to solve someone else's problem than your own because you're looking in instead of out? It's the same thing with understanding cultures. While I've certainly picked up things from living in Denmark, it's much easier to look back at America and see what the exact "culture" is.
5. Never feel guilty for acting like a tourist.
I really love when people speak to me in Danish or ask me for directions because it means I look like a local. I got a new camera before leaving the States and even though I love being snap-happy, I hate looking like a tourist when I whip out my massive Nikon and start clicking away. After the newness of the city wore off, I was super conscious about looking too American or too touristy. It's definitely worthwhile to immerse yourself and respect cultural differences but at the same time, I am American and since I'm here for such a short time, I might as well embrace it and act the part. There's a balance, I think, between taking advantage of your time and aspiring to be a native. Even though I do my best to dress like a Dane, there are days where I can't be bothered to put on jeans and I venture outside in yoga pants (this is practically a cardinal sin here). You are there for a limited time so don't be afraid to indulge in the highlights like any other visitor.

The truth is this: studying abroad is one of the most amazing, adventurous, challenging, frustrating, unique, eye-opening, thought-provoking and memorable experiences you will ever have. It's a hard thing to explain to be able who haven't done it because it's such a different experience from just traveling. Luckily there are plenty of DIS kids based in DC who I'll be able to reminisce with. I have plenty of stories to entertain everyone with but I'm equally looking forward to catching up on State-side happenings.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


It's hard to believe that my traveling time has come to an end. After submitting my final paper on Thursday morning, I went to my last two classes before jetting off for one last trip. Another good friend from high school messaged me back in September; Hannah was studying in Spain and wanted to know if I'd like to go to Paris with her. We took AP Art History together senior year and have both continued to study the subject at school. Because of busy lives and crazy schedules, I hadn't actually seen her since graduation but catching up over crepes, macaroons and tea made the last two years seem insignificant.

On Friday morning we met up with one of my friends from Georgetown who has been in Paris all semester for hot chocolate and croissants. She picked a cafe right near all the big museums so after parting ways, Hannah and I set off to explore the Musee l'Orangerie and the Louvre. We spent a grand total of ten hours in museums that day. A group of Hannah's friends from school were also traveling through Paris so we met up with them that night and went out to an amazing dinner of cheese fondue and wine served in baby bottles.

We slept in a little on Saturday before heading out to see the D'Orsay Museum (which didn't allow photography). Along the way we happened across the Love Bridge. Couples attach a lock and throw the key in the river for good luck. I have every intention of returning to Paris someday to add my own. After another few hours of marveling at art, we made our way to Notre Dame, an incredible bookstore called Shakespeare & Company, and the Eiffel tower where we watched the hourly light show while sipping hot, mulled wine.

Since neither of had class on Monday, we opted to fly out then instead of on Sunday, giving us a whole extra day to do more sightseeing. I've always wanted to go to Versailles so despite the chilly weather, we took the train out to see the royal residence. The gardens, though relatively grey, were' still spectactular. I can only imagine how they look in the spring and summer. We finished off the afternoon by exploring Sacre Coeur, the Montemartre area and hunting down Chipotle for dinner (a true Colorado favorite).

The weekend was a huge success and I can't think of a more perfect way to round off my traveling in Europe. Hannah was a fantastic travel buddy; very few people would have been eager to spend hours looking at paintings in museums. Now that I'm back in (snowy) Copenhagen, I've got just a few days left to relax, shop and pack before heading back to the states.

This semester has been a non-stop adventure and I'm very much looking forward to three weeks spent doing absolutely nothing at home (and by nothing I actually mean doings lot of hot yoga, seeing old friends and eating at all my favorite restaurants). I fly to DC on Saturday to see one of my very best friends before she heads off to Jordan for the spring semester so I guess I still have one more weekend trip ahead of me. The past four months have been incredible and as sad as I am see it all end, I'm infinitely grateful to have such amazing people and things to go home too.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Like many of my American peers, I've become a pro at procrastinating when I really should be doing work. Thankfully, I just submitted my final paper assignment this morning and have two classes to attend before I'm officially finished with academics for the semester. Crazy right?! Even though I'm basically done, I figured I should share with you some of my favorite Danish songs. Because Hulu doesn't work in Europe and Netflix is limited, I've been turning to YouTube to fill the void during extended study breaks. I've watched everything...Dr. Phil reruns, medical documentaries and weird TLC specials (yes, I've actually sunk to this level of desperation). Despite being embarrassed to admit what I've been watching, I also found some great and entertaining Danish artist to distract you from whatever it is you should be doing. You're Welcome!

Rasmus Thude - Gider Dig Ikke Mer
I don't actually understand this song but Rasmus is adorable. They also filmed this at Tivoli which is right near my apartment.

Specktors - Lågsus
This song is always on at the gym. I can't get over the whole white-boy-rapping thing and their awkward shorts and more awkward dance moves makes this one a real winner.

Christopher - Nothing in Common
He's kind of like the Danish version of Jesse McCartney or J-Biebs. He also works out at my gym which is pretty cool.

Outlandish - Warrior/Worrier
I'd actually heard of this band before I got to Denmark. The guys were born in Copenhagen to immigrant parents.

Nik & Jay - Laekker
Slang for "hot," this old song is still played at all the bars. Watching this will remind you that somewhere, someone was once having a worse style-day than you.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


With the semester winding down, it's about time that I did a little traveling on my own. I'm really happy that I spent my designated travel breaks on DIS tours but it was a wonderful treat to spend this past weekend in Italy with a good friend from high school. I took one semester of Italian at Georgetown and I was surprised at how much I retained; I was able to read most signs and menus which was pretty cool.

EasyJet has super cheap flights to Milan so back in September we booked a weekend trip. I hadn't been to Italy previously; as an art history major there is SO MUCH I want to see and do there but trying to do Rome or Florence in just 2.5 days felt like a waste of time (plus I'm a hopeless romantic and would really like a future boyfriend/fiancé/husband to whisk me off to Tuscany, or something cliche like that). Milan isn't always a top travel destination but it served as a great introduction to the country. We spent all day Friday climbing the Duomo, window shopping and eating gelato and pizza.

Because Milan is considered a business city, one day was enough to see the major sights. Since Italy is well connected via train lines, we opted to do a day trip on Saturday to Cinque Terre. Oh. My. Goodness. It was just as picture perfect as Pinterest would have you think. We took an early morning train to Monterosso al Mare, the first of the five villages. From there we spent the afternoon hopping from town to town and taking in the colorful charm of the world heritage site.

Vernazza had great harbor views and the most charming winding side streets. I could have easily spent several hours just walking through them all.

Corniglia was a short bus ride up a (very steep) hill and offered stunning panoramic views of the sea and farming terraces.

Manarola was the most iconic village, nestled in to the cliff overlooking the Mediterranean.
We ate lunch (pasta with lobster and a glass of moscato) and the best cannoli I've ever had in a cute little cafe on the main square.

Last but not least we caught a sliver of a pink and orange sunset from the streets of Riomaggoire, the last of the five towns.

It was a little cold and the streets were quiet since it was the off season but I had an incredible time. I've seen so many pictures of the colorful villages online and it was such a "bucketlist" kind of day that it was worth every minute and penny. I can only imagine how glorious it must be in the summer. Even though it was December the hills were still lush and green and orange and lemon trees were dotted with colorful fruit.

I have to keep reminding myself that I'm only 20 and still have my whole life to continue to seeing the world. If anyone is looking for a good gift to give me, I'll happily accept plane tickets to anywhere in Italy. If you want to include a moped, bottle of wine and a private villa I'd accept that too.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Before I dive in to this post, I'd like to take a minute to thank you, the reader. My blog is an "official" blog for my DIS program and I just found out the other day that I was selected as the "Student Blogger of the Semester." I'm extremely flattered that people other than my parents take the time to read what I write. I've also gotten some really thoughtful comments and emails from people I've never met and it makes my day every time. So THANK YOU whomever you are for reading this.

Since I wrote my last post about a key thing that I don't like about Danish culture, I figured I should talk about one of the aspects that I do really like. The realization that led to this post happened during a recent afternoon trip to the Copenhagen Zoo.

(snuggling otters)

The Zoo is a short bus ride away from my apartment so my housemate and I decided to go after class the other week. After checking out the new baby hippo and reading up on the Asian elephants we walked up to the otter enclosure. Much to my surprise, the glass barrier only came up to my waist. The front of their habitat was a pond and a large log was floating right next to the glass. An otter was perched on the driftwood and when he saw us looking at him he stood up on his back legs to say hello (yes, I speak otter). I swear to god I almost reached right over and patted his cute little head but I stopped myself when I realized that I was actually about to reach in to a zoo exhibit to pet a wild animal. That's when it hit me: this would NEVER happen in the States. Someone would have definitely touched the otter, taken him home or hopped over the fence to swim with him. In Denmark, the Zoo trusted that no one would do such a thing so there wasn't a ten foot wall, moat and lasers separating us from the animals.This example sounds silly, but the Danish tradition of trust is a cornerstone in their culture. They are a society that follows the rules. No one jaywalks. Women leave strollers with sleeping babies outside stores because they know that no one will take them (except, of course, people like me who are obsessed with Danish children).

Trust in society is why the welfare state works. Danes trust each other to contribute and they trust the government to provide for them and thus everyone does their part. The Danes are very private people; they trust that they can walk down the street and not be disrupted or distracted by anyone else. Everyone has their personal space and the right to not be bothered and nearly everyone respects that. To an outsider these tendencies can seem cold but after living in Copenhagen for nearly four months I've come to really enjoy this value. I've never felt unsafe walking around and I know that I can get from point a to point b efficiently and without interruption. I have no doubt that the loud, push-and-shove mentality of the States will be quite a shock. I enjoy my quiet morning bus ride to school and love being able to explore the city in solitude despite being surrounded by hundreds of other people.

I'm getting a handle on the Danish way but I guess it's the American in me that wants to pet zoo animals and not wait for the crosswalk symbols. I'm still tempted to adopt a Danish baby but I suppose animals are easier to care for so I may have to settle for a stolen otter. He'd be in good hands. Trust me.

Monday, November 26, 2012


With just three weeks left in Copenhagen, I've been giving a lot of thought as to what I want to bring home as a souvenir. I've gotten some little things here and there but I kind of want to get one big thing to remember my time here. It has to be cool, cute and totally Danish. If I had it my way, I would probably bring home a Danish baby. But let's face it, 20 is way too young to be a mom. Not to mention that stealing children off the street is probably illegal too.

(Just creepin' on some nuggets at the bus stop)

I can't get enough of Danish children. They are ALL blonde with blue eyes and they have been dressed in full-body snowsuits (with boots and mittens of course) since October. They waddle around in their puffy coats and scoot down the streets on miniature bikes. I swear to god I melt every time I hear a bubbly little three-year-old say something completely unintelligible in Danish. As cute and innocent as they may appear, Danish children are much more independent than their American peers. I've taken the public bus with middle schoolers and waited at crosswalks with unattended first graders. This would never happen back home and if it did, it would probably make the nine o'clock news.

My Danish class has a cultural component to it and we've talked a lot about the Danish school system. Preschool and kindergarten here is much more focused on socializing. Preschool teachers have a different title than "regular" teachers and parents would be horrified if they actually taught their children anything. The point of the early years is to play, make friends, and learn to be social. This was amusing to my class but as we talked more about the progression of education, I came to realize what--in my mind--was really lacking in the classroom: competition.

There's actually a term for this phenomenon. It's called janteloven (or the Law of Jante in English) and it basically says that it's inappropriate to hold your success over another. It has ten key points which all basically say you are not any better than anyone else. It's a pretty radical idea by American standards but has been embraced on many levels by Danish culture. I was happy to learn about this philosophy because it finally gave a name to what frustrated me so much about Danish culture.

I was never that involved in sports so I've never really considered myself to be competitive; since I've been in Denmark, I've discovered that I am, in fact, extremely competitive in a different sense of the world. If you know me personally maybe this isn't all the that shocking to you (but hey, at least I'm learning to identify my flaws). I don't necessarily feel the need to win, but I do like to be right. I'm pretty convinced that the world would run more smoothly if I did the planning. I like to be in control, I'm opinionated and I'm stubborn to a fault. When I apply for things, I usually get them. I have no problem saying something or someone is better than another. Honestly, how can you go through life and not think that something or someone is the best? 

For Danes, everyone is equal and all ideas are welcome. While I appreciate being open minded (and this is actually a quality I like to think I have), I can't wrap my mind around nothing being "the best" or "better than" in the Danish sense. You know what? I'm good at writing. I know I am. And that's ok. I can also acknowledge that I suck at spelling, can't hit a tennis ball and will never be a scientist. That's ok! You're probably better at something than I am and I still value you as a person. That's ok too! Perhaps my insistence that my way is better than the Danish way only goes to prove their point but if nothing else, I'm learning way more about myself and American culture in general than I ever expected to learn in my Danish class.

I'll be coming back to the states with new a perspective on my own personality and that's perfectly ok with me. Self-discovery is an important part of studying abroad and so far I've discovered that I have a competitive streak that I never really noticed. I will also insist that my future children wear neon snow-suits if it ever drops below 50 degrees...but that's a lesson for another day.