Just kidding. However, I do highly recommend coming in the spring or summer. I have never seen a city change as much with the weather as Copenhagen has; the energy around the city is palpably different. People have emerged from their hibernation and are livelier and friendlier. With that said, here is my Copenhagen travel guide:
Be prepared to spend money. Copenhagen is not cheap, and if you are looking for a budget destination, you will be disappointed.
See Nyhavn, but do not eat there!! Nyhavn is probably the most famous spot in Copenhagen, and for good reason. The colorful buildings reflected against the water is a beautiful sight. However, don’t eat there. The food is very overpriced and not nearly as good as you’d find elsewhere.
Kastellet is the most underrated attraction in Copenhagen. Kastellet is a beautiful place for a stroll through the park, to look at an old windmill, or to see where the Danish army used to live. It’s a gorgeous area, especially if the nearby cherry blossoms are blooming.
The Little Mermaid statue is worth visiting because it’s so close to Kastellet, but that’s the only reason. It’s overrated. If you’re in the area, stop by. If not, no big deal.
Try as many pastries as you can. Copenhagen’s pastries are very good, so sample as many as possible! My favorites are the Wednesday snails, the cardamom buns, the citrus twists, the ones with poppy seeds on top, and the chocolate cinnamon rolls.
Take advantage of the long days (in the summer). Today (May 3), the sun will set at 8:52. Go on a walk, or spend the evening strolling through Tivoli.
Watch a performance. I went to the Danish Royal Ballet, and it was a great experience (despite knowing nothing about ballet). You could also go to a concert at Tivoli or one of the other concert halls around Copenhagen.
Bring water with you. The tap water is perfectly safe to drink, but there are hardly any water fountains in the city. If you’re walking around outside for a while, bring your own water.
Visit Nørrebro. Dubbed by many as the coolest neighborhood in the world, it lives up to its reputation. Definitely worth a trip.
Be prepared for the bikes. Every tourist that comes to Copenhagen will nearly get run over by a bike; it’s like a rite of passage. The bikers here can be aggressive, so if you’re not used to navigating bike paths, stay on high alert. Copenhagen is also a great city to explore by bike (if you’re comfortable with your biking skills).
Book the plane ticket!! Copenhagen is a great city, and you will love your stay here.
As the semester is winding down, the question that everyone asks is “So do you think you could see yourself coming back to Copenhagen to live here?” My answer is no every time, but it’s not quite that straightforward. My time here has been amazing, and it’s hard to believe there are only a few weeks left. As I was walking home from the grocery store yesterday, a realization hit me: I don’t know when I’ll ever be back in Copenhagen after I leave in three weeks. That realization hurt.
See, I know Copenhagen so so well. One of my friends visited me in Copenhagen last week, and I knew where to take him the whole weekend without having to consult TripAdvisor. In fact, I didn’t even need Google Maps to go from place to place, even when using public transport. I know Copenhagen. Really, really well. I know the vibe of each neighborhood, I know where the best food is, I know the layout of the entire city, I know the difference between the different supermarket stores (Netto nationalism!), I know which touristy spots are overrated (Little Mermaid statue) and which are underrated (Kastellet). I even know where to find any food item I need in the supermarket, despite the nonsensical layout of Netto that varies from store to store. Seriously — none of the stores have any rhyme or reason as to where things are, and none of the stores have the same layout. Even so, there are three Nettos I could navigate blindfolded.
In my adult life, I’ve lived with friends in Colorado for two months, Costa Rica for two months, and Málaga, Spain for 6 weeks. I enjoyed all of them, but I don’t have the same connection to them that I do to Copenhagen. This is a place I will one day take my kids to, a place where they can see where their father used to go grocery shopping, a path he always went running on, a singular table in a library where he did all his work, a place where he would walk whenever he wanted to clear his mind. They can see the bar that I pass every day with a sign that will always get a chuckle out of me: “carrots may improve your vision, but alcohol will double it.” They can see the bridge that is part of my daily commute, the flowerbed that I saw struggle through the cold and the rain until little sprouts emerged that turned into beautiful orange tulips, and the canal that I walk along on my way to the metro. They can see where I re-learned how to ride a bike, where I went for my first run ever, where I first had my favorite pastry (fastelavnsboller), and where I met so many of my closest friends.
Regardless, I couldn’t live here long-term. My thoughts of Copenhagen have confused me at times. I’ve had a great semester, but I never loved the city. I could never see myself living here year-round and putting up with the cold, dark, and rainy winters every year. Copenhagen is too flat for me; my soul yearns for mountains and pine trees and stunning cliffside overlooks. I know that it’s not where I want to be long-term, and there’s a part of me that can’t wait to get out and escape into the mountains somewhere.
But how do I feel so connected to Copenhagen, despite this? How is it that I know it will always hold a special place in my heart, but it will never quite feel my love? I don’t know when I will be back because I have no strong desire to come back, yet I can’t imagine never coming back. Copenhagen has captivated me. I believe it has helped shape me into the person that I was meant to be, and given me clarity on what I want to do and who I want to be.
But I don’t love it. Even so, I don’t want to leave. These next three weeks will be about savoring the present, taking advantage of my time here, and making sure I will remember it when I do leave. On that note, I’m going to bid you adieu to take a walk down by the pond.
I live in a Kollegium (for a description of my housing, go to my “Three Weeks in Copenhagen” post), which means I have to cook for myself. When I first came to Copenhagen, I thought this would be annoying — I had convinced myself that I didn’t like cooking. Coming after a semester eating at the cafeteria at my school, it was definitely a big adjustment. Yet, I now love doing it and am not looking forward to going back to cafeteria food next year!
I’ve had some previous experience cooking for myself, as I lived with friends both in Colorado and in Costa Rica last year. We cooked most of our meals, but it was almost always a group effort. So I had some cooking skills, but didn’t quite feel prepared to cook for myself for four whole months! The first few weeks were a little difficult, and often I ended up going and getting a pizza when I didn’t feel like cooking. But as time went on, I settled into it more and more, found my favorite recipes, and started enjoying cooking a lot more. I bought smoked paprika when I was in Hungary, and I use it with almost every meal!
Even still, I’ll occasionally grab a pizza or shawarma when I feel too tired to cook a full meal, but I cook probably at least 95% of my meals. I make a lot of different types of egg scrambles (different veggies, spices, sometimes some grains), pasta carbonara, chicken quesadillas (with chili mayo, of course!), pasta bolognese, chicken pesto pasta, and burritos or taco salads (depending on if I have tortillas). I’ve also made a few curries, shrimp tacos with a cilantro lime slaw, and a lentil dal.
Not only am I having a great time studying abroad, but I’m also developing important life skills. This semester, I’ve experienced incredible growth as a person, both mentally and with physical skills. Studying abroad has helped me prepare for post-college life, and I’m very grateful for everything it’s taught me!
The Thames River winds below me, sun reflecting off its glistening surface as it cuts through the farmland. In the distance, you can just barely make out a large cluster of buildings — London. I write to you from my flight home to Copenhagen after a weekend spent visiting friends in London. See, the beautiful thing about studying abroad in Copenhagen is that you’re studying abroad in Europe too. You can book a weekend trip to London (round trips flights only set me back $36), or a beach getaway to Mallorca, Spain, or an expedition into the Arctic circle in Tromsø, Norway.
The DIS academic calendar has many breaks built in so students can travel if they wish. There are two core course long travel weeks, so half of the courses go during week 1 and half of the courses go during week 2. This means that the week that your core course isn’t traveling (for me, this was week 1) is completely free. I took this time off to go to Bucharest, Romania, Budapest, Hungary, Bratislava, Slovakia, and Dublin, Ireland. This was an amazing (and hectic) trip, and it allowed me to visit the birthplace of my father (Budapest) and origin of my family. Later in the semester, there is the typical spring break, where we have 6 days off (including the weekend). My parents came up to visit me in Copenhagen a few days before break started. After showing them all my favorite places in the city, we took off to Norway. Our first stop was Tromsø, where we went on an only-slightly-successful Northern Lights tour, a boat trip through the fjord system, and a dogsledding expedition (my favorite part!). Afterwards, we explored Oslo for a few days.
You can also gather up some Copenhagen friends (or go alone!) to do weekend trips. I did two weekend trips this semester: one to Mallorca, and one to London. I went to Mallorca with one of my friends from class, and I went to London by myself, where I met a few friends who live over there. Some of my friends did many more weekend trips than I did, but I wanted to give Copenhagen its deserved time (and traveling a lot can get exhausting and expensive).
When studying at DIS, Europe really is your classroom. Besides the short study tour around Denmark and the long study tour somewhere else in Europe (which I talk about in my previous posts), the schedule is set up in such a way that encourages travel through Europe. DIS understands the importance of travel. Travel is the best way to grow as a person, as you are constantly pushed outside of your comfort zone and encounter new worldviews that challenge your own. There is no better way to build self-reliance, self-efficacy, and develop a growth mindset. Traveling is genuinely life-changing, and studying abroad with DIS may give you the push you need to make the changes in yourself that you’ve always wanted to.
There are no groundhogs in Copenhagen, but nevertheless, spring is finally here! It sure took its sweet time to arrive, but it’s sweeping over the city — and the city is changing with the weather. People are out tanning by the canals (after all, mid-50s in Scandinavia seems to be the equivalent of a beach day in Spain), food trucks are popping up all over the city, my Danish roommates are going on 4-hour walks, the cherry blossoms are blooming, and Tívoli is now open!
The first big change happened with daylight savings time. After daylight savings time, the sunset became 8-something — a welcome change from the 4-something sunsets in January. However, it took a while to warm up. We had a few days of warm weather (around 50 and sunny) in late March, but then the cold and the rain hit again. Now, it seems like the weather is turning a corner. It’s mid-50s and sunny, and the weather forecast promises for it to slowly get warmer and warmer. At home, I wouldn’t quite consider this warm. Yet here in Denmark, I’m rejoicing and doing my homework outside, picnicking by the canal, and walking around town even more than before.
The rest of the city has taken note too. A food truck serving smoked salmon smørrebrød and avocado toast has popped up right outside my Kollegium. I haven’t yet tried it, but I will soon! More and more people are out on the streets, slowly strolling to their destinations while enjoying the sun. I hear different languages and accents walking around the city, a sign that tourists are arriving in Copenhagen. Tívoli is open for the summer, and the flowers are blooming. Copenhagen feels like a new city.
I guess this is the advantage of coming here in the spring. Instead of each day getting shorter and colder, each day gets longer and warmer (although it may take a while). Coming here in the winter makes you appreciate the changes that the spring brings. Copenhagen is in tune with its environment — something that doesn’t happen nearly as much in American cities. As the weather continues to get better and the days continue to get longer, I’m excited to see what other surprises Copenhagen has in store for me.
After a great two days in Vienna, we stepped off the night train before the sun rose in Verona, Italy. Our trip leaders gave us an extra few hours to sleep in the hotel (assuming we wouldn’t have a great night’s sleep on the train), so we didn’t start the day’s activities until noon. One of my friends, Katherine, and I took advantage of this late start by going for a 4-mile morning run through the city. Immediately, I was blown away by the beautiful buildings, outdoor cafes, Roman-style bridges over the river, and lively atmosphere. After a quick shower back at the hotel, we went to Little Italy Pizza, where we were treated to a delicious traditional Italian meal. First, we were served bread with olive oil, and then a beautiful (and very large) platter of salami and prosciutto and other cold cuts. We then each ordered a pizza; as an anchovy lover, I ordered the Napoli pizza, complete with fresh anchovies, capers, and oregano. Fresh off a run, I ate a lot of food; this was my favorite meal of the entire trip. After lunch, we had a walking (and tasting) tour of Verona. Although I had already ran through many of the streets in the tour, it was very interesting to learn about the historical context of the tombs we saw (and we saw the Casa di Giulietta). The tour ended with macarons and cake! Afterwards, we took a bus up into the mountains for a wine tasting at a local vineyard. This was a great experience; we learned the correct way to taste a wine, got a tour of the operations of the vineyard, and played with a very friendly vineyard dog! The view of the sunset was spectacular and I went to bed extremely happy and fulfilled.
After having breakfast at the hotel on Wednesday, we went to my favorite activity of the entire trip: random acts of kindness. The goal of this activity was to explore the benefits of prosocial behavior on well-being. Each team of 5 was given 10 euros and told to do something nice for random strangers. My team bought pastries and gave them out to people on the street, while other teams handed out flowers or bought coffee for others in the shop. This was truly a transformative experience. I had never done anything like this before, but I certainly noticed that it felt much, much better to spend money on other people than it did to spend it on myself! Afterwards, we had lunch to ourselves (I had gnocchi) before meeting for a lecture by Dr. Nicola Rainisio. Dr. Rainisio talked about the effect that our environment has on our well-being, models for why human beings naturally prefer certain environments, and how we can change our own environment to improve our well-being. We then went to a cooking class at a nearby restaurant, where we learned to make pasta from scratch, meatballs, and tiramisu. I have been greatly enjoying cooking for myself this semester, so I was happy to learn more tips and tricks! We ate our creations, and because I was preparing for a long run the next morning, I carb-loaded with four plates of pasta and meatballs.
I started off Thursday with a 10-mile run: the first five by myself, and the second five with my friends Kalama and Katherine. I saw pretty much the whole city during this run, and because of this it was my favorite run all semester! After chowing down a hotel breakfast, we had a positive psychology intervention that two class members and I had previously planned out for the class. We split into teams and did a food scavenger hunt, where teams had to buy as many foods of different colors as possible with 10 euros. The goal of this intervention was to experience some of the elements of Martin Seligman’s PERMA theory (positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, and accomplishment). After this, we had time on our own to work on our projects due next week and explore the city. I went to the Roman arena, the Roman amphitheater and archeological museum, Castelvecchio, Torre dei Lamberti, and Castel San Pietro (my favorite!). The class met again for a concluding wrap-up dinner at Restaurant Scapin, where we enjoyed a great three-course meal and talked about how our perceptions of “the good life” changed due to the activities of this week.
This was by far the best class field trip of my life, and has been one of the main highlights of my semester abroad. DIS did a fantastic job organizing everything; all we had to do was show up on time. The week was full of immersive cultural experiences, stimulating academic experiences, amazing meals, and enough free time to explore the cities at our own pace. Long live Positive Psychology section C!
Sunday, March 20 was the International Day of Happiness. Fittingly, it was also the day my Positive Psychology core course left on our long study tour. We traveled to Vienna first, and then took a night train to Verona. The goal of the week was to further explore the answer to the question, “What is the good life?” as well as gaining a deeper understanding of how classroom theories apply to the real world environment.
We met at the airport bright and early at 7:50 on Sunday. After a podcast-filled flight where I was fortuitously given extra leg room seats, we touched down in Vienna at 11:35. After checking into the hotel, we left for lunch at Café Landtmann, which was Sigmund Freud’s go-to coffee house. We were served some kind of potato salad followed by traditional Austrian schnitzel. After thoroughly enjoying my schnitzel (and a classmate’s who couldn’t finish hers), we headed to the Freud museum for our academic activity of the day. There, we learned about psychoanalysis — the “talking cure” — and how Freud impacted how we think about human nature before having a wrap-up discussion over coffee and cake in the Freud seminar room. After having dinner on our own (I got a durum wrap), we met at Vienna Staatsoper, the Viennese opera house. We had tickets to Rigoletto, and although I had never seen an opera before, it was easily a top 5 experience of my life. The talent and hard work of the singers, actors, and orchestra was easily apparent, and it was amazing to watch people perform at such a high level. During intermission, the class was treated to wine.
On Monday, we were treated to the best hotel breakfast of my life before meeting at 9:15 to go to our first activity of the day. At 10, we arrived at the Victor Frankl lecture, where we learned about both his life and his work. We had previously read his book Man’s Search for Meaning for class, so this was a great way to learn more about Frankl to support our knowledge of his book. We then had lunch on our own, and most of the class went to Naschmarkt, which is a beautiful (and very large) market with tons of restaurants, delis, and other shops. Afterwards, we had free time to work on our group projects. My group’s topic is The Built Environment and Flourishing: The Architecture of Happiness, so we spent the afternoon wandering around Vienna and marveling at the beautiful buildings. We met at our hotel for a gourmet three-course dinner, before grabbing our bags and heading to the train station for the night train to Verona. The night train was a great way to bond with our classmates while experiencing “slow travel” and savoring the journey. We arrived in Verona early in the morning, but I will save that for the next blog post!
When people talk about their study abroad experiences, they talk about their adventures, fun memories, and friends. Yet, we are still studying abroad. It’s easy to forget about classes while being exposed to a new culture and living in a new environment. Surprisingly, the classes here have been one of the highlights of my experience in Denmark so far. Of course, there have still been times where I’ve begrudgingly submitted an assignment, or “skimmed” a reading, but classes here have been a positive experience.
Classes at DIS are very different than at my home school, Dickinson. One of the biggest differences is that the professors here (who we call by their first name) have real-world experience in their field instead of spending their whole adult lives in the world of academia. For example, my Psychology of Peak Performance professor was the sports psychologist for the Danish Olympic Team for 10 years and traveled to five separate Olympics as part of Team Denmark. My Travel Writing professor has spent the past 15 years as a professional travel writer and has written multiple guidebooks on Southern Italy. This real-world experience makes classes more interesting, and gives students more of an insight into how the skills we are learning are relevant to our future professional careers.
Another big difference is the emphasis on self-directed work here. So far, I’ve written four essays, and three of them have been about any relevant topic of our choice. We have the freedom to choose what excites us the most and devote ourselves to learning about that topic and submitting an assignment based on it. There also seems to be a heavier emphasis on group work here. However, the best part of academics at DIS is probably the use of field studies every Wednesday. Each class gets two field studies, which are field trips around Copenhagen planned by the professor to help strengthen our knowledge of the class material. So far, I’ve gone to Glyptoteket (an amazing art museum), the Thorvaldsens Museum (sculpture museum), had an expert on embodied leadership talk to our class, and watched Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (among other trips).
Although classes may not be what I remember most about my time in Denmark, they are undoubtedly a big part of my experience here. DIS’ unique academic structure adds to the study abroad experience, and I look forward to the field studies every week. I’m loving my time here, and I can’t believe it’s now halfway over. See you in the next post!
I entered core course week with a hopeful yet uncertain attitude, my trusty blue Nalgene, and a small Osprey backpack. I left core course week with a greater understanding of “the good life,” a full belly, and shockingly close friendships. It was one of those weeks where you blink and you miss it; just like that, the week is over. On the bus ride home, I was already starting to miss traveling with my classmates — a testament to how amazing that week was.
Core course week for my Positive Psychology section meant activities in Copenhagen on Monday and Tuesday and a trip to Aarhus from Wednesday through Friday. The goal of the week was to explore what “the good life” means. To do this, we focused on three main concepts: mindfulness, savoring the present moment, and flow. On Monday, we had a short class lecture on flow, followed by a trip to an escape room. The escape room was exciting; it was a great opportunity to work with my classmates and experience the flow state in action. On Tuesday, we had another lecture followed by a class lunch at Paludan Bogcafe. During lunch, we were instructed to turn our phones off and be fully present, which certainly enhanced the experience! We discussed the highlights of Copenhagen so far, what gives each of us energy and makes us passionate, and how we can use our personality strengths to design a better life. We went home after lunch, leaving us plenty of time to pack before our 7 AM bus the following morning.
I woke up early Wednesday morning, drearily hopped in the shower (where I was quickly jolted awake by the cold water I choose to end every shower with), made myself a quick breakfast, and set off for the bus. Many people slept for most of the ride. I have never been able to fall asleep in moving vehicles, so I watched the flat Danish countryside roll past the window. We stopped in Middelfart for brunch and an interesting presentation on generating workplace happiness, which has its own word in Danish: arbejdsgloede. We arrived in Aarhus at around 1:30, checked in to the hotel, and then we had free time for a few hours. Most of the class went to Aarhus Street Food, where I ordered a delicious pulled duck sandwich. We reconvened around 3, and headed off to our next activity: bowling to experience flow. It had been many years since I last bowled, and it showed in my performance. Regardless, my friend Kalama and I were dancing, doing trick shots, hyping our classmates up, and having an overall great time! We then went to dinner at a locally and sustainably sourced restaurant. We devoured a delicious three-course meal, accompanied by a glass of wine with each course.
On Thursday, a music therapy professional came in to speak to us. He works with childhood cancer patients, singing and playing guitar to ease pain and anxiety during their treatments. It was incredibly interesting to hear about all the different uses of music therapy, and he even played a song for us and showed us video examples of his work. Afterwards, we visited the historic Old Town, where we ate a traditional Danish lunch complete with smoked salmon, homemade bread, shrimp cocktails, and an assortment of other delicacies. We walked around the Old Town for a while in small groups — another exercise of living mindfully and savoring the present. Then, we had cake and hot chocolate, and shared our reflections from walking mindfully through the Old Town. Afterwards, we went to ARoS, the modern art museum in Aarhus. We had a guided tour through the museum which ended in a colorful “furry” room (pictured below) with meditative music.
We were then left to our own devices, but Kalama, another friend Katherine, and I were too mesmerized by this room to leave. We laid down, looking at the ceiling just like in the photo above. The three of us were friendly before the trip, but we weren’t close friends until this moment. We laid there for over two hours, talking about our families, friends, dreams, and fears. It was at this moment that I realized I was experiencing a quintessential study abroad moment: sharing your life story with two people you had just met in a colorful, furry room in Aarhus, Denmark. Two hours later, I left this museum with a warm feeling in my heart and two friends for life.
I woke up on Friday in denial that core course week was ending. We ate breakfast, then took a bus to Odense, where we visited the Hans Christian Andersen museum. We took an audio tour throughout the museum, learning about H.C. Andersen’s life and work. Afterwards, we ate a typical Danish smørrebrød lunch before beginning our trip back to Copenhagen. The bus ride home was filled with music recommendations, reflections on the week, and more strengthening of friendships. I left this week not only with two very good friends, but also with a much closer relationship to almost everyone in the class — including our wonderful professor, Gitte.
Core course week was truly a transformative experience, and certainly the highlight of my time in Denmark so far. A week of great people, great food, and great activities left me replaying the memories throughout the following weekend. I could not be more grateful for a fantastic core course week, and I’m excited to discover what else Denmark has in store for me.
I write to you from the common room in my kollegium, surrounded by plants of all sizes and shapes, a little Danish flag, and a Rage Against the Machine poster. This is no college dorm room, no sterilized hotel room, no cluttered studio apartment. This is a home. Including me, there are 10 people on my floor. Four Danish full-time residents and six DIS students — but in just three weeks, those lines are already fading away. We share the aforementioned common room (big enough for a living room section and a dining room section), a kitchen, and a bathroom. Arriving on my first day, I was worried about living with 9 other people. Three weeks later, the communal living has been the highlight of my time here. Our common dinners every Sunday and Harry Potter movie nights have given me a not-translatable definition of hygge.
Despite being the most over-used Instagram caption by Americans in Denmark, hygge embodies the Danish culture. Hygge is sipping hot chocolate at a candle-lit cafe with a close friend or two, it is staying up late with your floormates watching a movie, it is having deep conversations over dinner with people you can’t believe you’ve only known for two weeks. Hygge is admiring a herd of deer on a hike with friends, it is snuggling up under a blanket with a good book, it is enjoying a home-cooked meal with your roommates. Hygge has no direct translation. It is most similar to “coziness,” but it is also maybe “comfort,” or “simplicity,” or “companionship.” Danish life includes time to stop, to relax, to be present, and to enjoy the company of others.
As I write, the large windows behind me let in less and less light — a sign the sun is setting. I check my clock: 5:07. The short days are one thing I may never get used to. Copenhagen in January is windy, rainy, dark, and cold. Yet, I’ve found myself exploring the city daily, walking to class instead of taking the bus, and shirking the treadmill to go on runs outside. When it rains almost every day, you learn to appreciate the sun. When there are often 40MPH winds, you learn to savor a still moment. Copenhagen in January is a lesson in gratitude. It is also a lesson in resilience, a lesson that it is a waste of energy to complain about things that you cannot control. As the Danish say, “there is no such thing as bad weather — only bad clothes.”
So yes, I’ve been here three weeks, but I already feel like I’m at home. I look forward to the commute to class every day, I no longer need Google Maps to get from place to place, and I’ve found my favorite grocery store and pizza place. Most of all, I can’t wait for the next three months.