Something a little bit different...

Copenhagen adventures and more!
Tuesday, March 22

Hey Ben, has anyone told you you’re pretty big?

“Do I sound British? Do you think they think we’re British?” two common phrases my friend Bethany and I repeated day-to-day as we walked the streets of London, as well as the title above.

Gold star #9,090,490 for DIS. As a part of the program, we all go on a long-study tour to different countries. Emily went to Prague and I went to London. Our trip was during UNC/DUKE Spring Break, so my family was able to come over and see me, as well as, celebrate my birthday and turn it into a cultural visit.

Our class met at the airport at 8:30 a.m. Monday morning. This was the first time I had to show my passport to leave Copenhagen, and good thing I had it, too. My wallet was stolen Saturday night so I was identificationless, moneyless, Taylor senior pictureless, etc. “Fortunately,” it was good timing since I was going to see my family in London and they would be able to spot me some money until my debit and credit cards arrived. Rita also lent me money, which was extremely generous. Luckily this disastrous occurrence wasn’t as much of a disaster as it seemed.

We arrived in London around ten past eleven and immediately started to sweat. It felt like summer. Granted it was only 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but I ready for my shorts and bathing suit. We were blessed with the most beautiful weather in London. Carolina blue skies everyday, maybe a little mist one day, but other than that it was gorgeous and spring was in the air.

After the hour and a half bus ride to our hotel, Thistle City Barbican, we hopped on the Tube and headed for Fat Tire Bike Tours. (The Tube really made me appreciate Denmark’s public transportation. It was loud, dirty, cramped, everything Denmark is not. Regardless, it got us from point A to B, even if I got lost multiple times.) Our group was divided into tour and we set off. It was about a three-hour tour, and it was a great way to start off the trip. We “saw” all of the major sites and rode through the parks (Hyde, St. James, Regents) and got a bit of history, too. It was a nice start to get “acquainted” with the city on a more personal level, as opposed to just jumping on a bus and having someone with a microphone speak at you. We didn’t get too close to all of the sites, but just seeing them in person was unreal. I felt as if I was on a movie set the entire time.

After dinner at an Indian restaurant, we headed back to the hotel and some of us, me, went to sleep. We woke up the next day and went to Magnum Photo. “Magnum Photos is a photographic cooperative of great diversity and distinction owned by its photographer members. With powerful individual vision, Magnum photographers chronicle the world and interpret its peoples, events, issues and personalities.

The Magnum Photos library is a living archive updated daily with new work from across the globe. You may search or browse our 500,000+ images which are available online for licensing in a variety of formats.” We sat for an hour presentation about the history, current projects, etc.

 I’ve never been one to truly appreciate artwork or photography, but this trip really changed that.

Afterward, we went to Bloomberg News Europe. Amazing. Gorgeous. How do I apply? Bloomberg is a 24-hour financial news network. I was very surprised at how little the news production is a part of the company. The building was comprised of about five different levels, all of which were color-coded. The money and data floor was green, others were orange, red, yellow, blue and so on. Even the fish in the tanks were color-coded. They explained how they believe color really influences your environment and corresponds to the mood. Also, all of the walls in the building were made out of glass. It was complete transparency, which also speaks to their mission of complete openness and belief of sharing all and everything with the public. It was also interesting to learn that Bloomberg is 24/7 coverage. The station rotates between London, NY, Asia and one more?

After our visit to Bloomberg we had some free time to explore. We all split off into groups and attempted to find the tube. As we were walking in what we thought was the right direction, I saw a double-decker bus that said “London Bridge,” so we hopped on. Who doesn’t want to ride on a double-decker in London and go to London Bridge, no falling down though…

We made it to the station and started to wander. My roommate for the week, Bethany, had come to London the previous weekend to celebrate her 21st birthday so she played tour guide. We walked along the Thames and toward Tower Bridge. It is beautiful. The masonry and blue cables look like something from out of a fairytale. We crossed the bridge, waved at the Tower of London that houses the royal jewels and got on the tube bound for Big Ben.

Standing in front of the clock was unreal. I suppose I never really expected I would be standing in front of it or that I would ever visit London, I’m not too sure which, but it was just “different.” We also saw the London Eye, which I never made it on, Parliament and the street that Jason Bourne runs down.

I had to hurry back to the hotel to change because I was meeting my family in Kensington for my belated birthday dinner. I wanted to give myself plenty of time because I had no idea where I was going and knew I was going to get lost. I changed and ventured to the tube, so I thought. Got lost, asked for directions and got on the tube going the wrong way. Oh well. Even though everyone in Denmark speaks English, it was a nice reprieve to be in a country where I could read all of the signs, understand all the announcements on the tube, eavesdrop on conversations, the usual, haha.

Anyway, I made it to the restaurant, The Babylon, before my parents and brother. It was located on the top floor and a really nice establishment. I sat in the lounge until they arrived about 15 minutes later. It wasn’t the easiest place to find. Regardless, it was nice to see them. When they walked in it was as if no time had passed. We hugged and smiled, Taylor’s still taller than I am, and it didn’t seem like two months had gone by. Dinner consisted of mostly me talking, taking too long to order because we were catching up, ordering champagne and other drinks and just enjoying each other’s company. It really made me feel special that my family would travel so far just to celebrate this birthday. They came to another country for me. Thank you.

After my dad had pulled some money out of the ATM for me, they put in me in a taxi, thank goodness, I did not want to brave the tube again, especially at night,

The rest of my group went to Million Dollar Quartet that night and really enjoyed it. If any of you get the chance to go see it, they recommend it.

Wednesday morning we got to choose if we wanted to go to the Saatchi Gallery or the Design Museum. All but three went to the Design Museum. “the Oscars of the design world,” showcase the most innovative and forward thinking designs from around the world, spanning seven categories: architecture, fashion, furniture, graphics, interactive, product and transport. It was really cool to say the least. We were given 2 hours to explore, but the museum was only one level so it didn’t really take that long. We then had 3 hours to explore before our Careers in Communications visits.

The entire class was really excited to visit London because London has the only Chipotle in Europe. So we took the next three hours to find it. Only three of us went and I had never been to Chipotle before so I was interested to try it.  We finally found it and while it was still good, I’d been craving Mexican since my arrival, I still have to say I’m a Moe’s fan.

Career in Communications was the main focus of this visit. Before our departure we ranked our areas of interest, PR, Marketing, etc. I put International Journalism as my number one and was slated to visit Al Jazeera! Al Jazeera, which translates to “peninsula,” is number one in terms of coverage of the Middle East. The visit was different than the other two newsrooms, Bloomberg and WTVD-TV where I worked last summer. It wasn’t a very open setting. The room was set up in kind of a curve where you wouldn’t be able to yell from one department to the next. John Owen, the executive producer of programs/London AJE, gave us the tour and sat down with us for over an hour and a half. We told us that they have about 150 employees in their office and only 75 seats. People would come in and never know where they were sitting.

We got to preview one of their new programs, EarthRise. It’s solutions to global problems. I was a little skeptical at first but they told us they were only allowed one sentence per show to explain what the problem was and the rest of the show would focus on how to fix said problem. After the show, I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t preachy and had a Man vs. Wild feel. The reporter was hands-on and provided good commentary.

Once we were finished our visit, we were to head to the London School of Economics to share with our entire class about our visits. We had some time to kill so four of us went to a café. We were with our intern, Caroline, who set up all of the visits and was basically a super star. Caroline did DIS in 2008 and applied to work at DIS as the CMM intern. I think this is something I will strongly consider come this time next year. Getting to live in DK for a year and a half and go on awesome trips? Why not?

At LSE we all shared our info and then we were on our own again. Bethany and I decided to go on an adventure and we walked past the tube and decided to go find Platform 9 ¾. Unfortunately, King’s Cross is/was under construction so the platform was a piece of board with printed bricks and a trolley sticking out of it. Of course, I still got a picture.

We weren’t hungry but knew we had to eat and decided to wander back toward the hotel. We walked into one restaurant/pub and were immediately IDed. It wasn’t exactly what we were looking for, so we literally went next door to The Masque Haunt. There was a football, soccer, game on, so we ordered food and sat down at a long table. We weren’t sure if we should have sat there because we were only 2 and the bar was filling up relatively fast.

We sat down and eventually five Englishmen walked in searching for a table. We offered the other end of our table to them and we made friends. They didn’t end up watching much of the game but more making fun of our attempts at an English accent. One of them was named Dougie, so I wiped out my iPod and asked him if he could teach me how to dougie…and I played it for him. Wasn’t a huge fan, haha. Regardless, we had a good time and immersed ourselves in the culture.


More to come later. If you’ve made it this far, you’re a champ.


Thursday, March 3

Field Trip

…to Hamburg!

This past weekend my Holocaust and Genocide class travelled to Hamburg, Germany to see the work camp, Neuengamme. 

We left Cope at 8 a.m. on Saturday and arrived in Hamburg by noon. It was a two-hour ride to the ferry and then an hour inside Germany. Easy peasy. Our first stop in Hamburg was a museum that we really didn’t get to explore. We saw two different floors and unfortunately they didn’t make too much of an impression on me because I don’t remember much of what we saw. (Many of us agreed that day one could be erased from the trip.)

After the museum we were supposed to get back on the bus and do a walking/bus tour of Hamburg. Well, we couldn’t get a hold of the bus driver so we started walking around. We saw a soccer stadium, the statue of Otto von Bismarck-the Danes aren’t too fond of him because he invaded their country, and most importantly…the red light district. We didn’t mind the excursion until word spread that our bus driver wasn’t responding to any phone calls from DIS or the bus company. I wasn’t thrilled about the possibility of all of my things being gone forever, but my test materials for my midterm on Monday at 8:30 a.m. where on there, so if they were stolen…guess I can’t take my midterm?

Turns out that the cell phone on the bus wasn’t working and our driver, who had wonderful reviews, had been marked about 200 meters from where we were supposed to meet him. 

Since we detoured, we couldn’t do whatever was originally planned. We never found out what that was. So we headed back to the hostel, got our rooms and then meet for dinner in the lobby at 5:30 a.m. We went to a cute little German restaurant where the menu was predetermined. Gold star for DIS-Their choices for restaurants are great and you’re never starving afterward.

On our way back to the hostel, about half of our group got off the bus and went out. (They literally said, “Ok, all those who want to get out in the red light district, get out.” It was pretty great.)

I’ve had some type of cold for the past two weeks and after waking up and feeling like death on Saturday morning and regretting getting on the bus, I got back to the hostel, changed to my pjs, and was asleep by 8:45 p.m. Mono? I hope not!

We woke up the next day at 7 a.m. packed up our things and headed to breakfast. We ate and then went to downtown Hamburg to see the city hall, a church that survived the bombings-funny because it was the sole target and then we went to a school about 20 minutes outside.

The school was the site where they brought 20 young children from either Neuengamme or Auschwitz and did medical experiments on the glands located in their armpits. Toward the end of the war, in order to hide all of the evidence, all 20 children and other POWs were hanged in the basement. There is a rose memorial garden located behind the playground. Today the school is a kindergarten.

We then went to brunch? Yes, we did have breakfast only 2 hours before and weren’t hungry…yet we all managed to eat 2 plates? My plan was to lose weight here and be European, not stuff my face like the typical American. Oh, well.

After breakfast number 2, we drove to Neuengamme. It was actually in use as a prison until 2003. Due to its continuous use after the war many of the structures had been torn down. Right outside there is a monument and marble slabs on the ground that represent all of the countries. Americans were included. It was a cold, gray and windy day. It wasn’t difficult to be transported to the suffering and painful atmosphere that must have enveloped the camp 70 years ago.

We went inside one of the two museums to escape the weather for a bit and saw a replica of how the camp originally looked. The camp itself was a tiny sector of the entire property. On the walls were scrolls of the names of those killed. They were by date until May 1945 where the numbers change from 5-10 names per day, to hundreds. There is still room at the bottom in case any more names need to be added.

We went outside and started to explore the camp. We had a tour guide, Peter, an older historian who was incredibly knowledgeable, that led us around the camp. Neuengamme produced bricks and the prisoners built all of the buildings. We saw the brick factory, the outside only, the canal dug by prisoners to transport the bricks, the barracks, the pits where the mud was taken for bricks and the giant parade ground where they would take roll every morning and night.

We had arrived a half an hour early and we hoped we would be able to leave early. While I had eagerly anticipated this trip since my arrival, and this is one of the most interesting topics to me, the looming of midterms, illness and weather weren’t making it easy to stay focused. However, no one complained, out loud, because being in such a place just humbled you on so many levels.

We went into an SS building that had been converted into another museum. We saw a bed where 2-5 people would sleep, there were accounts from survivors on videos, clothing, etc. It was nice to wander in here, get warm, and see what it was like. One of the things I appreciated the most was the videos from survivors. After watching videos of emaciated victims and the horrible conditions, to know how strong and resilient these people were, really warmed my heart. I could not, and still find it difficult to understand how people can withstand so much pain and torture and come out on the other side. It blows my mind.

We ventured back into the cold at 4 p.m. and did our final lap. We saw what was left of the crematorium, which was just an outline of the building, the prison inside the prison, where they held people when it was determined they were not following rules and where they would eventually gas prisoners.

Fact: Did you know that most concentration camps had brothels? Neuengamme was a men’s camp, and only had 8 women. The women were housed in a separate barrack where prisoners could “earn” a token to buy a woman. Missionary was the only position allowed and a guard was present at all times.

We got back on the bus. I decided to sleep instead of studying so I would actually be awake when I tried. Ferried across the water, and broke out the homework. It went back in the bag 15 minutes later because I get sick when I read, but I would like to think I was very productive in those 15 minutes!

Made it home by 10:30, caught up with Emily and made a pot of coffee. Good thing I started studying the previous week because I just became hyper and focus wasn’t really in my vocabulary.

Regardless, I think I did fine the next day. No worries, Mom and Dad.

Tuesday, February 22

Sprouts, Waffles and Chocolate

Disclaimer: It’s a long one…

Well, not so many sprouts, none in fact, as beer. Apparently Belgium is known for its beer unbeknownst to me.

When we were deciding where to go, which took us a good week (Time here is so much longer than at home and it goes by so much faster, too. Does that make sense?) we settled on Belgium. We figured out which flight to take and we both entered our credit card information. I hit send before Emily and when she hit it, it wouldn’t work. Long story short, I had gotten the last seat at that price, I was going to Belgium by myself for a good hour. We had to call her mom via Skype who had to call Expedia and finally we were able to get her a ticket, $15+ more than what I paid, and we were ready to go.

We woke up at 5:40 a.m. on Friday and made it to the airport by 7:30 a.m. for a 9:00 a.m.-I was not about to miss another one! We had pre-printed our boarding passes, as well as all of our train tickets for traveling around the city and all of our hotel information, but of course both us were patted down in security. 

We made it to our gate just fine, got on the plane and touched down in Brussels about 10:45 a.m. After wandering the airport for an hour (We’ve decided European airports are huge and aren’t the best designed), literally, an hour, we found the train and learned we had to change trains at Brussels Central to get to our first destination, Brugge.

We made all the changes just fine and when we got to Brugge we weren’t really sure what we were supposed to do. Emily had searched “Things to do in Brugge” on TripAdvisor, which led us to the De Halve Maan (The Half Moon). It’s the last brewery left in Brugge. We bought tickets for a 3:00 p.m. tour and wandered the streets. We ended up in a little cafe where we had lunch and were able to get some WiFi. We read the pages I had torn out from my book, Europe on a Shoestring Budget, but a lot of the museums didn’t interest us, but we decided to see the main sites.

Before our tour of the brewery, we continued to wander (We’ve decided wandering is the most fun and get the most out of the city. You find random things and start to make the city you’re own-So Erin Schwarz do this!!! Rer) Chocolate shops are literally on every corner, sometimes with only one store in between, and waffle stands are within spitting distance of each other.

Finally 3 p.m. rolled around and we went back to the brewery. Our guide was witty and knowledgeable, keeping us all entertained as she gave us the tour. She also shared some useful information. The reason you get intoxicated more quickly off of fermented drinks, beer and wine, is because you start digesting them immediately as opposed to distilled drinks that sit in your stomach. After seeing the establishment, we all got a glass of the local beer. I couldn’t tell you the name of it other than the fact that it was delicious. No more Natty/Busch/Bud Light for me!

After we finished our tour we wandered, saw the main square after getting lost and then decided to make a 6:00 p.m. train to Antwerp. We thought we were headed in the right direction, so we took a path through a park, moseying along, enjoying the scenery. Well, when we got out of the park we didn’t recognize anything. We pulled out our map like good tourists, thinking we were going the right way once again, until a man pulled over on his bike asking if we were lost. He helped us out and pointed us in the right direction; half a mile in the other direction. Oh, well. Wandering, it’s a good thing.

We made it to the train station and had a bit of a wait, but eventually made it to Antwerp. Oh, and instead of purchasing chocolates from one of the thousands of shops, my book suggested we buy from a grocery store. Not passing up the opportunity for chocolate we both bought some; I bought pralines and she bought truffles. Naturally, we opened them on the train and we were very proud of ourselves that we were able to make them last until Sunday.

We arrived in Antwerp to a gorgeous station. It was something out of Harry Potter. The mastery of carvings and intricate designs were mind blowing and so beautiful. The station was huge and we had no idea how to get to our hotel. We went into the travel center and after fiddling with the brochures trying to find a map, the man at the counter asked if he could help us. Apparently we’re very good at looking lost. Fine with me, I like help!

He proclaimed he was the saver of all women in distress, we went with it, and he pointed us in the right direction. We’re pretty sure he was just being nice, regardless, I’m glad his shift didn’t end right then and he offer to take us to the hotel. 

We left the station and started walking through what seemed like the ghetto, but wasn’t, and started to see a great number of Orthodox Jews. “Antwerp is internationally famous for its diamonds, and rightly so: about 85% of the world’s rough diamonds, 50% of cut diamonds, and 40% of industrial diamonds are traded in Antwerp each year. With a total annual value of more than $12.5 billion, diamonds account for roughly 7% of total Belgian exports. Antwerp is home to about 15,000 Jews and one of the largest ultra-Orthodox communities in the Diaspora.”

We found our hotel, which was gorgeous. It had a giant sign outside, The Sir Plantin, that would light up in different colors. The lobby was modern and spotless. We checked in just fine, found our room and were so excited. The majority of our friends went to Amsterdam for the weekend and were staying in hostels so we were pretty happy with our choice to go to a different country and live in style. Granted, it was more than a hostel would have been, but we have been using budget websites and were able to the get the room for $93/night! We relaxed, eventually figured out it was time to eat because it was close to 9 p.m. and asked the concierge if we should make our way into city center or eat close by. Thankfully, Emily and I were on the same page and we walked to a nearby plaza that had restaurants all along the perimeter. We walked to each one, read the menu and settled on one we deemed “Belgian” enough and went inside. Antwerp is supposed to be famous for its food.

The waitress was great and translated the entire menu for us since they didn’t have English menus. The bartender asked us what we’d like to drink and we just told him to bring us something Belgian. De Koninck is a beer native to Antwerp and it was great. We didn’t drink anything that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. Emily got a salad with a round of melted goat cheese and I order pesto pasta with grilled vegetables. Delicious. After our meal, we made it back to the hotel and fell asleep before 11 p.m. It had been a long day. Five cities in one day, we felt like champs (Holte, Copenhagen, Brussels, Brugge and Antwerp).

We woke up the next day, took the most amazing shower ever. It’s silly to say, but we both agreed the water pressure was amazing and there are basically no words to describe how clean and refreshed we felt afterward.

We checked out, dropped our backpacks off at the station and ventured into Antwerp. We had an idea of what we wanted to see, but wandering and seeing sights was the main idea. All European cities seem to, well, not all, but a lot, have a pedestrian street. We saw churches, the main square, the national museum and then decided to have frits for breakfast. We had passed a frit shop on our way in and it turns out that it was the one that my book recommended. “Great frits, but don’t expect a smile,” my book read. And it was spot on. We order frits and there were about seven different sauces to choose. Apparently we took to long because the lady yelled at us, and yes, yelled, to hurry up and choose because people were waiting. We got American (tomato) and Samurai (spicy). Yum.

We wandered more trying to find a fashion house, turns out it was closed and then decided to try and make a 1:11 p.m. train to Brussels. We booked it to the station. Emily grabbed our bags and I figured out what track to get on. We got on the train and thought it was only supposed to take 35 minutes. Forty-five minutes later we figured out we were on the local train that stopped at every station. The conductor walked by for the fourth time, told us to take our feet off the seats and asked where we were headed. Brussels. He “suggested” that we get off the train and take the one on the other side of the platform because it would get us there faster. We got the hint. We hopped on the next train and I’m not entirely positive that it was much faster.

We managed to find our hotel, Hotel Bloom, which was a little far from the city center, but still so nice and way better than a hostel, win. I promise to be in hostels for the remainder of my trip, but it was sooooo nice to be in a hotel. We decided we had to go into the city and walk around. It was only 4 p.m. Of course, as soon as we walked out of our hotel it started to rain. We moseyed through the markets and decided to do the majority of our sightseeing in the morning when it wasn’t gross outside. We went to a pub recommended by Emily’s sister and one recommended by my book, but when we walked inside and after seeing how massive it was, and expensive, we decided to find a smaller, more intimate one. We found one, I really need to start remembering the names of things, and I ordered a beer cocktail. Lemonade, grenadine and blonde beer. It wasn’t something I would order again, but why not try it?

This was one of my favorite memories of the trip so far. Even though Emily and I have been living together for over a month, we really got to know each other that afternoon. I was a tad nervous that the two of us spending so much time together by ourselves would cause us to get on each other’s nerves, but thankfully it didn’t and we’re basically ready to take on the world…or Europe.

We attempted to make it to dinner at one of the places in my book for dinner, but we were way to early by European standards, and found our own little restaurant that was crowded with, mostly elderly, people. This time I ordered a salad with shrimp and Emily pasta. We each ordered, well, beer, and once again were not disappointed. We ate and enjoyed relaxing. We also ordered waffles for dessert, and were a little disappointed. They weren’t as magical as I had hoped.

We made it back to our hotel and were out by 10:30 p.m. We woke up at 8:30 a.m. ate the delicious buffet breakfast provided by the hotel and decided it was time to see the sites. For the last 20 years, almost 21!!!! years, of my life I have been listening to my parents talk about the Manneken Pis. A very famous, naked little boy peeing into a fountain. After seeing the Grand Place/Grote Markt, the main square, the area with all the shops, a church, we found the little boy. He was located in an alleyway away from the main square. Tiny. Overrated? Not trying to sound negative at all, but really Mom and Dad? Hahaha. I’m glad I saw it, everyone should because I suppose you just have to, but anyway.

We had time to kill before making at 12:30 p.m. train to the airport and wandered into The Museum of Musical Instruments. It was worth the 4 Euro. There were four floors of instruments and we were given a head set that when you close enough to the instrument, the head set would pick up a radio signal and give you a sample of how the instrument was supposed to sound. They were from all over the world, all different centuries, some B.C. they were great. I’m so happy we did it.

We left the museum and had to buy one last waffle, the first one at the restaurant didn’t really count. We split one off a street vendor and it was magical. Thank goodness we waited until the end to buy it, haha. No sugar, no chocolate, plain deliciousness. We made it to the station and had to wait a bit for our train. Made it to the airport and got on the plane to our connection in Zurich. IF YOU CAN, FLY SWISS, THEY FEED YOU (and give you chocolate?) Basically, we made it just fine through everything, landed in CPH about 7 p.m. and were home safe in Holte by 8:30 p.m. Then like any serious student, we started our homework due at midnight.

Belgium takes the cake with my adventures thus far. What will this weekend bring?

Thanks for sticking with me/procrastinating in class when you should be paying attention!

And sorry for all the grammatical errors. My proofreading efforts were compromised by having to go to class!

Wednesday, February 16

Who needs people when you have friends?

Another one of my fabulous sayings. Much like the time I decided to say, “Brains are smart” in front of a group of 3 Moreheads…anyway.

It’s true. Making friends here has been so much easier than I imagined, and once again, I am incredibly grateful for it.

Rita has always told me and Emily that we can invite some of our friends over for dinner, so last night we took her up on that offer.

We couldn’t figure out what to cook, we suggested chicken but Rita was not a fan. (We think this comes from the fact that she boils a entire hen for her dog, so maybe she sees it as dog food?) Regardless, she picked up this roast that the Danes typically eat around Christmas. It has a layer of fat and top and the meat is very juicy. She also purchased a beautiful and delicious marzipan cake that she served with coffee after the meal.

We also had Brussels sprouts, salad, potatoes, carrots, garlic bread and cabbage. (Emily and I mentioned we liked Brussels sprouts and asparagus within the beginning of our stay here, so we probably have one of them 2-3 times per week, haha. Fine with me, I like my green veggies!)

So dinner was set for about 6 p.m. and Emily brought our friends, Brett and Bryan, home with her. We’ve been talking Rita up for weeks and they were pretty excited to meet her…and not eat frozen pizza and rice cakes and jam for the fourth time that week.

She also tried to get the boys drunk. Beer with dinner, tasting Martini and cognac with coffee…Oh, how we adore Rita =).

Dinner was great. Rita was a wonderful hostess and the boys really enjoyed a balanced meal. It was nice to add more people into the mix, as well. 

More exciting adventures to come this weekend!

Friday, February 11

Blessed and Loved

That’s all there is to it. 

I haven’t even been here a month and I feel that I’ve already grown so much as a person. This is more a personal entry. Being here has forced me to act with confidence and get out there. 

I’ve really enjoyed sticking my hand out and introducing myself, meeting so many people that normally I would shy away from due to intimidation. I hope this is the start of the “Go-getter Danielle” instead of the “I’ll-listen-to-your-advice-in-two-years Danielle.”

Thank goodness for the Internet, otherwise I’d actually probably be “Crying-to-go-home Danielle,” haha. I really do love and miss you all! I can’t wait for fall and moving in with some of my best friends and spending my senior year with the rest of them. 

But for now I’ll continue to grow and enjoy Denmark. Who would have thought, Denmark of all places? Stranger things have happened…

*Side note- Emily and I woke up today, had a leisurely breakfast in the kitchen, went our separate ways to get ready, walked into the hallway a half hour later and we were literally dressed in the same colors for each article of clothing. 

Shout out to Megan-Every time I have multiple colors on, I see you in my head laughing at me!

Monday, February 7

Bonding to the max

The longer I’m here, the happier I am with my choice of studying through DIS.

This past weekend the entire program had a four day weekend where we all spent three days travelling to Western Denmark, and other nearby places, with our core class. My class is the only section of Communications and Mass Media and there are only about 25 of us in the class. We departed early Thursday morning, and when I say early I mean I was able to get on Facebook and talk to my friends in Chapel Hill who were still awake, and took a two-hour bus ride to Odense. (Our entire trip was to Jutland, which is what the mainland of Denmark is called.) We were split into groups and my group went to the Brandts Museum. There we were a part of a news production simulation. We wrote, filmed, edited and produced an entire news program. It was nice to semi-know what was going on since I’ve worked a little with our news show at school, Carolina Week. We all volunteered for positions. Once again I did something a little bold for me and I volunteered to be the anchor. It was so fun and I’m so glad I was able to get that experience. I hope when I head back to CH in the fall I can take a little bit of this confidence with me. Our production is going to be online, so once I get the link I can post both our show and the other groups, which was their own person rendition of  “Anchorman,” and you can have a good laugh, as we all did.

Afterward, we went to TV2. TV2 is Denmark’s second largest public service broadcasting company. We met with the managing director, and due to the current events happening in Egypt he was a bit preoccupied figuring out the safety of his hosts and correspondents stationed in Cairo. One of the biggest questions was whether he thought his station had to sacrifice certain programs because of the requirements of being a public service company. He was very direct and told us he does exactly what he wants. We also discussed the social media’s role in the news and the same discussion of quality vs quantity came up.

We then went to our hostel. I had this image of a giant bunkroom, dingy lighting, roaches, etc. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. We were four to a room. The lighting was decent, bright walls and what appeared to be a clean bathroom. I’ll take it. We went to a group dinner where we got to know each other even more. It was only day one but after spending such a significant amount of time with each other we had already become so close as a class. It was nice getting to know everyone and finding “my people.”

After dinner and going to a local pub, not too much going on in Odense, we went to bed and prepared for another early morning. We checked out of the hostel and while Group B went to the newsroom, we went to Valdesmar Slot. It’s a beautiful palace on the coast, still in use for holidays, weddings, baptisms, etc. Our day was one of leisure. We walked around Hans Christen Andersen’s town and saw his house. Our group was cheap and opted not to tour the museum.

Then we headed to Arhus, the second largest city in Denmark. It’s mostly a university town with 80,000 students. We visited M2 Films, a film-advertising firm. After the tour and discussion we went to their Friday bar. There is a designated room within the building where the staff gathers every Friday to unwind and have a drink. It was an incredible opportunity. We had drinks with everyone from the CEO to runners. The CEO-Mads (pronounced Mess) Munk was so engaging and talked with my friend and I candidly and treated us as equals.

Then we went to our hostel, which was located in the middle of the woods. We all stayed in cabins? We had another group dinner and then it was two girls’ 21st birthdays. After buying the hostel out of wine and beer, we headed to the boys’ cabin (there are only 5 of them in our program) and hung out. The girls whose birthdays we celebrated were really good sports, and even though it wasn’t anything like a typical American 21st birthday it was still a lot of fun.

We began our final day with a visit to Aros Museum. There was a giant boy, which is the main attraction for the museum. There was also an exhibit that I found extremely disturbing. I wish I could tell you the artist’s name, but to be honest I found his work too disrespectful. He does much of his work in carved marble and recreates famous moments from history. What really turned me off from his work was the recreation of the crucifixion of Christ. The realistic creation was too much for me and I didn’t have any appreciation for it other than his ability to produce something so lifelike. Afterward, we drove to one last event: Paintball. We were all pretty tired and not too excited about ruining our shoes. Regardless, we all did it and had a great time. My running shoes are no longer white and one of my friends shot me in the face, thank goodness for helmets, but it was another activity that increased our bond as class.

We arrived back in Cope after a 4-hour ride. I was reunited with Emily and we rushed home to change. We walked in the door to see Rita who asked us how our trips were. We exchanged stories and then told her we were headed back in Copenhagen for the night. The look on her face and her words were priceless. “MY CRAZY GIRLS!” Oh, Rita, haha.

Like I said, I could not have been happier with my decision of DIS. Their way of planning activities for students to get involved with, the trips they plan, the classes, etc. really bring people together so quickly. The friendships I’ve formed feel as if I’ve been going to school with these people for years.

Tuesday, February 1

Stranger things have happened…

One of the many things I was worried about arriving here in Denmark was the process of making friends. Only 3 UNC students came through DIS, none of us knew each other prior to this experience. Katie and Austin have been great and it’s so nice to see a familiar face around.

But I also wanted to make more friends. Many of you know I’m quiet and shy and that usually gets interpreted as rude or me being snobby, but I decided I have to break out and meet people. After all, these people knew nothing about me or what I’m like at home.

The first day we had orientation at KU and after following the girl into the room that had snagged me off the street, I sat down next to her. Eventually the conversation died and I turned to the girl next to me. We introduced ourselves. Her name is Emily, from Manhatten and attends Skidmore in NY. I asked her if she knew a girl I had grown up with and I mentioned that I used to live in Rye. Small world. She knows half of Rye High and spends/spent a lot of time in Rye throughout the years. We’re almost positive we’ve been to some of the same parties along the way.

Anyway, Emily and I and the people behind us were put into a group for a scavenger hunt (blew off, drank wine, remember?). Anyway, Emily was living with a host family that lived incredibly far away and her commute was ridiculous. After about a week and deciding she was normal and spending almost every second together, I asked Rita if she would consider hosting another student. After everything had been discussed, Rita and DIS agreed Emily could come live with me!

I was so excited because this meant a friend to take the train, come back with at night, SPEAK ENGLISH WITH, someone my age and just more company. It would be nice just to expand my horizons and create an environment similar to being at UNC with all my friends.

Ever since Emily has moved in, life has been better than ever. It’s so weird to find someone incredibly like you across the world that you bond with instantly. It’s like finding your freshmen year roommate (That is not GenGen) and having the best time of your life. We cooked, we eat chocolate, we dance like idiots, etc. We literally almost have the same brain, it’s so great.

I don’t know how He did it, but finding basically what is my other half in Denmark of all places…?

Monday, January 31

Destination: Norway

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

So for all of you that are considering visiting Denmark, or Europe in general for that matter, I have a book for you. It is called, All The Mistakes Danielle Made So You Don’t Have To!

A good friend of mine from UNC is studying at the University of Oslo in Norway, Meghan, so I decided that since the two countries are so close I should visit. After learning of a cheap airline site from my host family, I was able to book a round-trip flight for only $115 USD. I was to leave at 6:40 on Friday and get home around noon on Sunday.

Friday comes. I make it to the airport after taking two separate trains, and I’m really proud of myself. There is no English anywhere. I get to the airport, figure out which terminal I’m to go to and see a self check-in kiosk. As I try to check in it tells me that the boarding for my flight is about to close and to proceed to the ticket counter immediately. I was there 2 hours early, so how it was closing, I don’t know, but I quickly found the airline (on the other side of the terminal, of course) and told the lady at the counter the message I had encountered. I told her that I was on the 6:40 flight and she gave me a confused look saying they only had 6:10/6:15 flights that night. I gave her the flight number and she looked it up. Ok, yes. They did in fact have a 6:40 flight to Norway…6:40 a.m. Oh, hey military time!

I wanted to cry. I asked her if there was a way I could use my ticket from this morning since I obviously hadn’t used it and she directed me to the actual ticket counter…on the other side of the terminal again. The ticket counter lady was really nice and said I could use my ticket if it were one of two options. Obviously, it was the option that didn’t allow me to transfer it. So here I was, after getting excited, packed and making it all the way to the airport. I could turn around and go home orrrr purchase a new ticket. (My ticket for Sunday was still good and I ran through the details with the woman just to make sure no more mistakes would be made.) After she checked multiple airlines for me, the one I had booked on still had the cheapest and I would get there earlier. So, yep, I bought another ticket. Much more costly than the originial-it was like the cab experience only 3x more expensive and this time I just felt like an idiot.

Anyway, after getting flagged in security and having them check my bags (why not, right?) I made it to the gate, got on the flight-which was extremely empty so why my ticket was so much…? and got to Norway.

Meghan had given me instructions on how to get to the airport to the Central Station so finally around 8 p.m. I see Meghan, we embrace, we laugh over my stupid expensive mistake and go to find dinner.

Downtown Norway is exactly like downtown Copenhagen, except they jaywalk! Everyone in Denmark stops when the walking man is red, but in Norway they just go. It was like being home again, haha. 

Dinner was at the Hard Rock Cafe-I’d never been before. We split nachos for ~$30 USD. Oslo is even more expensive than Denmark.

We went back to her dorm which is a high rise about 20 min train ride from the city. She lives in flat with about 10 other people but has a room all to herself. Much more collegey feel.

The next day we woke up early, took the train back to downtown and explored. We walked to the opera house which has a really cool sloping roof that you can walk on. You had to be very careful because it was covered in snow and ice. (Denmark is pretty much done with snow for the year.) We then ventured into Oslo Cathedral; it was gorgeous inside. Elegant ceilings, beautiful pews, The Last Supper displayed on the alter, etc. We saw Parliament, the Royal Palace, an old castle and fortress and took pictures with our buddy, FDR. We window shopped. The whole town is beautiful and very similar to Copenhagen. I recommend seeing it, however, if you want to save a few pennies, visiting Copenhagen would suffice-and it’s warmer! Then headed back to a lake with a cross country skiing track near her dorm where we walked on the frozen lake and explored. (Pictures on FB)

For dinner we went to the market and cooked chicken with vegetables and made fresh bruschetta. Dessert was Nutella and fresh strawberry crepes-yum! After calling it a day, we slept and woke up bright and early on Sunday as not avoid any potential airline mishaps. I didn’t care if I had to wait until 10:40 p.m. for my flight, mine was a.m., but I was going to be there!

Got home with no worries and all is well. Glad I did it and now onto the next one!

Tuesday, January 25

Getting there

How is that my parents are always right?

Before I left for my semester abroad my parents insisted that I get the flu shot. I refused claiming that I would definitely get the flu, since that had been the case in the past. Well, I’m about 10 days into my trip, and yes, I have the flu. It’s a milder version, but I don’t remember the last time I’ve sleep this much. Language barriers have been tough on this one because Rita doesn’t seem to understand that all I want to eat is nothing or toast and not to drink coffee.

The longer I’m here, the better Rita’s English has gotten. She still makes noises that I think she expects me to understand, and her Danglish is still pretty prevalent, but it’s coming along. I don’t think I could have gotten a better family. Gitte, Annemarie and Katarina all call every night to check in on me. Gitte calls a couple of times a day, and Annemarie, who lives 5 minutes walk away, comes over often to say hello and check in on me. It’s nice to feel wanted and cared about. They’ve made the transition too easy.

On another happy note, one of the good friends I’ve made here, Emily, is coming to live with me! She currently lives about an hour and ten minutes from the school so it wasn’t a problem fighting to get closer housing. Rita does have a spare bedroom and I’m happier to have another young person who speaks English around.

This past weekend Gitte, Steen and Sophie took Emily and me on a tour of Copenhagen. We saw some sites and the most interesting one we saw was Christiania. Christiania is a “free town” here in Copenhagen. It’s regarded as a large commune where essentially there are no rules and little to no government. No hard drugs are “permitted” but the buying and selling of marijuana is normal. People walk up and down the streets smoking. When I first pictured the town, I thought of a town. Clean, well kept, people just smoking pot. No. The town is dirty, disgusting, all hippies. I’m glad the 70s passed, because if America turned into Christiania that’s not a world I would have wanted to grow up in.

Friday, January 21

Lessons…Expensive Lessons

Sorry these are so long! Feel free to skim, skip, ignore, etc. anything or everything!

First day of classes: typical. Meeting classmates, going over the syllabus, the usual. While I’m still taking classes that can relate to my major, I’m also taking not your average introduction to journalism-type classes. They’re a little more interesting and as we’ve been told many many times DIS is not your average study abroad program. (We’ll see if that’s the case.) I’m taking a Current Trends in the Media course as my core class and International Reporting in the journalism sequence. For IR we’ll create an online website tailored to the American college audience. This should be interesting since the class is only eight people and I’ve never done anything like this. I’m also taking a class about Holocaust and Genocide where will travel to Hamburg for a trip. My last class in Human Trafficking in a Global Context. One thing I’ve noticed with all my teachers, who are all working professionals, is their enthusiasm. You don’t feel as if they are going to lecture for an hour and twenty minutes, but rather teach you and the classes just feel more hands on.

Things I learned in Copenhagen-Lesson #1-Figure out the train schedule. The train stops running at around 12:30 a.m. so I think? After that there is NatBus (NightBus) which takes a bit longer but still gets me home. Last night was my first night going out. I was the rookie in the group because the other students I’ve made friends with all live closer or in the city and have been going out this past week. Regardless, I braved the cold and cobblestone streets in my heeled boots and went out with the crowd. We went to a spot that was filled with DIS kids. This isn’t something I intend to do on a regular basis because that’s something I can do at home-meet Americans, however, we went to get to know more students in the program, so in that sense I’m glad. We danced and mingled and around 12:15 a.m. my friends had convinced me that I would miss my train so why not just stay. So I did. Don’t worry, Mom. My class on Friday isn’t until 11:40 a.m. So I stayed until about 1 a.m. and then decided to leave so I could make what I thought was the 1:30 a.m. NatBus.

I’m slowly figuring out this city…slowly. I backtracked to the train station and eventually got on bus and asked the driver which bus I should take home. He told me and so I waited at the platform for a good 20 minutes never seeing my bus. Being cold and tired I asked a Dane if my bus picked up where we were standing. NOPE! He pointed to another bus stand and I made it down there. Ok, I saw my sign for the number and also another number counting down the time…54 minutes until the next bus (I finally figured this out after it had dropped 10 minutes.) Being alone in a new city and cold, I decided I just couldn’t do it. I had a NatBus schedule and would get it translated for me the next day. I walked over to the taxi stand and asked the driver how many kroner it would be to take me home. He gave me an answer, 400 Kroner-about $70 USD, and I cringed but I did it. I promise I will never make this mistake again. I certainly don’t think that spending $70 for a cab is acceptable and I’m not taking it lightly, but I’m glad I made it home alive my first night.

Being in a city, I was expecting to be scared walking home at night, especially when you don’t speak the language and think everyone is talking to or about you. But it’s not horrible. The city is relatively well lit and you just walk with a purpose.

Perhaps during the day I stand out more. After all, I am in my Uggs, I carry my monogrammed Vineyard Vines tote and eventually I will break out my croakies. Oh well, everyone can use a bit of Carolina in his or her life!