Tuesday, December 18, 2007

LAST BLOG

Everything I know I learned in Kindergarten…and Denmark


Not to be read for spelling and grammar…but to be read as my mind has thought…a stream of refelctions


Some people come to study abroad to become a new person-they want to “find their selves”. They think it will be a life changing experience. Many have the goal of coming home again with a foreign romance or someone who changes their life. Some come for a change of atmosphere after they realize they are growing bored of their home university. Some come to learn something they could have never been exposed to back home in the United States, whether it be in the cultural or academic sense.
Note here that there is always a key word I am using when I describe the different aspirations and interpretations of a study abroad program: CHANGE. What I realized when my study abroad time came to an end was paradoxical. I changed not in the sense that my viewpoints, attitudes, and beliefs have adjusted, I have changed in the sense that I have not changed…and know it. When I reflected upon my time here, and accounted all of my experiences, whether through travel, school, or personal encounters, I realized that I always act consistent, and not just consistent in the way I have acted in the last three years of my life, or eight years ago when I became a teenager, but from the beginning of my memory…kindergarten.
I have a lot to attribute my personality to, because I don’t just believe you are who you are when you are born. I do believe that it is shaped during your integration with family and society. Luckily for me, my parents have raised me in a life that has always seen stability, yet like most humans, I have also been exposed to negative externalities. Pollution, crime, spoiled people, na├»ve people, war, people who make you think…”oh my gosh…is this person real, because they act like that stereotypical brat you see on TV but think the producers are making act in the extreme.” No these people really do exist, horrible break-ups are real, vulnerability, and depression are all real feelings. However, what else you see in TV and movies and books is also real…like the beauty and history of the world. The beauty of societies and the tribal uniqueness is also real, and should definitely be experienced first hand. Though I have only had the opportunity to travel through Europe, and not the wonders of Egypt, the Middle East, or Asia, I have nonetheless been more in tune with the world just being in a foreign land that is geographically closer to others. I feel the influence of Russian society, how communism ruined people lives, and how China is the biggest force affected the earth (yet many Americans remain unaware). I have learned that people in China are not poor, but do live in small places, and people in Russia still do not think Stalin was a bad person. Most importantly, I have personally witnessed the greatest artwork by the greatest artists. It was all I expected and more.
Now I will once again have to prepare for culture shock, except this time in the reverse. Yes, it is true… your home nation will also shock you and for the first few weeks I will look at others and think how much they have changed. I think that I will be disappointed when I have to stop and fill up my gas tank. I think I will be frustrated to pull out my ID, and even more baffled when cops approach me as I carelessly walk the streets with an open beer bottle. I will be overwhelmed by the choices in the store, and piping mad when parkers compete for the closest spot…then get out and walk just fine. I will laugh when I respond with “nej tak” to unwelcomed comments…and then continue to be surprised when everyone around stops and stares with confusion. “It means no thank-you in Danish,” I will respond. And then everyone will continue on…unable to relate to the overuse of that phrase I implemented throughout my four months…well, me and every student here. It was our favorite phrase, partially because it was one of the few we could say.
However, pulling up through drive-thrus, ordering pizza to my door, and not having to check the night bus schedule every time I leave my room will be nice to return to. However, I realize these things are unfortunately just conveniences that I grew up around, and thus in some sort of way rely on, though completely unnecessary. The Danes, despite the five hours of sunlight, rain, and trains that like to shut down if a leave blows onto the track, continue to be the happiest people. They love their country of five million because perhaps it is more like a close-knit tribe. It is a land inspired by fairy tales and hygge. They love candles, they love talking, and they love what has been given to them. Because of this immense love…though you cannot see it on their faces…I too have come to love Denmark and it will always be in my heart. I found enchantment in the cold, the buildings, the shops, the canals, and the babies in snowsuits. Denmark is like a mermaid...mysterious and alluring. Once you encounter one up close, it will pull into depths unknown by strangers, but a fantastic home to all that inhibit it. Denmark, like the mermaid, sings a song that can never be replicated and intrigues the human. It must be studied…and when it is, it is more beautiful on the inside then what a wonderer can see from the outside.
Once, Copenhagen was just a pamphlet to me. It was a city that offered business courses that would transfer for credit. It was a program that didn’t require a foreign language (thank god because lord knows I still can not pronounce the name Copenhagen correctly in Danish), and a program located in a city I could have never located on the map. However, it turned into my home. First it was my very expensive vacation, and then my annoyance, and then my sublease, and then my home. Many are not strong enough to leave their home, their friends, their life…but as Mark Twain once said, and as it was repeated at the DIS closing ceremony, “20 years from now I will be more disappointed by the things I didn’t do than the things I did do.” We all should free the rope that chains us to normalcy, and make a new normalcy and see if we are who we are in our first home as we are in our new home. I am. This leads me back to my first statement. Everything I know I learned in kindergarten. For example, I love people and being around them and I am not shy. I can strike up a conversation with anyone and make it last an entire train ride home, even if I barely know them. I like boys, but I am always on a higher level than them. More mature, more independent, more giving. And speaking of giving, I love to share. It is not something I feel obliged to do, but something I want to do to make myself happier. I like to share the dinners I cook, the chocolate I buy, and I often try to push these things upon others if at first they deny. I like to be creative and I really miss baking. I try really hard in school. Though I thought I didn’t try as hard out here, and was often disappointed by the marks I received, my hard work was apparently recognized by my Danish professors, when during today’s closing ceremony, my named was announced as a nomination for the student that showed the highest Academic Excellence. However, I must admit that though I feel I would have enjoyed that award in the past, this semester was some of my worst work. On the other hand, my last statement may very well ideally capture another consistent part of my personality- I am my biggest competition.
I could write for pages and pages about everything I saw and learned, but then this reflection would turn into a novel. In ending, I would like to re-iterate a Russian philosopher’s wisdom when he said, “you cannot stare at the stairs, you must climb the stairs.” I have climbed many stairs in my life and reached new levels that I believe have made me a stronger person, but the stairs I just climbed, and indeed I did, were longer than any in the past. They weren’t harder, and I didn’t sweat as much, but they raised me to another level. They were hidden, I searched for them, and I voluntarily climbed them. I am not regretful; in fact I am thank-you for the fact that I made the effort on my own will. (With of course my parent’s unconditional help). I am on a level that many of my peers will never be on. I am not better than them; I have read a novel they have not, and of course I can explain what the book was about, the characters, the highlights, and the ending, but until they read it, they will never actually know the effect all the pages have in their entirety.
For now I say farewell to Denmark. Good bye to the mermaid, the fairytales, Tivoli, the trains, the 7-elevens, the narrow streets, the medieval architecture, the water, the ice cream, and most importantly the hygge. To me now, Denmark is a country that the Beatles sang when they wrote, “There are places I remember, all my life…”

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Crictical Thinking

Crictical thinking...it has been pushed a lot by the Danish teachers here. However, they also are very crictical.

I received my first A today on a paper...b/c usually it is impossible to please the teachers past B's...and ususally your best is just not good enough.

Anyway, I have nine days until I come home and the only thing I can think about is how many papers I have written, yet my writing skills are decreasing. I have never turned in more work that I am less proud of. I can't decide if it is because I gave up after the first assignment I turned in was graded so subjectively, or because so much has been due at once, or because I figure there are better things to do in Denmark.

Basically what I do like is that even though anything you say is always doubted and debated, you yourself can do the same thing right back. For example, when our teacher was going over our marketing report with us...he had a lot of things underlined that he didn't like and was CRICTICAL about. However, all we did was argue our viewpoint of it...and that was that...A was the grade.

I am still worried that our other professor will not like the paper. When I handed it in, he asked if we thought it was good. I looked him in the eye and said...I've done better...then again, I knew what to do. Silly teachers out here never tell you what to do...they just say write a report.

Anyway, nine days until I am home and even though I do not want to go back to school, I will be so happy to have IU teachers again. I will sit in class and think...oh my gosh, they are actually telling me the exact requirements of an assignment. I can't wait to fill out a bubble sheet and have them run it through a scanner, receiving my grade within 5 hrs as opposed to 5 weeks.

What may become a problem is when I question something the teacher says and write a paper purely based on my opinion...encouraged in Denmark, but frowned about in the US.

Oh well, we will see.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Marketing Strategy Report

Graphs and pictures to be used in class presentation...not real blog!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bittersweet Symphony

My thoughts about knowing I have about 2 weeks left in Cph are bittersweet. I hate how I have so many papers and presentations due and I am glad to be leaving the school, however, I have come to love the city. I like Denmark despite the bad weather and high prices. I was walking around today because all of the streets are decorated for Christmas and things here just feel so spirited. I feel that the people here have developed extra holiday spirit since it is usually such poor weather and dark. However, the sun was out today for one of the first times in two weeks and it was so amazing. It has even warmed up to 8 degrees celcius. Basically, I am starting to realize that home will not be as exciting as I am expecting and the four months that have almost passed was not that long of a time. Know I want to do all the things left in Cph that I haven't time for. I want to go to a ballet at the old theatre. I want to go to the Opera house. I want to visit the castles. I want to go iceskating and visit every single christmas market they have set up.

However, school is a killer right now and time will not permit. Oh well...soon it will all be done and over with and before I know it I will be home telling everyone to go visit Cph. I feel sad today for the first time about leaving. A week ago I felt sad about being here and missing home, but know my feelings have reversed. I still want to go home and see everyone, but I think when I get home I will miss what I have left in Denmark.

Like I said...very bittersweet will be the last two weeks.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My new danish obession: Hans

Hans Christian Andersen is the writer of many fairy tales. Before I came to Denmark, the name sounded kind of familiar, but i could of never told you who it was. When I first arrived, I discovered he was the writer of "The Little Mermaid". This is why Kobenhavn has a little statue of her...b/c this is the country where Hans is from. Anyway, after visiting Tivoli a couple times, and looking through the Hans books my fellow students are reading for class, I have discovered he has written many stories i am acquainted with. For example:
The emporer's new suit
The princess and the pea
thumbellina
the ugly duckling
the nightengale
the tinder box.............and more

After visiting the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale shop today in Illums, i really want to get one. But I don't want just the most popular collection, i want the whole book...the one with over 80 fairy tales.

Anyway, the point of this blog is to point out that even though Danmark is very small, great ppl still come from it. I mean, there is only 5 million ppl, and there was way less when Hans lived long ago. So what I am trying to express is that there are some things that make me happy to be in Danmark. Hans is one of them. I wish I could of taken the class. Maybe not as practical as "Doing Business in the European Union", but certainly more entertaining.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Snowsuits

So today every baby I passed was in a snowsuit. Apparently, Danish mothers like to put their small children in snowsuits, even when it is not snowing. Though adorable, also unusual. How can an entire society do the same thing...I guess Denmark is only 5 million people.

However, I was thinking...a snow suit may not be a bad idea for my room. It is so cold that sometimes I can't even focus on reading or fall asleep. Though DIS said that if you email them they would give you an extra blanket, I never received one. I've gotten use to wearing 4 layers in my room, and by the way, the same four layers. This is because I am trying to save my laundry money until only 2.5 weeks are left. This is because even though I have 80 kroner left, apparently DIS stops the validity of the card at 50. I guess they won't let you use the extra 10 dollars because they figure they need more service fees for all of the non-service they do. Anyway, in light of our living arrangements and DIS, we all make jokes to make each other laugh. The other day, a fellow student and friend made the joke that he was going to write DIS a short letter that says, "Dear DIS Housing Services, I sleep outside now because it is just as warm as inside, but i see more people."

It made me laugh a lot. Anyway...back to whole baby thing. A snowsuit would be nice for my room. I might even put it on and walk the streets of Copenhagen and see if anyone mistakes me as an overgrown danish baby.

Monday, November 26, 2007

22 and 72

So today when I was talking to Katie on the ride home and over dinner, I realized that being overseas has already neutralized me to the whole "bar" scene. I also realized when I told her that in Amsterdam I spent most of my time at museums, I act like an old person...which is actually a good thing because I appreciate art and things others my age might think are boring (like my brother). Basically, I have determined that being in Denmark has made me feel like two different ages in mind: 22 and 72

Age 22: Pretty much, in the US, young adults can't wait to turn 21 so that they can legally drink. Usually a lot of partying occurs, a lot of drunkeness happens, and a lot of bars are visited. Usually, this feeling seems to last about one year before it becomes a normal feeling. You think at 22, "no big deal...I am ordering a beer right now in a bar". This feeling has already taken over my mindset. I figured this out when in the beginning of the semester, on Tuesday nights everyone made plans to go out to visit new bars in CPH since we don't have classes on Wednesdays. However, just tonight me and Katie were like, "do you want to have a movie night tomorrow with Kelly and eat popcorn?" YES was the answer. This options seems much more pleasing now than going out. In fact, we made the same decision a couple saturdays ago to stay in and watch a movie. I think i went to bed at midnight or early that saturday even.

Age 72: So I remember as a child, I hated visiting museums on field trips. In fact, I think the only museum I ever liked was the children's museum because there were things to play with. However, ever since I arrived in Europe, I have loved visiting all of the museums and other sightseeing places I would have whined about 10 years ago. I stare at painting forever and read every caption. I love learning about the artist, technique, and political meanings behind these paintings. I loved all of the sculptures in Italy too. I loved the huge churches and walking about building. Basically, these are the kind of thing retired ppl like to do, however, I like it now too. In fact, me and Katie both agreed that when we went to the Veneto hills with the retired group, they were our favorites to talk to. Maybe I am lame, or maybe I have finally realized to absorb everything and learn everything and not take anything for granted. Now that my time here is running low, I realized how little I have actually seen in Europe and how much more awaits me. Some ppl the age 72 or older have nvr got to see the things I have already seen, and knowing I have been able to have these oppertunities is amazing.

I guess it only takes one 30 min train ride back home with a friend to realize your true age. But really, about the going out thing, who can really afford $10 beers every night?? Not I!
And P.S. I don't have the Danish genes that keep me skinny even though they drink so much and eat so much...why do the Danes have such good genes?