Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bornholm...Denmark's "Martha's Vineyard"

This past weekend I traveled to a small island south of Sweden and 7 hrs east of Denmark, smack dab in the middle of the Baltic Sea. Though there is nothing particularly special about this island, it felt amazing to get away from the city for a few days. We biked around trails that had nothing but hilly farmland or coastal views. The sea was so peaceful and at one point the blue of the sea blended in with the blue of the sky. Many adventures were encountered in the group of five I rode around with. Some include the following:
1. Finding a hilly pasture...walking up it to see the view...then realizing we were on a bull farm.
2. Being caught in the rain for 20km
3. One member had a flat tire and DIS would not come help us
4. One member fell off of his bike and injured both hands and a knee...all becuase we had to ride back in the dark because DIS did not come help us
5. Jumping into the frigid sea just to say we were in the baltic sea

Anyway, we saw some amazing things. My favorite was an old medieval castle on the nothern tip of the island. it is in ruins now, but it was located in an amazing place...on top of a cliff and the surrounded by the sea.
The second day we hiked instead of biked because we were too sore, and we stumbled upon some sacred cliffs. They of course were beautiful and so was the entire hike becuase the trail just followed the coast line.
Another observation I made on the island was that cats and dogs roamed everywhere. Everyone was walking a dog...and they weren't ever neutered. How strange. I am sick of course. I knew my body would give in eventually and catch up with everyone else. Although I am sure the bike ride in the rain did not help. My mine has also given in to the fact that no sandwhich or any kind of meal out here is under 30DKK (6 dollars). I will never, EVER think anything in the US is expensive again. And I really want Taco Bell, as do we all out here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My Visiting Family!

I am so happy that I signed up for a visiting a family...and they gave me everything I expected. They are Per, Alice, Morten, and Katja Randrup, plus Morten's two roommates were there. We started by getting acquainted over some snacks like carrots and dip and bread with pesto. It was not awkard at all either. Then we sat around the table for traditional danish dinner, pork and potatoes with some kind of relish or side thing to go with it. The food was delicious and warm. They served me some French white wine that is produced in a town near the German border which went perfectly with the pork. Then Alice had also prepared traditional dessert of thin pancakes with the options of adding in icecream and marmalade. Her homemade marmalade was supurb and I also added some whipped cream on top of the rolled pancake. We had coffee with it. The whole time we talked about the danish health care system, school systems, cultural differences, where I was from, movies, their views of American parents....
which to note on that...they are very confused as to why American parents pay so much attention to the children's school grades and activities. They spoke about how a student that lived with them a few years ago always would say, "My dad is going to be so mad about this grade." And Alice would reply, "Why do you care? He is not even here." The Randrups basically think American parents shelter their children too much and of course noted on how silly our drinking laws were.
Anyway, the whole conversation was amazing and I ended up being there for four hours. It didn't feel like it at all though. I told them "Tak for mal" (Thanks for the meal) over and over and we planned on doing something similar again.
I am very glad to get to know the Danes and I think that the students that came out here with their friends or frat buddies are dumb. They will nvr experience the culture, get to know the Danes, or get outside of their comfort zone. I have already learned so much about Danish culture and I love how liberal they are...yet completely under control.
The only thing that dampens my night is the fact that I have to turn in an essay worth 20% of my grade by tomorrow before I leave for Bornholm. Of course, like always, DIS made another assignment due the same day trip is over, so of course, I have to to do it three days early. I would have already started it, but I had another essay due on Monday and a test to study for which I had today. I don't know why this school is so demanding, but me, as well as everyother person here, feels overwhelmed. We don't understand why DIS has made this college harder than any of our home universities. Why do some many assignments and tests overlap and happen right after weekend trips? I think I am just going to have to realize that I probably won't recieve grades that I am use to, but to not worry because I am learning in another way that doesn't award grades. And once again, I loved my visiting family!!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hmmm...Denmark in Totality

So we took a short field study to other cities in the main penisula of Denmark..and the best comparision I have is as follows:
It is like you left Chicago to visit Indiana for a few days. Sure, there were things to do, people to see, but it is no Chicago. We basically visited a toilet seat company that focuses on designer, innovative toilet seats, and then the biggest slaughter house in Denmark. Plus there were a few musuems and castles in between. My favorite part of the trip was our night in this small town called Randers. They brewed their own beer, I believe called Thor, and a system of underground golden pipes distributed it throughout the city. So supposedly, we drank the world's freshest beer.
I don't have too much else to say about the trip except Danish castles look nothing like the castle at Disney Land, and toilet seats can be neat. Sooooo...anyway....
I am still not a fan of the weather here and am quite jealous of everyone who is not on the same lines as Northern Canada. Oh yes, and I have also recently discovered that event though I am paying thousands of dollars to study abroad, the school I am at does not even have Office 2007. Not only that, they do not even have compatibility packs installed. I found this out when I tried to open an essay due today at the school computer labs to finish editing and printing. However, I was not allowed to open it since the computers were still in Office at least an IT person got it to print off...but I could not finish editing. So that is my story for my first assignment due, and I am not happy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Babies at 20

I learned some new things today that in my opinion were more important than the actual field studies I had. To begin with, Danes are must not be very Finance-orientated in business, becuase if they were, they would have more carefully calculated the rate of return and capital costs associated with constructing a huge building. However, they apparently didn't take into consideration risk or time value of money, and half way through the construction of this amazing architectural design, realized they didn't have enough money to finish it. So what was the solution? "Sacking" half of all the employees who work there, even ones that have been there for 20 years. Of course this happens on the same day we were taken to this site to learn about subtitling for tv and movies. Unfortunately, the lecture kept being interrupted by employees full of tension, and finally we were asked to leave because soon may Danes would be asked to leave themselves. Wednesday though? Is that really a good day for firing? Hmmm...I would like to know the logic behind that because I know in the US it usually occurs on a Friday.
I was also recently educated about Danish women having babies young. At first, as an American, you have to wonder, "Why would you want a baby in college?" I mean, there is all of the expenses of college, not to mention mental frusterations and that period in your life when you start off as a young, poor professional. But then you must remember that the government in Denmark actually cares about their citizens and would rather use tax money to benefit the domestic community instead of external affairs like the US would rather spend our money on. Because of this, not only do all Danes recieve a free education for as many years as their field requires, but they are actually given a stipend per month for living expenses. What the Danish women have done with this idea is as follows:
Have a baby young while the government is paying for your life (i.e. while you are in school). Then you simply only have to find someone to look after your child while you are gone for a couple of hours a day, as opposed to an eight-hour work day. The only thing you have to worry paying for is food and the clothing on your back. Then, by the time you finish school (4-5 years), your child is old enough for school. That means the Danish mom can start her job and not have to pay for daycare because her child is in school. Some may argue that this may still become somewhat of a financially challenging situation, but then you have to remember that Denmark does not allow it's citizens to go poor because of it's excellent welfare system. In fact, Denmark has the lowest separation between it's upper and lower classes out of any country in the world. And welfare isn't just abused or used by lazy druggies, it is a part of life, something natural that even middleclass citizens recieve some part of. In fact, I have seen one seeminly homeless person since I got this city of millions.
Another interesting encounter occured last night when I entered the kitchen to cook a corn on the cob. I ended up joining an African group (family and friends of one of the residents) in the dinner they made (which was delicious) and came to realize that all men think a like. One of the guys had a conversation with me that women are perfect and have to be in our double standard society, but this is only because men are like babies and should be treated as such. He continued by saying that women are the most powerful in the sense that they must guide men through life, keeping them out of trouble, teaching them right from wrong, or simply reinforcing maturity. He also said that kids truly are a factor of mostly the mother; and therefore is the mom is messed up, the kid will be too. I had to mostly agree with all of these assertions. Men are babies. What is true in America is true even in Africa. What a small world...yet completely different ways of life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

New Observations

Today after class, which I gave a presentation in, I decided to stroll along Stroget so that I could compare prices of boots and coats. I really want a good European looking coat and boots, but it is so hard to choose between all of the shops. It is amazing how many options they have out here, perhaps to much. It makes deciding much more difficult, especially when the buyer is already an undecisive person. However, as I walked, I kept noticing more and more things I still haven't appreciated. For instance, Copenhagen has a store called Illium's which houses fabulous danish designs (I think just danish). There is amazing, artful, sophisticated kitchenware and candles. I have never been so intrigued by french presses, candle holders, pots, and even basic kitchen utensils. I wanted to buy Christmas presents right then are there, and it is moments like this that I wish I could share with others back home. I want everyone to see what I am seeing, because it is simply spectacular.
Our strategy teacher told us that the Danes, and Scandanavia in general is known for being a very creative and innovative society. I believe it. I guess that employees in businesses are allowed to be more open about ideas and challenge the boss. This creates an atmosphere conducive for wonderful designs. Maybe this is also why people come to Copenhagen to study architeture. I have also observed several bedroom stores, those too with amazing looking furniture. I think Scandanavian design is becoming popular for interior decorators to use over in the States, and I can definitely see why. They seem so ahead of us. Of course, they prices are in my mind outrageous and the only reason why I haven't purchased the boots or coat I want yet is because of this factor. I need to get use of the European ease of spending large amounts of money though because in reality, the US is one of the few countries that consumers buy based on price. We look for cheap things, economical purchases, while here they look for quality. Tomorrow through Saturday I will visit four different Danish businesses and it will be quite interesting to compare and contrast.

Monday, September 10, 2007

False advertising

So I went to Tivoli, which is like the Disneyland of Denmark. Of course that would be inaccurate to say because Walt Disney actually got his inspiration from Tivoli. Tivoli was basically created by the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson, and though he has a very charming mind, his park was a little less than expected. There were a few rides, nothing like Six Flags or King's Island of course. Mostly is was pretty scenery, lots of restuarants, a theatre, a concert stage, and yes, of course, icecream every square block. I would say the best part of the experience was going through Hans Christian Anderson's fairly tale land (kind of like the ride "Small World" at the Disney parks) because we just sat in a thing that revolved us around scenes and toys that compromise his stories. There were many, but I only recognized "The Little Mermaid," "The Ugly Duckling," "The Princess and the Pea," and "Thumballina" (sp). Anyway, the total experience minus some german food I consumed was $279 kroner, so roughly $50. I guess the Danes are appreciate this one tourist attraction, besides Legoland, but I could of done without. I did appreciate the danish experience however, and appreciate it's marketing techniques.
I have also been thinking lately that the kollegium experience I signed-up for was falsely advertised. The social areas aren't so social, I apparently live in a not so good part of greater Copenhagen, and I don't even have a can opener to open my can of tuna I purchased a week ago. Though I have met several people from my kollegium that I hang out with on a daily basis, it wasn't entirely because of the kollegium setting. It was because when we had introductions in class, several people announced they were in the same kollegium as me. Then after that I started talking to them. Oh well, what are you going to do. I have signed up with a danish visiting family, so hopefully they reply soon and I can have another danish get-together.
Before I end this post, I would also like to note the atrocity of assigning essays that are due the day after we get back from field studies. All of the readings and overlapping papers are going to stress me out completely and it will become quite difficult to balance the traveling with the homework. I am completely jealous of those students who are allowed to make all of their study abroad classes pass/fail. This way, they don't actually have to be so in-depth with the academics, but enhance the abroad experience through fully living in another culture. In the end, I can only hope that my experience contains the quality of "hygge"...a danish word that is apparently not translateable, but used to describe a feeling of enjoyment. This of course I have to now turn into a 2000 word essay.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Icecream and Beer

So I could write about all of the shops and bars I has seen or visited, or I could simply say that the dominating theme of this city is icecream and beer. At lunch, when I walk out from classes to the square to get some fruit, tables are filled with glasses of beer. Walking down the streets like Stroget, everyone is eating an icecream cone. In fact, there are icecream parlors every other shop. Sometime they even make belgium waffles you can order to put icecream on top. The question is, how to the Danes stay so thin? My only guess would be that they it is because of the mass amounts of walking and biking they do.
I have recently signed up for a danish visting family because they night at my professor's home was amazing. We all arrived aound 6:30pm, and didn't leave until 10:30pm. His wife made some of the best pizzas, danish meatballs, danish potatoe salad, and french hot dogs. They had a keg connected to their home as well. We all immersed ourselves in conversation while eating and drinking. I learned so much more about their culture in the four hours I was there. His wife was fabulous, as was the daughter. They were also very interested in some parts of the States, so it was fun to talk about our cultural differences.
Yesterday I went to Nyhavn, (New Haven to us) with all of the boats and colored buildings. It was very nice to walk around. It was also very warm yesterday and quite sunny. When it is warm and sunny, people don't go to work. Instead, they walk around the city shopping and eating. Music was playing, all of the merchants had set their shops is very different and I love it. I want to buy so much, but so far I have only purchased a long sweater from their mall Fisketovet. I plan on buying different colored stocking/tights with boots so I can fit in with the Danish fashion.
The last thing I should mention was Cafe Svejk in the Frederiksberg district. It was a small, quiter pub that served czech. beer. I ordered a big class of Prezente for 45 kroners...and have decided it was the best beer I have ever tasted. I savored it for a half wine. It was amazing and I will prob. visit again.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

First Impressions-delayed

Important Note: My blog posts will not necessarily use correct grammar or sentence I am quite tired of perfecting documents. In fact, I will write these without even looking them don't judge and hopefully they will not be too confusing.

It has now been officially 11 days since I arrived in Copenhagen. Within these short 11 days my mind has experienced many different thoughts, feelings, and emotions. What I write now will probably change again within another week…because soon the vacation will be over and my desires to be back with my normal friends and surroundings will not be met.
When we went downtown for the first time, my first thoughts were that is was nothing spectacular. Yes, it looked different than any other city I had been in, but it still just looked like a city. Big buildings, lots of people walking around, trains, buses, restaurants. However, it was still exciting to explore a city that is foreign, and a part of European history. One main difference is that this city is full of bikers. I took a picture of hundreds of bikes together. If I were in Chicago there would be many cars driving here, and lots of traffic. Here there is no traffic, but walkers and bikers. It is cold also…but it seems the Danes are used to be cold. I walk around hugging myself from the wind, but they go about completely normal. Also, for the most part, besides immigrants, everyone has very light skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. They are definitely classier looking. No one wears sweats and hoodies. They dress very fashionably and black is very popular. Black tights under black skirts and black jackets with scarves is the norm. Whenever I wear my brown wardrobe downtown I stand out.
Restaurants are very diverse…Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Moroccan, Mexican, Greek. When I eat at just normal Danish places, the common food is some kind of sandwich. I have eaten many different kinds of sandwiches, including the traditional smorrbrod (open-faced sandwich on rye with a sauce) around 25krones to 50krones ($5-10). I used to think Starbucks was expensive; a coffee around two dollars, and latte around 4.50. Here, for one black coffee (8oz), I normally have to chuck up 25krones ($5). This is way too much, and it is why I have decided I need my coffee pot sent immediately.
However, what I like about the coffee shops is that they are much more environmentally friendly…as it every shop. For example, to mix sugar and cream into my coffee, they don’t have plastic stirrers, they have little bowls of small silver spoons. When you are down, you just leave the spoon on the counter. The trains are very clean…the streets are clean. People don’t litter…I guess a cultural thing. And bottles can be returned for one kroner.
Like I have read, alcoholic drinking has been implemented through parents and socialization. A Dane I ate with was very confused why the drinking age in the US was 21. He asked if there was any connection with that age, and of course my answer was no. He was also confused as to why we didn’t first begin drinking in homes with parents. The Danes can buy alcohol at the age of 15, and usually begin drinking it in their homes with family and friends. By the time they turn 18, they can order it at clubs, bars, etc. This way drinking becomes not something to consume at parties to get drunk…it is something to complement other activities. Professors (who like to be addressed by first name) also commonly have a drink with their students. My marketing professor has invited us back to his home this week for drinks and conversation. My strategy professor also has an outing planned of the same nature.
School is kind of different for the Danes. They usually attend college for three years, and work for three years in an internship…it is a more real-life approach. For doctors, they go to medical school for 12 years, but after three years, they are already in the hospitals, working as residents and such. Of course, they also do not pay for school, not one penny. In fact, sometimes the government gives them more money, to use on housing for instance.
My mind has already come about one revelation on a train ride home from classes. At first, my biggest fear coming here was meeting enough people to become friends with and go out with. I wanted to see and do everything. But after I realized how expensive it is, and how hard classes will be, I have already changed my approach. I want to be a very focused student, as are most foreign exchange students. I want to focus on my studies and absorb everything I can about international business and communication. Of course, when I do go out, I don’t want to worry about finding other students from DIS, I want to go out with Danes and other people studying abroad. I have already met a girl from Iceland who I enjoyed hanging out with. I like having conversations about each other’s culture and country. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the company of my fellow DIS students, and the US is so big that we too have differences to share. But I have realized studying abroad isn’t a time to meet a million friends and go out every night…it is a time a self-discovery. I am only 20, thus beginning a phase in my life that trying to understand myself becomes a constant thought process.
Though details about my changing thought processes in the last week would make this entry unnecessarily longer, it must be said that each day my mind has already adjusted perspectives of Copenhagen and the people. Soon I will be going on many field studies and trips throughout Denmark, which will be even more eye opening. I still cannot wait until my travel break though because Italy has so much history and sight-seeing. Plus it will hopefully be warmer and less rainy!!