Pre-Departure Jitters

Hello, hello! Welcome to my blog. I’ll start off with a quick introduction – I am Lizzie Tong, a 20 year-old rising junior from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, blogging about my experiences with DIS Copenhagen in the Fall of 2018. My core course of study with DIS is urban studies. The other coursework I’m taking is tied to this theme and includes urban economics, sustainable business strategies, adapted climate change scenarios with ArcGIS, and philosophy. Follow my blog posts analyzing the differences in design and culture of sustainable cities of Europe and the United States. I’ll take you along on study tours of Budapest, Vienna, and Hamburg in order to embrace “Europe as your classroom” mentality to the fullest.



Here I am with my Goldendoodle. Trying to soak in as much dog love as possible before I leave! My mom and I are traveling before arriving in Copenhagen – London and Paris – we leave in 2 days! August 10th.

To learn more about me – click here!


As an avid journaler, I frequently write down my goals. Then over time, I change them. Then edit them. And revise them some more. Or at least, revise them as my surroundings and priorities change. I found this to be especially important for my semester abroad given the limited time frame, resources ($$$), and potential opportunities available. Is cultural immersion my primary goal? How much am I willing to spend on travel/what are  the best ways to save money abroad? Do I want to prioritize meeting Danes or international students? How can I maximize resources there to further my understanding of the European political sphere, habits of sustainability, and structural/institutional differences that make them a leader economically, environmentally, and socially (social capital/social trust which is the highest in European countries — Trust Me, Freakonomics)? These questions guided the formation of my goals for my semester abroad.

  1.  Synthesize, compare, and connect. I hope to utilize this platform as a way to synthesize what I’m learning in the classroom and apply it to my life in Milwaukee, Chapel Hill, the broader United States, China, and international sphere. My first goal of the semester is maximizing Copenhagen as my classroom and utilizing the international scene to my advantage.
  2. Pursue relationships in every form. As a human, I know that I am happiest when forming close relationships with those around me, which is sometimes difficult because I consider myself an introvert and often tire from constant social interactions. I appreciate this quote: “the most effective people in the world are introverts who taught themselves how to be extroverts” – Meg Wolitzer, The Female Persuasion. So, a note to myself to stick it out. Find my people and the connections are priceless even if I’ll likely only know these people for a few months at a time.
  3.  Cultural immersion, while important, is not my number one goal. I do want to learn Danish (hence, Duolingo training I detail more later), understand Scandinavia, but don’t want to do it while leaving broke. I personally prioritize experiences over food, even though some would argue that food is an experience, but that’s how I save money. Pack lunches, bring necessities, so you know exactly where the money is going.

And finally, how will I attain these goals? My motto for this semester: BE CURIOUS. In every facet — academically, culturally, socially. Ask questions. Genuine interest will take you far!



An ancient buddha once said:

For the time being, standing on the tallest mountaintop,
For the time being, moving on the deepest ocean floor,
For the time being, a demon with three heads and eight arms,
For the time being, the golden sixteen-foot body of a buddha,
For the time being, a monk’s staff or a master’s fly swatter,
For the time being, a pillar or a lantern,
For the time being, any Dick or Jane.
For the time being, the entire earth and the boundless sky.

— Dogen Zenji “For the Time Being”

I encountered this quote upon reading A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki (most likely the last novel I will read before departing). And it encapsulates my emotional response to embarking on this daunting, exciting, and unpredictable chapter abroad.

In my interpretation of the quote, every living thing, object, emotion, or spirit is fleeting. The sturdiest mountain, the strongest current, every human being, and this entire earthly experience. This realization is incredibly humbling and I know I’ll ruminate over it during my time abroad. Anyway. Just food for thought.



Anyway, here is a list of ways that I’ve been prepping for the semester abroad (put for your convenience in a short list):

  • DUOLINGO — prepping my Danish/French (since I will be traveling to France prior to arriving in Copenhagen)
  • PACKING — pictures included (I would advise not bringing a giant bottle of head and shoulders that you can find in stores abroad. But, if you are stingy about the 20% sales tax like me, it was the preferred option).
  • BUDGETING — planning my trip with my mom.
  • LOGISTICS — I set up annual dental/doctor’s appointments prior to leaving, making sure that I have all the contact lenses, prescription medicines (lifetime asthmatic here), documentation (passports, visas, travel warnings, STEP travel enrollment), budgeting (setting travel plans on your credit cards, checking exchange rates, and sales taxes especially in places like CPH), and cell plans set (since I will be without the SIM card you can opt into with DIS by traveling with my mom beforehand).
  • GOAL SETTING — I’ve already gotten into this. But what I hate the most, and truly one of my greatest fears, is not being able to make the most of any experience, especially this study abroad. When ever again in my life will I be so free to learn, make new connections and relationships, travel and experience different cultures, visit historical landmarks, and so much more, with no strings attached?
  • DIS TRAVEL VIDEOS — DIS has so many videos on YouTube, linked here, prepping you for your time abroad. What to expect, what to pack, how to navigate…. it’s been good mental prep and would recommend watching a few at the airport to ease any nerves. Check it out here.



***At the end of every blog, I hope to reveal embarrassing stories, cultural encounters, mistakes, and general silly tidbits about my life. Perhaps this will humanize me even more so to you all or at least let you know that mistakes schmistakes. If you know what I mean.***

  • You will encounter friends and family that commonly confuse your study abroad location with Sweden, Finland, Norway, and other Nordic countries. You will frequently be asked if you must learn Dutch. Alas, this is only a part of life. My suggestion? Send them a postcard while you’re abroad — if you happen to be in Germany or the Netherlands, send one in Dutch! Otherwise, send one from Copenhagen and teach them a little Danish 😉
  • Whenever I go somewhere new, I enjoy the opportunity for a fresh start. Trying on a new skin and having the opportunity to shed it if it doesn’t fit (reference to readers of Celeste Ng’s popular novel, Little Fires Everywhere). So, I decided to begin this chapter with a very rash decision to get a haircut at cost cutters. Unlucky me ran into a man that was recently hired, with very little experience, that blessed me with a heavy set of very uneven, retro bangs despite the light, wispy (straight) look I was going for. Oh well. Hair grows back! Oh silly Liz.

One thought on “Pre-Departure Jitters

  1. Oh my gosh! I am so excited to follow your adventures in Copenhagen!! I’m also a student at Chapel Hill, maybe we can meet up once you get back from study abroad 😉

    p.s. I also read Little Fires Everywhere, SUCH A GOOD BOOK
    p.s.s. What a cute dog 😮 What’s her/his name?

    Liked by 1 person

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