On settling in…


Friday, August 17th: Dinner with the host parents (Lars, Dorte — Hannah, Helena, and Soren joined later)!

  • After traveling to London and Paris with my mom, we were invited to dinner over with my host parents! We had a more traditional Danish meal with pork wrapped in bacon, potatoes, salad, and a layered cake (caramelized hazelnuts with cream and berries) yum.

Saturday, August 18th: Check in with DIS, officially moved in, house tours, and neighborhood “Sommerfest”.

  • Dropped my mom off at the airport (for fear that she would not make her flight) and collecting DIS registration materials. After getting breakfast with the family, rye bread & pastries, unpacking my things, and receiving an official house/neighborhood tour, we headed off for an annual neighborhood get together. We brought cake, barbecued, and were introduced to some of the neighbors! Soren, my host brother, enthusiastically explained to me Danish history and phenomenons from Norse mythology to Denmark’s Legoland to dangerous snakes to watch out for in Denmark. Conclusion: if the snake is not black, run!

Sunday, August 19th: Canal Tour, Our Savior’s Church Tours

  • Today we went out to the city on a Canal Tour. Spots on our way included the Danish Parliament, Opera House, Nyhavn…!img_1460

Monday, August 20th: Opening Ceremony!

  • This truly felt like the first day of college all over again. Freshman orientation — new people and new places. Along the S-train (A line to Farum) we picked up members of our homestay network and beyond. Here’s a bunch of us getting lunch outside of the plaza by DIS and enjoying the rare sun at Rosenburg Castle.

Tuesday, August 21st: Transition Sessions and Copenhagen City Tours

  • After having an official meeting for everyone in our homestay network, we decided to go on the DIScovery tour — History and Fairytales around the city. We visited the Rosenburg Castle (again), Round tower, Amalienborg Palace, The Little Mermaid, and the Church of Copenhagen.
  • Found my happy place. As a Milwaukee native and proud Midwesterner, I can’t speak enough about the beauty of the Great Lakes. And I especially need to live by a body of water. Naturally, my favorite suburban location in Greater Copenhagen is the dock of Sonderso Lake. After a run (>6km around the lake), I have begun sitting on the dock. Unlike many of the lakes in the U.S. that have homes built up around it, this one is almost completely undeveloped. The light breeze, the sun, and the serenity takes me back to Lake Michigan.

Wednesday, August 22nd: Solo City Adventures and Core Course Introductions (Urban Studies)

  • After a fiasco of forgetting my travel card at home, I wandered around the streets by DIS, trying to find my way. I walked through the Library Gardens, noted all the museums that I want to visit, and had lunch/did some light reading on the harbor outside the Black Diamond Library. Excited to make that my study spot! After my core course, I ran into some friends by the Studenterhuset and we went on a walk to Nyhavn — ice cream included. Back at home, we had a lovely dinner outside and I went to go pick pears at Lars’ sister home. We now have enough to last us the week!

Thursday, August 23rd: Why Cities Matter, Thinking Lab: Kant and Nietzsche, and Urban Economics

  • I am now officially an early riser — those 8AM classes will really get you. Waking up has its perks. By 1PM (my next class) I had gone on a walking tour around inner CPH with my Urban Studies core course, visited the National Museum, and stopped by the University of Copenhagen library to get some work done. Productivity is wild. Really been enjoying diving into classes, meeting my new classmates and professors!

Friday, August 24th: GIS: Applied Climate Change Scenarios and Environmental Policy in Practice


Sappy Thoughts, Thank You Opening Ceremony:

Anxiety/dread/angst is unfocused fear. Kierkegaard uses the example of a man standing on the edge of a tall building or cliff. When the man looks over the edge, he experiences a focused fear of falling, but at the same time, the man feels a terrifying impulse to throw himself intentionally off the edge. That experience is anxiety or dread because of our complete freedom to choose to either throw oneself off or to stay put. The mere fact that one has the possibility and freedom to do something, even the most terrifying of possibilities, triggers immense feelings of dread. Kierkegaard called this our “dizziness of freedom.”

– Kierkegaard, Danish existential philosopher

During our opening ceremony, we were introduced to this concept from Kierkegaard framing anxiety as the dizziness of freedom. I don’t think that the anxiety associated with this trip abroad impacted me as much as I expected it would; however, once I arrived and walked down my first street alone, I felt full (sappy, sorry) for the possibilities that this semester would hold. The freedom and opportunities available is quite titillating. Now it’s just up to me.

We received an introduction to our core course as well and the way that the program is structured really ensures that the semester will fly by. Two weeks in Copenhagen, one week one… two weeks in Copenhagen, study tour… etc. you get the point. I want to make sure I make the most of my time in this city and my time in Europe, before life and classes start to pick up. I can feel the storm a’brewing — but in the best way possible. Wooohoo (not sarcastic).


Week One First Impressions

Only after a 3 days with my host family, I feel more or less settled. Or, I suppose, as settled as one can be upon entering and residing in a foreign continent/country. My first impression — the transition hasn’t been as daunting as it has been all hyped up to be. My thoughts on why:

  1. Cultural Differences/Language Barrier — Comparatively, living in Bolivia or even China (even though I’m Chinese American) which are both countries that I have spent at least 2 consecutive months living in, were much more difficult to adjust to. For the most part, the food, communication, and other cultural differences have not been so difficult from what I am used to at home. Part of this is thanks to DIS’s homestay matching process. Be warned — the application is long; however, I believe the program did a great job matching me with a family with similar interests! Although not always the case in all homestays, my host siblings and parents speak English quite fluently.
  2. Past Experience — I think the first truly daunting experience I had of moving somewhere new and settling down was midway through high school when I attended a summer program in Boston. Since then, making friends and finding my place at UNC, at a homestay in Bolivia, St. Louis this past summer, and now in Copenhagen, makes me feel confident in my ability to connect with people for short periods of time and attempting to maintain meaningful relationships past our time physically spent together.
  3. Personal Development — Throughout the years, I think I have become a lot more comfortable with understanding what type of relationships are meaningful to me and finding the joy in exploring solo.

Let me introduce you to my host family! They’ve been so kind, welcoming, and I have enjoyed chatting with them over dinner, picking pears from the pear tree, and chilling with the family in the evenings.IMG_0098IMG_0123IMG_0137IMG_0161IMG_0165

Check out more pictures we took on a Canal Tour/Our Savior’s Church over here!


Cultural Tidbits — What have I learned thus far?

  • Danish Education System
    • A little bit more complicated to explain than it should be. Luckily my host sister, Hannah, fleshed it out here:
  • Welfare State
    • Steven Dubner is both incredibly in and out of sync with my life. I guess it’s good to note that you will experience FOMO from your home university. In my case, it’s because I’m missing out on a presentation from Steven Dubner, coauthor and podcast host of Freakconomics. Steven Dubner also is coincidentally in sync, since the podcast recently put out an episode called “How to Be Happy” focuses around measuring happiness, specifically in Copenhagen and other Scandinavian countries. He introduces the Danish concept of Hygge, which is a feeling associated with coziness, warmth, wine, and friends. He meets with Meik Weiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge, which you can find in every touristy bookshop in Copenhagen.
  • Biking culture/laws/transportation
    • Encompassed in this video, here.
  • Danish Political System/Parliament
    • Transparency, from the Prime Minister of Denmark to the Minister of Finance, all of Denmark’s politicians have lists of their investments and assets online and easily accessible to the public.
    • Electoral System 
  • So many other little tidbits of discussion that come up as well… perks of living with a host family!


  • Don’t smile at babies in Denmark. People think it’s weird. Not that I normally do that, but y’all should take note.
  • First day taking the train on my own and I forgot to bring my travel pass. I got ticketed (smigh), but luckily wasn’t traveling out of my zone. I just have to fill out my information online to avoid a fine. I did have to spend an extra 45 minutes walking back and forth to collect my keys/travel pass which I happened to all forget… luckily spent this time listening to that podcast… so thanks, Steven Dubner!

2 thoughts on “On settling in…

  1. looks like your first week has been a whirlwind! Have you made any new friends in your program? Also your host family sounds AWESOME! looking forward to your next post ~~~~


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