About half-way through my four-week program, I realized that I definitely had the wrong idea in my head about studying abroad. I knew that I was taking a pretty intense engineering lab class and that it would require a lot of work, but in the back of my mind, I figured that there would still be plenty of time to go explore Denmark, or go on weekend adventures. After two weeks of class though, I realized I had been a bit silly thinking that the workload would be different just because we were in a different country. While we had two full days of activities and excursions as a program group the first weekend we were there, after classes started, it felt like when I wasn’t at the university doing labs, I was chained to my laptop writing lab reports. I also got sick the second week, which made it even more difficult to capitalize on any free time.
However, despite not having time to go on big adventures, there were a bunch of little things that still made it feel exciting to be in a new place. Learning my way around the university campus was a lot of fun, and after a lot of time working in the library there, it was very cool to feel, at least a little bit, like I was a real Danish student. Similarly, navigating through the town and all of the nearby parks helped me to feel like I was experiencing Denmark less like a tourist and more like I actually lived there.
By far the biggest thing that made me feel less like a tourist and more like I belonged in Denmark was renting a bike for the month. Biking is a massive part of the culture in Denmark. People commute to work, take their kids to school, get groceries, and go to dinner on bikes. One of the grad students at the university told us that bikes are even people’s main transport in the winter. I’m pretty sure one of by proudest moments from the program was that I made the 12-mile trip from central Copenhagen where my friend and I picked up bikes to Lyngby, where our housing was. One of my most embarrassing moments from the trip was also on a bike, as I managed to fall off and hit my head on a tree after failing to make it up a particularly steep hill. Thankfully, the only injuries I sustained were a bruised shin and bruised ego.
All in all, although there was hardly any time for grand adventures during most of the class, I think it was just as valuable to experience Denmark a little more like a person who lives there, rather than someone just visiting.