Throughout July, I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark for a Loyola faculty-led study abroad program. I had never been outside the United States before, and I received my first passport just a few months before the application deadline. I never thought I would end up going to Copenhagen, Denmark on my first trip abroad, but life has an interesting way of changing my mind.
My parents wanted me to try a study abroad program during my college years, but neither of them had that opportunity. I was nervous the whole time leading up to the trip, so I tried to prepare everything I needed before the flight. Yes, there are three of his flights, to be exact, the ones that go to Copenhagen and return to New Orleans when the trip is over (six flights in total).
I didn’t know what was going to happen. I researched all the student articles on the study abroad site (DIS), narrowed down the grocery stores near my apartment, and established a walking route to the classroom building. Nothing could have prepared me for having such a wonderful time in Denmark. From living above a coffee house to visiting castles to piloting a Viking ship, there was so much to discuss on our first time abroad.
I felt at ease as I discussed the program with English professor Dr. Elizabeth Watkins, history professor Dr. Alison Edgren, and philosophy professor Dr. Jack Stetter, who were also coming with me. Through all the meetings I had beforehand and learning that Dr. Edgren had visited Denmark before, my excitement overcame my nerves.
All students were able to choose two of the three classes offered, all of which satisfied Loyola’s core class requirements.
· ENGL N294: Monsters and Wonders of Medieval Scandinavia by Dr. Watkins
· HIST Q294: The Viking Age: Myth, Memory, and Medievalism by Dr. Edgren
· PHIL U240: European worldview with Dr. Stetter
As an English major who loves medieval history, you can probably guess which two classes I chose (even if I totally messed up and took one or two of his philosophy classes). , no offense to Dr. Stetter). Classes were held two to four times a week for one and a half hours each, and on other days there were field trips to supplement learning outside of the classroom.
Our study abroad group stayed in an apartment complex in the middle of Copenhagen, where riding a bicycle is more of a national pride than driving a car. There were five other students living in the same apartment as me, so we had many interactions outside of class. Some of my roommates and I started the program and he started a Dungeons and Dragons campaign within two weeks. Now that I’m back at school, I have to find a way to get involved again.
Downstairs from the apartment was Emery’s, one of the best coffee houses I’ve ever been to. It just didn’t help that students can take advantage of her 10% discount, courtesy of our organization DIS Copenhagen, when I say she used to go to Emery’s at least 2-3 times a week. Let me tell you.
It also didn’t help (but definitely helped) that there were several grocery stores across and downstairs from the apartment, as frequent grocery shopping is a must in Copenhagen. The majority of Denmark’s citizens speak English, so you won’t have to worry about interacting with the locals either.
One of the best things about Copenhagen is its transportation system. I could walk 20-30 minutes to my desired destination or class, and the subway was always on time and efficient. My roommate and I would take the subway at all hours of the day and make sure we arrived on time wherever we were going (no offense to New Orleans transportation).
Unlike other study abroad programs, our study abroad group had many field trips to immerse themselves in medieval and Danish culture. There were a lot of choices, but if you ever visit Denmark, I recommend the following:
Frederiksborg Castle was impressive considering we had never been to a castle before. In front of the entrance is a large fountain with statues of Greek and Danish mythology (did I mention Denmark has a love for architecture, especially fountains?). Inside the castle, you’ll find historical costumes, intricate architecture, astrological artwork, and a chapel with music like “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” There is also a large garden area around the castle and we had plenty of time to wander around and discover plants and statues we had never heard of.
Side note: Denmark also loves fish and chicken salads, and the chicken salad at the Frederiksborg Castle cafe was excellent.
Viking Ship Museum:
Although the museum itself didn’t have much to wander around and see, it was the activities that followed that made this place my favorite of my trip. I can’t swim and I’d never been there before, but it was to row a medieval Viking boat. Boat before that. Our entire study abroad group boarded one large boat (wearing life jackets, of course) and set sail into the Baltic Sea for a once-in-a-lifetime view. I was struck by how much I enjoyed not only pulling the sails and turning the boat around, but also steering with my classmates.
Side note: Our group also took the train to go to this place, so you must have seen me excited at the station (the professors were definitely laughing at me). I had never been on a train before either.
National Gallery of Denmark (Startens Museum in Kunst):
This gallery, which I used as a final assignment for my history class, was beautiful inside and out. There is a large fountain in front of the gallery (see the love for fountains yet?) and a beautiful marble staircase to enter the building. Our group had gallery passes to all the exhibits, but I promise we still didn’t get to see all the exhibits. There were quiet stations to sketch the various statues on display (I sketched a goat), and he was able to explore three floors of beautiful art, film, and surrealism. In that building I found some paintings that I still remember.
Side note: I’m looking at you, trompe l’oeil painting.
One of the aspects of studying abroad that really helped me enjoy Copenhagen was dinner with my host family. Through our DIS program, students were divided into small groups and enjoyed an evening of traditional Danish cuisine with a host family (there’s nothing better than a home-cooked meal). Two of my roommates and I were paired with a mother and daughter who lived about 40 minutes away from Copenhagen. They served us a traditional Danish chicken dish, tea, and the most delicious pavlova dessert I have ever had (I had only seen it on a cooking show beforehand). They also showed us around the neighborhood and mom let us play with the cats. It felt like the cat was also included in our dinner.
If you’ve ever had doubts about studying abroad, don’t worry. Copenhagen, Denmark was definitely the best trip and decision I’ve ever taken. Although this trip was just a glimpse into the world of studying abroad and Denmark, I highly recommend that you go abroad at least once as a student. What did I know about Denmark before he spent four weeks there in Loyola’s faculty-led program? Nothing. But I wouldn’t change my mind about circumnavigating Copenhagen again, that’s for sure.