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Advice on housing

1) Commuting can be a big deal.  I lived in an “international kollegium” in Bronshoj – about a 25 minutes commute to downtown Copenhagen (see my location here).  At first, 25 minutes did not sound too bad – during my internship last summer, I commuted 1.5 hours each way to work :O).  I really tried to take advantage of my commute time by doing homework, reading books, and writing this blog.

But after a while, it starts to wear on you.  25 minutes sounds okay, but not on days that you want to travel into town more than once.  In addition, there are often parties, shows and get-togethers that you want to attend later at night, which sometimes require traveling on the unpredictable night-buses.  If commuting is not your thing, you should strongly consider living in a DRC (Residential Community) or a Living Learning Community.  I have friends in both of those, and many of them can hop out of bed and walk to school every morning.

2) International?  You should really seek “immersion” while abroad – you’ve lived with Americans your entire life, and being in Copenhagen gives you lots of opportunities to meet and socialize with locals.  Housing does impact this, but maybe not to the extent that you think.  I met some cool students from Italy, the UK, and Denmark in my kollegium, but DIS offers so many other opportunities to meet internationals – like visiting families and the buddy system.  If you have initiative, you’ll find lots of friends and friends-of-friends who are not American, regardless of where you live.

3) People make a difference.  At the end of the day, it’s not where you live, but whom you live with.  I could be living in the middle of the desert with my best friends and still end up having an amazing time.  Your room-mates and hall-mates can be a crap shoot, especially in a new country with new people.  Cross your fingers.

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Christmas in March!

Forget about an “early spring.”  The ground hog is a big, fat liar.

In Copenhagen, it feels like spring is never going to come at all!  I’m still sloshing through the snow, and it’s almost April.  Sure, it’s getting brighter every day.  But when the sky is overcast with snow clouds most of the time, it looks more like Christmas than Easter.  Bundled up in my winter jacket, leather boots and furry hat, I look like a giant Eskimo on the Iditarod.  I’m speed-walking in between classes, cranking up the heater, and soaking up the “hygge” in warm cafes.

"feels like 14" :/

“feels like 14” :/

I was actually singing “Let it Snow” in the shower yesterday, and friends are planning snow ball fights at our kollegium (quote from Facebook page: “ATTENTION HOFFMANS! JAKE WANTS TO HAVE A SNOWBALL FIGHT STARTING AT 11:30PM. AKA 23:30. MEET IN THE LOBBY AND GET READY TO GET ROCKED)

I need to thaw.  I desperately want to go south – and luckily, I’m headed there next week.  For the first half, I’ll be in Sarajevo with my Humanitarian Law class.  Seriously, Sarajevo!  As the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we’ll be studying the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, the messiest European conflict since the Second World War.  Whereas other students are going to the more “mainstream” cities like London, Paris, or Berlin, our core class is really going off-the-beaten path.  When else will I really get a chance to see Sarajevo?  To relive the terrible massacre at Srebrenica?  To interview journalists and diplomats that handled the Dayton Accords?  To talk to the victims of one of the defining conflicts of the modern era?  And I’m experiencing all of this with two professors who, as lawyers and soldiers in the Danish military, directly participated in the Balkan conflict.

My expectations are high.  But after my fantastic DIS trip to Russia, I think this will be yet another surreal opportunity.

And as a politics/religion nut, Bosnia is right up my alley.  It is a country defined by political and religious tension.  Catholic Croats, Muslim Bosniaks, and Orthodox Serbs live together in an uneasy peace, held together by intense international pressure. (Sidenote: the flag looks awesome, with the three corners of the triangle representing these three groups).

There’s been a lot of criticism of the international response; some say the Dayton Accords have simply institutionalized the ethnic problems that caused the conflict in the first place. The country is divided into regions based on ethnicity, and there is a three-man presidency that includes one member from each ethnic group.

On the way home, I’ll be stopping in Vienna for three days over Easter weekend.  April will be packed, with a week-long trip to Ukraine and possibly even Florence.  Summer plans are starting to materialize, and it looks like I’ll be back in D.C. once again.  Those 100-degree July days are going to feel really, really nice.  In the meantime, Denmark better step up its game.

Arrival & adjustments: my first few days!

Finally have touched down in Copenhagen!  I flew Air Canada from Rochester –> Toronto –> Copenhagen.  6 people on my flight out of Rochester!  I’m a huge sports fan, so as I was waiting for my flights I had my eyes glued to the TV screen, catching parts of both NFL playoff games on Saturday night.  Reluctantly, I had to pull away from NFL this weekend, knowing that I would miss moments like the Ravens’ double-overtime victory and the Seahawks 20-point comeback.  I sort of have to tame my sports obsession, and find new interests and activities in Copenhagen.

As for what I did and learned the past few days, I don’t really know how to write this post – there’s just so much to talk about!!  It has sure been a busy start to the semester.  Although classes don’t start until Thursday, DIS has organized 3-day orientation to help us adjust to the new environment.  I’m waking up much, much earlier than last semester – getting out of bed at 7:30, meeting up with the rest of the students at my kollegium, and riding downtown by bus to the many speeches, info sessions, and activities that are planned.

Initial thoughts and things that I learned:

  • Everyone is super, super friendly!  The other 50-some DISers that live in Hoffmanns Kollegium (aka “The Hoff” – a dorm-style building, 25-minute bus ride to downtown Copenhagen) are incredible so far.  Though it’s only been a few days, we have gotten along very well, and I’m slowly starting to remember names.  Even the Danes – who are supposed to be of the quiet, private sort – have defied all expectations!  They help me out at the grocery store, give me directions, and have been nothing but completely accommodating during these first few confusing days.
  • $$$: downtown is super expensive.  If you find a good deal for a sandwich, you’re still paying around $10, and beer is about the same price.  There’s student discounts at most places, but by far the best option is the Netto supermarket located right next door to our kollegium.  Prices there are the same as my Safeway in Georgetown, sometimes even cheaper.  Everyone here is a living on a budget, and we were all pleasantly surprised last night when we went shopping.

Supermarket down the street from kollegium

  • Weather: it is cold.  Let me repeat, it is cold!! (And don’t forget, I’m from upstate NY.)  Ok, maybe I’m overblowing it.  Today wasn’t too bad – the sun was out for a few hours, and the snow was less intense.  But Monday was freezing.  I think it has to do with the wind, and we are very close to the water.  Luckily for us, every day gets longer, brighter, and warmer this semester.
during the ride in this morning

during the ride in this morning

That’s it for now! Tonight we are going downtown again to meet up with more DISers, and hopefully meet some new Danes, too!

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