Springtime for Europe

Hi there, remember me? I know it’s been eons time since I’ve updated this, but a lot has been going on here between traveling, finals, and enjoying my last few weeks in Denmark.

Nevertheless, here is my attempt to provide you with a brief summary of what I’ve been up to since spring break:

Travel

  • I spent a weekend in Paris with my roommate Zack, which was infinitely better than my first trip to the City of Lights due to the fact that I didn’t get food poisoning this time. Aside from getting pickpocketed (all they managed to take was a few Euros and a SIM card), staying in an awful hostel in a dangerous neighborhood, and nearly missing my flight (and having to pay 75 Euros for a cab) back to Copenhagen, it was an epic trip. We managed to be tourists and see most of the notable Parisian attractions (Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Sacre Coeur, Arc de Triomphe, Opera Garnier, Luxembourg Gadens, Notre Dame, Moulin Rouge, Bastille, etc.), but we also got to meet locals (aka Zack’s friends) and get a taste for what life is like for French youths. I also got to brush up on my French, a language I haven’t taken since high school. I remembered a lot more than I thought I would and can proudly say that I can give complex instructions to a taxi driver when I have to catch a flight in an hour but need to travel 30+ miles in traffic before getting on the plane. 
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  • The following weekend, I traveled to Poland with my “Auschwitz: From Genocide to Memorial” class to actually see the place we had been reading and hearing about for months. Where do I begin? Visiting Auschwitz I-Stammlager and Auschwitz II-Birkeneau is an incredibly powerful experience, but not in the way you might think. In fact, it’s very easy to feel detached and disconnected at the camps, due to several factors. The two camps have been turned into museums; they contain plenty of important information for sure, but it’s also hard to fully grasp the tragedies behind all of the signs and placards. There’s also the constant crowds of people. 1.4 million people visited the camps in 2011; during high season, the camp feels like a giant photo opportunity instead of a memorial. Lastly, the gorgeous weather and picturesque landscape of the camps (particularly Birkeneau) occasionally made me forget that this wasn’t simply a beautiful garden. Our professor Torben, who has become my new favorite person, told us on the first day of class not to force ourselves to feel a certain way at the camps. It’s fine if you don’t cry or feel a deep connection to the victims, he said. He further explained that even if we felt removed at the camps, they would leave a profound effect on us afterwards, and that has absolutely been the case for me. I’ve been reading up as much as I can about the Holocaust and other genocides, but more importantly, I’ve lived more gratefully, since I luckily managed to be born in the right place at the right time. I can’t fully articulate the effect Auschwitz had on me since I’m not exactly sure what it was yet, but if you’re interested, talk to me in person.

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On a slightly unrelated note, Krakow is an extremely underrated city. The Old Town Square’s looks exactly like Prague’s, but is far less congested and tourist-ridden. The food is great (as it is in the rest of Poland, I’m sure), the Old Town Square) and the nightlife is a blast since there’s a good number of colleges in the area. Highlights of Krakow include singing alongside Poles (who loved Evanescence-type songs) at a karaoke bar and clubbing with a bachelor party where the groomsmen were dressed as doctors and the groom-to-be was a scantily clad nurse. 

Denmark

Yes, I realize I haven’t written a lot about things I’ve done here in Denmark since the first few weeks after I arrived. It’s not that I haven’t been doing anything here. Living in Copenhagen has become more or less normal and that’s why I’ve been devoting this blog to all the new and unique places I’ve visited.

But as the semester winds down, I have done my very best to do as much as I can here in the great country of Denmark before we sadly have to part ways. Here are some of my favorite memories of the past few weeks:

  • Rock climbed on the Swedish coast, took a canal cruise with drag queens as the waitresses, and went to six different bars–all in one day/night! 
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  • Spent May 1st (also called “May Day” or “International Workers Day”) in Fælledparken, a giant park where people get drunk and have a good time all day and all night. I only got to celebrate May Day for an hour, but it was certainly an experience. Also saw The Avengers this day…before any of you in the U.S. did. 
 
  • Sang with my choir at a closed prison and later that week, visited that same prison with my criminology class where we got to speak to a murderer and former drug addict. Both experiences definitely changed my perspective on criminals and the Danish corrections system. Again, talk to me in person if you want to know more. I could go on for days about this.
 
  • Presented a campaign plan to a real Danish client for a real Danish organization, the culmination of an entire semester in “Communication and Campaign Management” class. Though it was a group project, it was easily the best presentation I’ve ever given and the strongest product I’ve helped produce for a class in a long, long time. 
 
  • Spent a day at the oldest amusement park in the world. Though Tivoli Gardens remains the most popular amusement park in Copenhagen, Dyrehavsbakken (which translates to “The Deer Park Hill”) is definitely worth checking out. Unlike Tivoli, you only have to pay for rides here but it’s still pretty pricey to get an all-rides pass. There are five roller coasters, which is nothing compared to U.S. theme parks, but their short wait time is a huge plus. Aside from the rides, the highlight of the day was freaking out Danes with our descriptions of the intense U.S. roller coasters like Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure.
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  • Said goodbye to my “Justice and Human Rights” core course…and what better way to do it than with a Bosnian buffet? Aside from the heavenly food with which I stuffed my face for hours, this night was one of my favorite of the semester for several reasons. First, it was one of our professors’ birthdays so we sang and gave gifts and all that. The equivalent of a Bosnian mariachi band then came to the table and played not just “Happy Birthday”, but other classics like “La Bamba”. We were then serenaded by a group of Russian female opera singers (in Russian, of course), who then joined my friend Sam in dancing in front of the entire restaurant. You can’t make this stuff up. 
 
  • Accidentally stumbled into a party of Copenhagen University economics exchange students when trying to meet up with some friends at their apartment. The econ students let us crash their party, gave us free pizza and beer, and played everything from Backstreet Boys to Outkast to “welcome the Americans”. Another typical Saturday night in Copenhagen. 
 
  • Finally took the trek up to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in northern Denmark. Louisiana is the most attended art museum in the country, and for good reason. It’s got great exhibits, even for people like me who don’t truly appreciate modern art because of how weird/hysterical it is. What’s even better is the amount of outdoor space the museum occupies. It’s right on the water; on a nice day, there’s no nicer place to relax and enjoy the rare thing we call the sun. 
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Okay, so I lied about this being brief. But so much has been happening here and I want to write it all down so that even if no one reads this, I still have a way to remember all of it. I’m still in denial about the fact that I’ll be returning back to the States in a few short weeks, but in the meantime, I just need to get through the struggle called finals week. Study abroad has been a lot harder than I thought it would be, but at this point, I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had for the world. 
 
Stay tuned for one final post this week before I embark on Eurotrip #2. Istanbul, Athens, Rome, Florence, Barcelona, here I come!
 
 
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