My Bad

I’ve been in Denmark for 12 days and I’ve written twice. Oops. But here is my justification: I’ve been doing so much in those 12 days that I just wouldn’t know where to start. What would I include? How would I decide what to cut? I don’t want to sell anything short but with so much happening I wouldn’t have a choice. You wouldn’t want to read all of that, right? Of course not. Trust me.

So, to summarize…this week was busy. It was a good week but busy. I don’t want to leave you with nothing so I will do a very small day by day summary (give or take a few days).

Monday August 20 (Orientation)

  • Learned that my train line into Copenhagen is under construction until late September. To avoid getting lost on my first day, my host dad came in with me  and we met more students on the train.
  • Went window shopping for food in Denmark to acquaint ourselves with the Kroner. Yes, I learned the value of the Kroner but more importantly I learned that I won’t be eating out very often in the next four months. Things are expensive.

Tuesday August 21 (Orientation)

  • More orientation
  • Some wandering around
  • Feeling sore

Wednesday August 22 (Orientation)

  • Feeling really sore
  • Of course, I was sore from wandering so what did we do? Wander around Copenhagen in the DIS Amazing Race. This was actually a great time. I saw more of Copenhagen, I learned a little bit of history that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I met my professor for my class on Russia. All of that was great  but I think that just getting out and seeing the city was one of my favorite parts.
  • The DIS activities and Immersion fair was ok. There are some really interesting opportunities. Traditional Danish dance, I don’t even know what that is. The real highlight was free hotdog. Hotdogs here come in little baguettes instead of buns. Sounds delicious, right? Yea, unfortunately they also come with remoulade sauce. Bummer.

Thursday August 23 (Class)

  • First day of class. I can’t get into too much detail.

Weekend August 25/26

  • I did a lot during the weekend. Can’t afford to waste time! But the most exciting thing I did was purchase my student membership at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, which is just down the street. For 125 DKK I can go anytime I like. I can even just go to read on the lawn overlooking the sea or relax by the lake. Not a bad deal. My timing for getting this pass was planned to coincide with the Louisiana Literature Festival. I bought my pass and then promptly ran through the museum to see Jeffrey Eugenides speak alongside Jonathan Safran Foer. Two great American authors not only all the way over in Denmark, but also only minutes from my house! That’s something I didn’t expect. After that I spent a couple of hours wandering the museum until my mind couldn’t take anymore information and I left vowing to come back (I already have).

That’s all you get for now. Not even a picture.

At some point I going to have to get better at making decisions about what should and shouldn’t be included, and I promise that I will, but for now I am more focused on enjoying myself. And that’s what I am doing.

-Riley

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Riley’s Classes 101

After three exhausting days of crisscrossing Copenhagen by foot, bus, and rail, I am still alive. I am exhausted, but alive. And happy. Really happy. And even though schoolwork is one of the furthest things from my mind, the readings that I have keep reminding me that it exists and I feel a duty to update you with what I will be studying. School is starting tomorrow so it seems fitting. And besides, I promised substance so here it is…substance!

European Business Strategy: Case Studies

This is my core course. Honestly, I thought that my core course should be related to my major (it doesn’t). That really was the reason. Since then I have looked over the syllabus along with what is planned for both the long and short study tours and I can say that I really am excited now! We will be studying the European business climate, meaning the way such a closely knit community relates to one another economically and the impact that such different cultures, viewpoints, and political opinions/decisions can impact industries so far away from the origin country. That’s interesting, and I am sure it’s educational and well-taught, but could really be done anywhere. The International Business program, like all DIS programs, is very focused on practicality and out of the classroom learning.That’s where the program get’s really cool.

The IB program’s focus on practicality is similar in some ways to the Business Leadership Program at my home University, the University of Puget Sound. At UPS we have a mentor, a professional that we can go to learn about the “real world,” and at DIS we spend a whole semester as a class working on a project for a real Danish company. I am fairly certain that my company is THE Danish brewer, Carlsberg. I am excited to work for any Danish company but I think I am more interested in making friends jealous of the fact that I worked on a project for them. The idea of having something real to be working on and adding to continuously sounds really interesting to me.

The other thing that I am REALLY excited about is the study tour. Actually, study tours. I go to Jutland with my class for three days. Many of the Danes I have met in Copenhagen seem to have described it similarly to how I imagine New Yorkers describe Alabama. So that should be interesting. Later I will spend one week split between Berlin, Germany and Prague, Czech Republic. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to do this program and I am pumped. Whether in Berlin, Prague, or Jutland I will be meeting with local business as well as leaders of national business located in these areas. Again, a lot of hand on learning. This whole experience is so much more than a classroom.

Creative Travel Writing

I’m doing this for you, ALL for you! Well, not really. A couple of months ago I saw this class and it seemed like a good idea. I mean, I like to travel but between my terrible memory and my almost constant inability to allow information from my mind to leave my lips coherently, it is almost impossible to convey a that I have ever even left my house. But things do seem different when I write. It’s not great, but it is certainly better. I want to be able to use that to convey my experiences to you as we go through these four months. Also, I plan to travel a lot more and it would be a shame if no one ever understood any of it.

Scandinavian Crime Fiction

How can an area with one of the worlds lowest rates of violent crime produce a genre that is so incredibly violent, much less do it so convincingly? Isn’t that like the pope writing a romance novel? It just shouldn’t work. But it does and people eat it up. The main questions are why do people like it, and why is it so good? With this class I will try to find answers and also see use the novels as a lens with which to view the welfare state, equality, and Scandinavian lifestyles.

Plus, it just seemed really cool to be riding the train through the snow reading about people and places I can’t pronounce but can easily visit.

Danish Language and Culture

I am living in Denmark/Danmark (See, I am already learning) for four months so why wouldn’t I want to feel at least a little bit less like a tourist. I will get to learn a little bit of the language as well as what it means to be Danish. There isn’t much more to say other than that I am excited.

Dynamic Project Leadership

Ok, this one is a bit weird. I honestly don’t know much about it other than that it is based on the Kaospilots, a strange three-year business school in Denmark. I wanted to take it because it was really something so incredibly Danish that I could not find it anywhere else in the world. I know very little about the school or this course but after looking through my “textbook” filled with bright pictures, stories, and swearwords, I am very excited to learn what it means. Once I figure it out I hope to be writing about it multiple times in the future.

Russia Past and Present

This course is worth one-third of the credit as all of the above courses, which, when translated to UPS credits means much less than nothing. Despite that I am still dragging my butt out of bed around 6 every Tuesday and Thursday for eight weeks to go to class. Why? Because I get to go to Russia! I don’t know if you are aware but Russia can be pretty tough to get into and is not necessarily the most accessible  once/if you do get in so I jumped at this opportunity.

This is an eight week elective class which culminates in a week-long to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Novgorod. In preparation for the trip I will be learning about history, literature, culture, art, and one class period on the cyrillic alphabet and Russian Language. A real crash course.

So, those are my classes. I know I wrote a lot but I actually didn’t write all that I could have. I hope to have more updates on each of the classes as I learn more and more about them. If you are curious about any of them please let me know on here or via email. Thanks for reading.

-Riley

Hello, Denmark

The sign for me on the front door

The sign on the front door

20 hours after stepping out my front door in Yakima I crossed the threshold of my new front door in Humlebæk. There were some great experiences during those 20 hours, and even more in the hours following. I want to share every single one of those experiences. But I can’t. I am much, much too tired for that (did I mention 20 hours of travel?). So, instead I will summarize and most likely butcher any attempt to convey the feeling of what has been going on. But at least you will know what has been going on. And I will get to sleep. Mmm, sleep.

Ok, first thing first. My friend Kirsten and I had planned ahead to travel to Copenhagen together. She flew into Sea-Tac from Portland and from there the two of us went from Sea-Tac to Toronto, to Copenhagen. We met at Sea-Tac and within seconds of meeting the man at our gate, whom I had just been talking to called me over with a loud “Luvaas!” Kirsten and I went and were told we had just been upgraded to first class. For those of you wondering, that is the best way to start 14 hours of plane travel. Long story short, Kirsten and I enjoyed being somewhat noisy, eating our three course meals, and watching The Lorax or Cool Runnings. You know, classy things. Judging by the silence in the cabin, all of the sullen looking middle-aged businessmen we were flying with were likely engrossed in the same activities. We fit right in.

The problem with flying first class for five hours is that it makes sitting in the very middle of coach for eight hours seem so much worse. However, I did survive and managed about 1.5 hours of sleep.

Arrival. It honestly didn’t hit me that I would be gone for four months until the moment I was handing over my passport at customs in Copenhagen. Not when I packed the car to go to Sea-Tac almost a full day earlier, not when I went through customs in Canada, not even when I said goodbye to my parents. Just then, when my fingers lost contact with my passport did I realize what was happening. But I was happy. After collecting baggage and winding our way through the airport like a semi truck, a group of us DISers arrived at host family check in where we would wait for our families. Though, I didn’t wait. The first thing I saw upon walking into that room was three extremely blonde at waist level with three sets of blue eyes staring straight at me. Behind them stood a tanned, dark-haired woman and a tall, blonde-headed man. This was the introduction to my family: Thomas, Lisbeth, Lærke, Pelle, and Sofus. But more on them at a later time. They deserve their own post.

After a ten minute tour of the city center we continued on to Humlebæk. It was a pretty drive, though much too flat.

Soon after arrival we had lunch (Sandwiches!) followed by, and I did not think that I would be writing this, a swim. Yes, a swim along the beach in Denmark. Not a nap after all of that  travel. Not more food, a walk around the park, or anything like that. A swim. I was told it was an extremely warm day and that the water would likely be warm. Thomas, my host father, guessed the water temp to be 20° Celsius. Kids, if you don’t know your conversions, at least learn Fahrenheit to Celsius so that you don’t do what I did. I knew it was cold but I had no idea it was that cold! By the way, 20° C is equal to 68° F. It was not 68° F. Despite this, I began to enjoy myself as I spent more time in the water. It was nice to be surrounded by so many happy people speaking so many languages (I was able to discern English, Danish, French, and Spanish). The setting was ideal: on one side the Louisiana Modern art Museum with its beautiful statues and grounds while on the other side, between the cloud-like sails of passing boats, there was Sweden as clear as day. It was  beautiful.

Louisiana Day 1

A sculpture on the Louisiana grounds at sunset

The night after that was uneventful. There was talking as the neighborhood kids stopped by to play (there sometimes seemed to be 50 of them all running in and out), a dinner of Thai inspired cashew chicken (Thomas enjoys Asian recipes), and one last sunset lit swim before bed.What a wonderful day.

Some pre-sleep swimming

I know that I did not do the day justice. Forgive me, I am exhausted. You will just have to take my word for now.

Denmark, it was nice to meet you.

-Riley

Goodbyes

These past few days, my last days in the US, have been slipping by. As excited as I am I have also been in denial. Just a little bit. Also busy. Very busy. The busy is self explanatory. It takes a lot of preparation to leave the country for four months, and of course  it is even more preparation when you do it all in the final week. The denial is harder to explain. I won’t try. It’s about time this blog had some real substance about Denmark and not just my thoughts and whining. So, I’ll just summarize by saying that I am lucky to have had my great job, which ended today, and even more lucky to have great friends all over the country who have slowly been saying their goodbyes over the past week. Thank you all, for everything.

Departure in about 24 hours. The piles on my floor have somehow been condensed into suitcases. My life is packed. I’m exhausted and anxious. It’s bedtime.

The next time you read my words, they will be coming to you from Denmark. How cool is that.

Thank you all. Take care of the US while I am gone.

-Riley

 

Just Sandwiches

I was planning on posting about how excited I am about living with the Bloch’s (my host family), the courses I am taking, the travels I have booked. You know, fun pre-departure stuff. But something happened yesterday that got me thinking.

Yesterday I was standing behind the soda fountain bar, with pen and pad in hand, waiting to take an order. A group of three women were waiting in line. Two were about my age and one was older. They were taking a very long time to order, and eventually the older woman came up to explain the problem. The two girls were from Paris and were having trouble ordering a sandwich. A sandwich! Apparently they were unsure about the size of bread and what would come on it. At the time it seemed silly. Bread is bread is bread no matter where you are, right? This got me thinking about one of the few things I do know about Denmark at this time – sandwiches. Denmark does sandwiches differently. It hit me that in 10 days I will be in the same position as these powerless Parisian girls. I will be standing in line in a foreign country confused about something as basic as bread, meat, and cheese!

I went back to the kitchen and sat down for a moment in an attempt to gather my thoughts. As I sat there I realized that there are going to be so many more new experiences than I had originally thought. Obviously there will be big ones such as the omnipresence of a  strange language (how do you pronounce Ø anyway?). There will be medium ones like commuting 45 minutes by train at 7 AM each morning (I’m not sure which one will be more interesting, the commute or waking up before 7). And then there will be the small ones. Something as simplistic as a greeting might suddenly be an adventure (do I shake hands with men? What about women? Is it Mr. Mrs. Ms. or first name). Of course there will also be the sandwiches, those strange confusing sandwiches..

After sufficiently riling myself up over these thoughts I remembered one very, very important thing: this experience is the reason I wanted to study abroad. The feeling of helplessness and confusion will slowly turn into vague understanding (just enough to get by) and then, hopefully, that feeling will become comfort, preparing me for other new experiences. Why else would you travel?

Who knows, maybe once I get comfortable enough ordering a smørrebrød I will be mentally prepared to order a francesinha if I ever get to Portugal. Here’s to travel, here’s to helplessness.

Nine Days!

-Riley

An Introduction and Some Cliches

If you are reading this you probably know that in less than two weeks I will be in Denmark, and that I will be there for four months. If you did not know this…Surprise! That is the purpose of this blog: to share those experiences. At the moment I don’t know what those experiences will be, much less what will be posted here, but I will be sure to let you know. If, while you are dutifully reading every single post on this blog, you think I am neglecting a particular aspect of my time abroad or if you are interested in learning about something, please feel free to make a request. This blog is for me to write and voice my thoughts but it  is also for you, the reader. If you get nothing else from this post, at least understand that I want to know what you think.

Now to the cliches. First, I have to admit that I am disappointed with my blog even before I publish a post. I promised myself I wouldn’t let Nyhavn be my header picture. And yet there it is, sitting right above these words. For those of you who don’t know, Nyhavn is the name of the picturesque canal flanked by the beautiful brightly painted 17th Century buildings. It is a wonderful image of my host country, unfortunately it is also the stereotypical image of Denmark.The more I think about it the more I think this might be the perfect image for me at this time: I know it is beautiful, I know it is old, I know that I want to be there, but that’s about it. The problem is, I don’t want that. I want to know more about Denmark than the stereotypical. I want to go deeper. So, let’s make a deal; as soon as I get into Denmark and take a good picture that I feel represents Denmark I will change the header. Deal? Deal.

Another cliche, though I like this one, is the title of this blog: Riley in the State of Denmark. The title is taken from the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which Marcellus says “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” I wish I could say that I had some grand intellectual reason for choosing this quote. Or even that I enjoy Shakespeare. Neither of those things are true. I just so happened that, for whatever reason, this relatively insignificant quote from stood out to me after reading and rereading Hamlet for Mr. Nickel’s IB English class two years ago. That’s the only reason. Again, it just shows how little I know about Denmark that I am reduced to quoting a fictional man speaking nonsense written by a man who never saw Denmark. If only I could change that. Oh wait, I do get to do that. In 10 days. I get to do something that The Bard never did. Take that Shakespeare!

Well, this might not have been the most entertaining or educational post post, it certainly didn’t express my excitement at leaving so soon (that post comes next!). It did give me a chance to clear up a few things and get in the habit of writing. More importantly it has forced me to begin sharing that writing.

Thanks for reading this first post. I hope to see you here in the future when I really do have something to say!

10 days!

-Riley