Author: Molly

Saving Money in Copenhagen.

So I’m clearly back in the US and well into my fall semester here at Vanderbilt. BUT, my posting on this study abroad blog is not completely strange or irrelevant! I now work as a Peer Advisor at Vanderbilt GEO, the Global Education Office.

Just last week I was helping lead the pre-departure orientation for students who will be in Copenhagen during the coming semester.  Students had lots of logistic questions that DIS provides answers to through their pre-departure materials and on their website, but one question in particular stood out: how do you save money in Copenhagen?

Given that Denmark is unavoidably expensive, it can present worries for students who are a little tighter on cash. So without further ado, a guide to living frugally in Copenhagen.

Day to Day costs

If you’re not living with a host family or at a folkehøjskole, one of your largest expenses will be food.

DIS gives students a grocery stipend that is intended to cover partially cover some of your food expenses. While it would be extremely difficult to make this cover all of your meals over the length of your stay, there ARE creative ways to make the stipend and your money last longer.

1. Do not buy luxuries- mostly alcohol or candy, these items will kill your food stipend very quickly. Given the conversion rate and the differences of price levels, it can be more difficult to recognize how much money your spending. I recommend creating a weekly budget for luxuries and “treats.” I choose to make my weekly spending ceiling 500 dkr (about $100) to encompass all the extra things I might want, whether it be a pastry or a cup of coffee at an expensive cafe or a beer by the harbor.

2. Eat like the Danes- modifying your diet to be more Danish will save you money in the grocery store. Quite simply, some things that are standard in the US are considered a bit of a novelty in Danish grocery stores. For one, meat is taxed pretty highly, so reducing your meat consumption will help lower the grocery bill. Eggs are cheap. Oatmeal or Muesli and yogurt are standard breakfast fare. Vegetables and produce don’t vary significantly from prices in the US, and if you like potatoes you’ll be pretty happy with Danish cuisine.  If you really find yourself wanting more meat in your diet, I recommend frozen Frikadeller. These traditional Danish meatballs are not only delicious, but their ubiquity makes them easy to find and relatively inexpensive. On another note, if you generally keep Kosher or Halal, you may have some difficulties.

3. Don’t eat out- of course this isn’t a hard and fast rule, but a sit down dinner is extremely expensive in Copenhagen. It is much more typical for young people to get together and cook a meal together than to go to a sit down dinner. On a related note, when you DO go out to dinner, make an event of it. Danish meals are for enjoying each others company, and expected to be long. Service will be slow. But there’s also no need to feel guilty about camping out at a table after you’ve paid, or waiting around for late night specials to start. Food service employees are paid hourly, so they won’t feel have a high table turnover to get enough tips.

4. Take advantage of DIS events- there’s often free food, it’s a no brainer. Additionally, optional study tours, adventure trips, and DIS sponsored cultural outings will give you a lot of bang for your buck. The people organizing these have the advantage of economies of scale, connections and general knowledge of the market that can only come with time and experience. If there’s a place you want to go and DIS offers a trip, it’s pretty likely that they will do it cheaper than you.

5. Choose your travel carefully- certain cities will be much more friendly to your wallet. Additionally, try to take advantage of where other friends are studying abroad. Not only will they know the city, but if they have room for you, you get a free place to stay, and a kitchen to cook food in, instead of eating out.

6. Get involved- by far the easiest way to know where the cheap things are and whats worth it or not is to ask somebody who knows. Ask a program assistant, ask your Danish teacher, ask the people who work at the front desk of DIS. Make friends with people in your kollegium, ask your host-siblings, volunteer friends or team mates. Above all, treating your time abroad like a life instead of an extended vacation not only will save you money, but will insure you have the best experience possible.

Returning Home

After almost two weeks back, I think I’m ready to write about what it feels like to be home.

Firstly, my time in Iceland was a fantastic decision. Leaving Copenhagen, the city that had begun to feel like home was definitely sad for me, and I have a feeling that if I had gone straight home to Tennessee, I would have cried the entire eight hour flight. After six days in Iceland, I made the rest of the journey across the Atlantic to good ‘ol US of A. I was lucky enough to get seated next to a former DIS student who had moved to Denmark and was returning to the US for his college reunion. It was especially nice to have someone to chat with in Danish in the line for customs and get the new experience of having et hemmeligt sprog  (“a secret language”) that no one knows.

I returned to my hometown for only a day, unpacked all my winter clothes, and repacked summer clothes before heading for Nashville to move into an apartment for the summer. Unfortunately, I have not managed to secure a fancy-schmancy internship for the summer, so instead I got a job working for Vanderbilt in Alumni Relations. Basically that means I call alumni all day and try to convince them to donate money back to the university to fund scholarships. It’s definitely a big change from my life in Denmark, but I AM happy to be back, and ready for my last year at Vanderbilt.

It’s strange to start falling back into my old life here in Nashville; whether it’s the heat, the cowboy boots, or the country music, it’s a completely different world than Copenhagen. I miss biking the most; in fact one of my roommates insisted that he was going to create a “curse jar” that I had to put money into every time I mention bikes or bike lanes.  I still find myself saying “hvad?” or “hva’?” instead of “what” and “nej”  instead of no, and I’ve continued to watch Danish T.V. online because I can’t bear the thought of forgetting all I’ve learned in my 9 months abroad.

Above all, it’s good to be back, but I’m definitely not done with Copenhagen yet.

Til alle den Københavners hvem læser den her blog, jeg håber vi ses snart i den mest hyggelig by i verden. Mig, jeg savner Danmark, og jer, og jeg vil gerne sige mange tak til alle mennesker hvem var så venlig og hjælpsom da jeg prøvet at lære dansk. Uden jere, jeg kunne ikke havde haft den samme oplevelse. 

 

Den Sidste Kærlig Hilsner,

Molly.

The Last Adventure

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Icelandic air has a great deal where you can fly from the US to Europe and have an extended layover in Iceland at no extra charge.
So without further ado, the beautiful land of the nice!

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Gullfoss or “golden falls” is absolutely breathtaking

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Along with the beautiful views I also got to spend the week with my favorite Icelanders from Krogerup!

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special thanks to Margaret for hosting me for the week! But since I’m currently blogging from my phone, a more detailed account will have to wait.

Dangers of Biking

I generally like to think that I’ve made pretty good choices in my quest to integrate myself into Danish culture. But here I want to address a huge mistake I made that could have had serious consequences: Not wearing a bike helmet.

Everyone knows you should wear a helmet when you bike, just like everyone knows you should study 10 minutes every day instead of cramming for 4 hours before a test. DIS in particular has signs all over reminding people that cycling crashes happen, and can sometimes even lead to death. The Biking in CPH page on the DIS website has a guide for helmet measurements a lot of other useful information about the laws and dangers of biking in Copenhagen.

But of course I didn’t listen. I bike one of the busiest roads to and from school every day, with no helmet. And two days ago, I crashed. I was coming down the bridge pretty fast when I hit a bump or a curb, throwing me over the handlebars and smashing, face first, directly onto the asphalt.  Luckily, I was wearing jeans and a leather jacket, so I didn’t end up with any scrapes on my body, only soreness from impact, I DID get some pretty gnarly scrapes on my face, but ended up relatively unhurt.

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Terrifying looking scrapes and scars

My bike was unrideable for the time, so I locked it, left it, and walked to class with my face covered in blood, receiving some stares along the way.  I had a ton of work to do, so I hadn’t really stopped to consider whether or not the accident was severe or not, but I DID ask another student to make sure I didn’t have a concussion. It wasn’t until later that evening, after I had finished a paper that was due that I realized how fortunate I had been to walk away with no broken bones, no stitches, and no head injuries.

Basically, this is my personal recommendation that if you’re going to bike a lot, especially in the city, wear a helmet. We all think that the accidents won’t happen to us, and they don’t, until they do.

Smiley Smorgasboard: a note on cultural differences.

If you’re planning on coming to Denmark and of course making lots of Danish friends through various forms of cultural immersion, there’s something you need to know about emoticon usage.

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Danes LOVE emoticons. And not in an ironic, or I’m being silly using so many smileys kind of way, using smileys in any of your informal written communication is normal and expected. This includes your friends, host parents, Danish teachers and DIS administrators.

I’ve come up with two different hypotheses on why Danes love emoticons.

1. It’s because they’re so happy that they need to express it in text messages and letters to make up for the stone faced expressions people wear in public.

2.  Danish humor is very sarcastic and dark, so conveying it in a text message may require a smiley face to insure that no one misreads the intention of your sarcastic joke.

You should also be aware that a “winky face” is not nearly as suggestive in a Danish context as it is in an American context. of course it can be used for the same innuendos, but it can also be used in an innocent context. Unknown

I even have testimony from one of my friends who told me that when we first started texting, she was always worried that I was angry because I never used emoticons in my messages. Luckily, I tend to be particularly susceptible to picking up other peoples habits, sayings and mannerisms, so I learned to incorporate klistermærke og humørikon  into my written communications over my time here. I’ll just have to remember not to use them when emailing my professors at home!

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A very disconcerted blog post.

I have less than a week left in Copenhagen, and of course I’ve been a procrastinator so there’s far too much to do academically (just two papers and two tests left) as well as the fact that I need to pack a years worth of stuff back into suitcases and clean my room. All this on top of saying goodbye to Copenhagen? Say it ain’t so!

But in order to ease my sadness about leaving this wonderful place, I decided to blog about  the fun things that I’ve done in the past two weeks.

One of which was….. (drumroll please)… convincing my host brother to deep fry pickles!

Now if you’re not from the south, that probably sounds really strange, but the next time you come across a chance to get some biscuits n’ gravy, Sweet Tea,  and other delicious southern soul food in your belly, order a side of fried pickles, you won’t regret it!

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Despite the fact that he’s been telling me for months that fried pickles sound weird, he was pleased with the results!

Another fun and exciting thing that I somehow forgot to blog about was my friend Nate’s visit to Copenhagen! Nate and I met at Founders walk the first day of freshman year at Vanderbilt, and we’ve been tight ever since, despite the fact that he actually transferred to UMich this year.

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Luckily it was fantastic weather, so we got to enjoy Copenhagen at its very best. We borrowed a bike from my host family for him and spent pretty much the entire weekend outside.

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We jumped on the public outdoor trampolines by the harbor (Why don’t more cities have things like these?)

and even made it to Tivoli, which I had only been to once before at Halloween and it had been too cold to ride the rides.

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I splurged on buying this gem of a photo because of its pure hilarity.  Overall we just had a good time hanging around the city that I’ve grown to love.

1. Maj

Candid in fælledparken

Candid in fælledparken

May Day/ the first of May is International Workers Day. While it might be commemorated or acknowledged in small ways in many countries, in Denmark, it’s a pretty big deal.

In Copenhagen, starting around 10 am, thousands of people begin crowding into fælledparken in Østerbro just to hang out with friends,  drink beer, and relax. It’s not really like a party, but when you’re surrounded by thousands of cheerful people in a sunny park, you can’t help but feel happy and relaxed.

Artsy Carlsberg photo

Artsy Carlsberg photo

The Danes get pretty dark, gray winters, so when the sun comes out, everyone takes advantage of it. When the weather is nice, the city of Copenhagen can feel a lot like a college campus; every available park, beach, city square, harbor wall, public terrace and green space is filled with people just enjoying each other’s company.

Beautiful people

Beautiful People 

Maybe the high cost of pretty much everything encourages people to look more towards each other for entertainment than some sort of screen or product. But whatever it is, I know that I like it.

cutie #1 right here

cutie #1 right here

The best part of traditions like this is that they’re ideal for spending time with the friends that I’ve made since moving to Denmark, especially as it’s all coming to an end. It’s bittersweet to have to acknowledge that I only have two weeks left in this lovely country.

Staycation in Copenhagen.

Today is truly the last day of my final travel break; it’s crazy to think that in the last eight months, I’ve had six weeks worth of breaks meant especially for traveling, and during them I’ve been to Cork (Ireland), Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, London, Berlin, and Prague.

I realized that I’ve gotten pretty spoiled with my traveling, because peoples photos of Greek isles and warm beaches just made me insanely jealous. As a Southerner who legitimately likes the heat, even the stifling, humid, 90ºF heat of a Tennessee summer, the weather has been starting to get to me a little.

Luckily, the weather this week has actually been great, and I’ve been able to take advantage of it with lots of outdoor activities. But the best part of staying in Copenhagen for the last break was undoubtedly getting to spend lots of extra time with my host family and hang out with friends from højskole.

Too many selfies with my host sister

Too many selfies with my host sister

So without fourth ado, a list of all the possible fun things you can do in Copenhagen when you decide not to travel on one of your breaks.

 

Bake Cookies with your host family/visiting family

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Climb the iconic spire of Our Saviors Church in Christianshavn to get a nice view of the city

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Hang out in Amager fælled and enjoy the sunshine

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bring your bike on an s-train and explore a suburb

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Spring has most definitely sprung

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walking through the woods in Humlebæk

Go to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

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Legos in Louisiana's Børnehuset

Legos in Louisiana’s Børnehuset

Visit the old Carlsberg factory/museum

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Join a family/ community activity

My host mom & I washing boats at Lea's Fritidshjemmet

My host mom & I washing boats at Lea’s Fritidshjemmet

 

Despite the fact that I purposely planned nothing for this week, it was busy, full, and flew by all too fast.  It’s about that time where I need to start finishing up all my final papers and projects, with only a little less than a month left in Copenhagen until I head back to the Nashville heat for the summer.

A week at home

It’s already the Friday of my travel break and I couldn’t be more glad that I chose to spend it in Copenhagen. Not only has the weather been lovely, but a week of relaxing was exactly what I needed.
Predictably, I haven’t actually gotten ahead on any of the homework or final assignments I told myself I’d do, but I have definitely enjoyed watching too much tv, meeting with friends over beer, and biking aimlessly around Copenhagen for hours.

Yesterday I biked 8 miles down to Dragør in the southern, less developed part of Amager.

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The town was quaint and adorable, but probably would have been infinitely more enjoyable on a nice, sunny day.

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Even though there wasn’t much there, in the end I felt pretty satisfied because biking 16 miles in windy Copenhagen counts as exercise, but is not nearly as dread inducing as going to the gym or taking a run.