Hej! My name is Marisa Sloan, and I’m majoring in chemistry with a minor in English at UNCG. Currently, however, I am studying at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. So much has happened in the past two and a half months, but I will try to cover all the highlights.
In Denmark, the power distance is low. This means Danes do not accept that power is naturally distributed unequally. You are expected to openly disagree with authority figures such as your teacher or boss and be informal in dress and greetings. I’ve even seen the princess walking around the city on a sunny afternoon; I walked right by her without even knowing she was someone important. Coming from a culture which requires you to address your professors as, well, ‘professor’… calling my professors by their first name has seemed very rude to me, as if I am dismissive of their wisdom and authority. Additionally, I have learned that most of Denmark’s cultural practices stem from a single set of rules: the law of Jante, which I highly suggest looking up.
These would explain why students and professors interact as if they are equals. Coming from a very capitalist and masculine society, where individuality and the desire to be the best often seems to trump all, I feel as though I am always stepping on people’s toes here. Everyone wears black or grey clothing, so as not to stand out, and even my red hair seems to be drawing too much attention to myself by their standards. But what color the Danes lack in their clothing, they make up for in their architecture. Along the Nyhavn Harbor, there are beautiful historical buildings and ships (including the old home of Hans Christian Andersen, author of fairy tales like ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘The Ugly Duckling,’ and one of the most famous Danes to ever live).
Throughout the city are magnificent parks, palaces, gardens, and plenty of churches. While it’s a largely populated city, it’s very spread out, and there aren’t many areas of the city which are obscenely populated with tourists. I’ve found special solace in the student bar, which has $1 shots during happy hour on Fridays and cheap coffee in the mornings, as well as the numerous bakeries and bookshops. My very first week here I walked in an enormous pride parade with the University of Copenhagen, which was a huge affair that the whole city attended. Denmark is one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world and was even the first country to grant legal recognition to same-sex unions. Soccer is just as popular, and one of my favorite memories so far has been attending an FC Copenhagen soccer game and being surrounded by extremely enthusiastic fans yelling unintelligibly in Danish. It’s easy to be caught up in the excitement of all the events that are constantly happening in such as big city. Oktoberfest was a blast.
And just outside the urban city, there are friendly wooden giants hidden in the woods. They were created by Danish artist Thomas Dambo, with the intention of luring people away from the big city to explore nature every once in a while. If you journey even further from the city center, you will find the beautiful Møns Klint, a 6 km stretch of chalk cliffs along the eastern coast of the Danish island of Møn in the Baltic Sea. Whereas most of Denmark is as flat as a pancake, these cliffs (and the millions of stairs it takes to get to the bottom of them) are a real treat. Although it was already fairly cold when I visited, I made sure to go for a dip in the sea near where some seals were playing.
Long story short, I have had a wide variety of experiences in Denmark. I have also made friends from all over the world, and have been fortunate enough to visit Germany, Sweden, England, and Italy, with plans to see the northern lights as well. I am sure that by the time I get back to Greensboro, I will have enough stories to last a lifetime.