An Exchange Student’s Guide to Studying Abroad in Denmark

“When you’re traveling with someone else, you share each discovery, but when you are alone, you have to carry each experience with you like a secret, something you have to write on your heart, because there’s no other way to preserve it.” – Shauna Niequist

Deciding to go on exchange is the easy part. Then comes the jealousy from the friends…the making of travel plans…the outfit preparations… it’s all very exciting. However, once you get past the anticipation and the excitement, moving to a new country for half a year or more can be very daunting. Even having moved to Canada from the States for university (a much smaller change admittedly), coming to Denmark was much more of a culture shock than I’d originally anticipated.

To make the transition process a little easier for other people, I’ve put together a guide to acing exchange in Denmark:

Getting Around 

– Buy a bike (and a good lock). Copenhagen is a relatively small city geographically and there’s bike lanes everywhere (plus it’s flat) so you can get anywhere on your bike. Read up on bike rules here.
– Don’t use the bus – it’s slow and unreliable and I’ve often biked faster than the  uses (seriously just metro or bike).
– The Metro runs every couple of minutes and runs all night. It’s very efficient and I highly recommend.
– Get a Rejsekort – price is half of regular fare and it adds up for all the trips back and forth to the airport. It works for metro, bus and s train.

Food

– Don’t buy takeout it’s very expensive.
– Food in general is very expensive.
– Better to get a full meal if you’re already spending money or get coffee with a friend instead!
– Cook at home (but get used to eating meat because there are not a lot of easy options for vegetarians let alone vegans).
– Try the pastries/desserts – this was my favourite part of danish food and in my mind, the more remarkable of danish foods.
– Black Licorice!! They do it differently here and you’ll fall in love with it.

The Danish Education System:

– Schedules are done differently (much less class time and much less mandatory) so use that to your advantage and travel travel travel! (Quite a few Danes show up on the first day of class, show up at the exam and still get an A)
– School is more concept based and theoretical (define terms, etc) than practical so expect to reflect that in your exams.
– Oral exams are totally weird and grading is sort of arbitrary so just grit your teeth, commiserate with classmates and do your best!

Style

– Always dress nicer than you think you should because the Danes will still out-dress you.
– Wear many layers to plan for variations in weather.
– Don’t wear tight jeans when you’re biking (lost two pairs of jeans that way).
– Eliminate colours.
– Fur is in! I swear Scandinavian women probably singlehandedly drive what still exists of the fur trade. It’s both horrifying but also wonderful (because they look so damn good).

Social life

– Always opt in for the orientation stuff – you’ll regret it if you don’t.
– For the happiest people in the world, Danes are very hard to get to know.
– But, once you do get to know them they are absolutely wonderful people (it just takes a lot to break the ice with complete strangers).
– My friends here were surprised that I consider myself an introvert (US/CAD vs Scandinavia I guess lol) so take that as you will.
– Just put yourself out there and when it’s too hard, you always have over exchange students to rely on before getting back out there.
– You’ll meet fantastic people while you’re here. Make sure to make the most of it!

Housing…the biggest struggle 

– Housing is VERY VERY difficult to find. If you don’t know people, or your school doesn’t give provide housing, you may be in a pretty tight spot.
– If you’re looking for housing, beware of scams! Apparently there’s quite a few out there.
– Many of my friends were able to negotiate longterm deals in AirBnbs so this may be an option for you. (Note that Denmark may be considering banning AirBnb so be sure to look it up before you go).

Things to Bring With You (Because They Don’t Have it Here) 

First of all, check out my packing list. 
– Cough/cold medicine (for some reason they only sell echinacea and which doesn’t do the trick when you need to ‘un-sick’ yourself for traveling, exams, etc.
– Favourite foods: my mom sent me Japanese food & snacks because it was almost impossible to buy here (and if you could buy it, it was ridiculously expensive).

Copenhagen is a pretty small city but give yourself time to get to know it and if you’re able to, travel outside a bit to see what else is out there in Denmark!

Saying My Goodbyes

It’s been 4.5 months, 76 Instagram photos, 9 countries, and 16 blog posts (so far) since I left for Denmark from Seattle. All too quickly, I’m heading back to Vancouver for my FINAL TERM of undergrad (when did that happen?!).

We hope you will remember this fall semester, not only for CBS and Copenhagen, but for the people you will have met. A group of people who will never again be found in one place. A group of people who hopefully will be your friends for life.

This was the quote that CBS opened with when I attended my very first orientation seminar. I hate thinking about how many ‘goodbyes’ I’ve had to say in such a short time but I couldn’t have asked for a better exchange experience or better people to spend it with. A huge ‘THANK YOU’ and ‘I MISS YOU’ to all of you – you know who you are. You made Denmark feel like home these past few months.

 

Since I’ve essentially been MIA the last few months, I’ve created a list of reflections to sum up my experiences:

Without further ado…
Reflections From My Exchange Experience: 

  1. Spending a term abroad is ideal in terms of perfecting your ‘insta aesthetic’ and learning the best camera angles for everything.
  2. Danish is ridiculously hard to learn.
  3. When wielded properly, selfie sticks are surprisingly useful – especially for solo travel (s/o to Haley for teaching me that one).
  4. But never go anywhere without your camera… or Google Maps for that matter.
  5. Hygge is what dreams are made of (look it up or read my blog post).
  6. Hostels are a blessing for the money-strapped student traveler .
  7. Friendliest people I met in hostels: Americans, Australians, Canadians and Brits.
  8. Nobody does Christmas like the Danes.
  9. Europeans will forever dress better than me (but I will keep trying).
  10. It’s amazing how close you can get to people in such a short time – a huge THANK YOU & I MISS YOU ALREADY to all the friends I made. You made Denmark feel like home for the last half year.
  11. Despite it all, I would still choose to live in the Pacific Northwest over almost anywhere else in the world.

I’m so thankful that I was able to experience the last half year and I’m so excited for what’s to come in the next year – hopefully lots of skiing and hiking, more travels and a personal blog (stay tuned). 

XOXO,
Emma

 

Glædelig Jul from Denmark

Denmark celebrates Christmas on the 24th. They do a lot of other things a little differently. Last night my family and I were lucky enough to be able to celebrate Christmas here with my friend Marcia’s family! Danes put so much time and preparation into their Christmas celebrations and that extra effort makes ‘Jul’ in Denmark one of the most wonderful experiences you can have in a lifetime.

Here are some of the highlights from my Danish Christmas experience this year:

  1.  Christmas Tree (Juletræ) – Danes don’t pack on the decorations as much as we do in North America but instead decorate their trees with real candles, beautiful woven paper hearts (julehjerter) and simple ornaments. The result is simple but charming.
  2. Dancing around the Juletræ – After dinner (before presents), everyone holds hands and circles the Christmas tree singing traditional hymns. This is such a beautiful tradition and brings home the feeling of ‘togetherness.’
  3. Food – caramelized potatoes, pickled red cabbage, roasted duck, pork, the best gravy you’ve had in your life, pickled cucumbers…’hearty’ is the best way to describe Danish Christmas food but it’s fantastic.
  4. Desserts – I already talked about food but Danish desserts really deserve their own section. Whether it be the many types of shortbread and ginger cookies, the marzipan, the incredible chocolate, the æbleskiver (ball-shaped pancakes with powdered sugar and jam) or the very famous gløgg (essentially mulled wine), Danes definitely do desserts right.
  5. Rice Pudding (Risengrød) – Not only does dessert deserve its own section but so does this particular dessert. One of the most iconic desserts, this also comes with its own game attached; a peeled almond is hidden in the pudding and whoever finds the almond in their personal dish gets a special gift! The competition can get fierce!
  6. Tuborg Julebryg – This is a special Christmas beer by Tuborg that has an official holiday named after it (J-dag) where they give out free beer and sing ‘Jingle Bells’ on the street. What more could you ask for?
  7. Christmas Markets (Julemarked) – Christmas markets are the best places to find traditional crafts, Christmas foods, and friendly people all in one place. They can’t be beat!

And finally…. HYGGE. Hygge means “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people” or  “families and friends getting together for a meal, with the lighting dimmed” or “time spent on your own reading a good book” (http://ind.pn/2eCVfc0). Whatever hygge means to you, it is the perfect feeling to describe Christmas in Denmark!

Traveling By Hostel: 10 Pros & Cons

To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries – Aldous Huxley

To hostel or not to hostel? Throughout my various travels during my exchange experience, I have had the opportunity to stay in many different hostels (read: I had no other choice due to budget constraints).

I now feel fairly confident in identifying some of the best parts of the hostel experience (and some of the worst). For anyone considering traveling by hostel, here is a quick PRO/CON overview for you to check out so that you know what you’re getting yourself into!

1. PRO: Inexpensive
Hostels are probably the cheapest accommodations you can find – in several places I paid less than $10/ a night! This is ideal for the budget-traveler such as myself. Additionally, many hostels offer inexpensive food and drink options. For me, this is one of the best benefits; if you spend less money on accommodation and certain meals (such as breakfast), you have more money to spend sightseeing!

2. CON: Sleeping Conditions 
If, like me, you opt for the less expensive group rooms (some sleep up to 20 people), prepare yourself. Hostel rooms are host to bad snorers galore as well as people with different sleep habits (getting up too early or staying up too late). Additionally, a room filled with the body heat of many people can tend to get pretty stuffy. Prep yourself with a sleep playlist (I had a thunderstorm playlist ready for nights with heavy snorers), earplugs and a sleep mask.

3. PRO: Best Locations in the City
I don’t know how they do it but if you’re staying in a hostel, chances are you’re in a far superior location than some of the more posh hotels you might otherwise stay in. I have been able to find multiple hostel options in the beating heart of every city. This is by far one of the best benefits of staying in a hostel.

4. CON: Potentially Subpar Facilities 
Not all hostels are created equal. Expect to encounter creaky beds, dirty showers, dirty floors, weird smells and so much more. What you see in the picture is not always what you get and sometimes being in a hostel just means having a place to sleep that night.

5. PRO: Meeting Cool People 
Hostels host an eclectic range of people from around the world. You’ll meet people on weekend trips, casual backpackers, and serious backpackers (you’ll know who they are) to name a few. Most people you’ll come across are more than happy to trade travel notes, tell you their life story, or even grab a beer with you. I love this aspect of hostels (and group rooms) – it opens you up to all sorts of new adventures!

6. CON: There are Creepy People Too
On the flip side, you can’t live life without meeting a few creepers and these also exist in the context of hostels. My advice? Travel with a friend, trust your instincts and book larger group rooms (that way there will be witnesses if you’re murdered).

7. PRO: Really Unique Hostels 
There are some really unique hostels out there that afford you the option of staying in a castle, prison, etc. Why book a hotel when you could spend the night in a centuries old castle?! Trying to be a princess here…

8. CON: Lack of Security 
While the buildings of the hostels I’ve stayed in have been very secure (key cards just to enter the building, key cards for hallways and rooms), once you’re in a group room, you’re fairly reliant on the goodness of the people staying in the room with you. While I’ve never experienced it, theft can be quite common. Be sure to bring a lock with you and to keep valuables on you.

9. PRO: Organized Group Activities 
Are you looking to meet new people when you travel? Hostels are great for that since most offer daily tours, pub crawls, etc. (as well as having their own bars). While I prefer to avoid tours and explore a city on my own, these activities are fairly unique to hostels and you’ll find like-minded people within a similar age demographic which is always a plus! It’s also a great way to connect with cool people you may run into in your hostel room.

10. CON: Less Standardized Info
Like I said previously, you never know what you’re going to get when you show up at a hostel. Despite now being able to book and find pictures online, hostels tend to ‘surprise’ (negatively) more than traditional hotels do so mentally prepare yourself.

A FEW FINAL TIPS for anyone looking to take the plunge!
Reliable Hostel Chains: Generator Hostels, Plus Hostels (ex. Berlin Plus, Prague Plus)
– Make an account and book through Hostelworld! They often offer deals and have the best selection of hostel offerings in one place. Best part is they show important details such as facilities, proximity to city, and reviews.
– I’ve used Hostelling International less than Hostelworld but it is very very reliable!
– READ THE REVIEWS! I’ve avoided many a sketchy hostel (that looks fine at first glance) by perusing reviews. Not only will this save you much travel angst but it will also afford you endless amusement.


**I am not sponsored or paid to promote any of these companies (I wish!) 
A special thanks to my friends Haley & Laura who contributed thoughts/suggestions to this list!

The Big Smoke – London!

“Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” – Samuel Johnson

I’m sure people will argue with me but for me, London wasn’t anywhere close to being the most aesthetically beautiful city I’ve been to in Europe. Nevertheless, this was one of the few cities I would seriously consider living in and definitely one of my favourites.

London is so vibrant. It’s full of eclectic, multicultural, wonderful people. It’s got amazing food from around the world and there’s always something to do. It’s gritty and real. It’s perennially busy – everyone always seems to have somewhere to be. It’s hard to be in London and not get caught up in the flow of this fantastic city.

What I really love about London is how well the “old” is integrated with the “new.” On any given block you could find a cathedral, a ramen shop and a fancy apartment. The city is a seamless blend of thousands of years of history and I found that incredibly fascinating and alluring. I spent most of the time walking around the city (logging almost 60 miles over the course of the ~4 days!) and I felt this really helped me get a feel for the city. I felt totally at home among the fast-moving, trench-coat clad population – I will definitely be back in the near future.

My favourite parts of the trip:

  • Fantastic Beasts Midnight Movie Release – this was the real reason I planned by London trip for the weekend I did. It was very nostalgic arriving a couple hours before midnight and seeing other Harry Potter fans dressed up in their house colours (some in some really fantastic costumes). It made me wish I brought some stuff with me!
  • Westminster Abbey – so much British history is tied up in this beautiful cathedral!! I especially enjoyed seeing the grave of Elizabeth I and walking around the Poet’s corner. I almost felt like the spirits of Chaucer, Dickens, Kipling, Tennyson and so many other great literary masters were walking with me.
  • Museums – there are not many places in the world where there are so many museums with such important collections of art accessible to the public. In exploring some of the many museums in London, I felt like I was traveling back in time.
  • Mamma Mia – what can be more fun than singing and dancing along to one of the best musicals of all time while surrounded by the women who are doing the exact same thing?!

Sweet:

– Most museums around the city are free!
– Food! Everyone says that Brits don’t know how to cook but I found that London has a much more diverse range of food offerings than most European cities and this was such a blessing.
– People – I’d heard that Brits weren’t necessarily the most talkative people but I had such pleasant / helpful interactions with everyone I met!
– Christmas decorations – from festive shop fronts to towering Christmas trees, London was absolutely magical this Christmas season.

Salty:

– Although museums are free, historic monuments (Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London) easily cost between £15 and £25. This was  very difficult to stomach – especially as a ‘starving student.’
– Traffic – drivers are aggressive!

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Itinerary:
**my favourites

Day 1:
– SoHo
– Fantastic Beasts Midnight Showing **

Day 2:
– Buckingham Palace
– Westminster Abbey**
– Palace of Westminster (Parliament)
– Big Ben
– National Gallery**
– Mamma Mia!**

Day 3:
– Hyde Park
– Kensington Gardens
– Victoria and Albert Museum

Day 4: 
– St. Paul’s Cathedral
– Millennium Bridge
– Tower Bridge
– Tate Modern**

Day 5: 
– British Museum**
– British Library**
– King’s Cross

Czech-in’ Out Prague

What can’t I say about Prague. This city had it all. For me, Prague was a crossroads between worlds. It combined the mystery and magic of Eastern Europe with a modern lifestyle.

The beautiful city of buildings almost a millennium old was vibrant and splendid. While I will fully admit that I have become enamored with almost every city I’ve traveled to on my exchange, Prague numbers among my favorites. It’s hard to describe exactly how I felt, watching the mist creep over the river, seeing snowflakes fall softly while crossing the bridge, looking out over the expanse of multicolored old buildings from the top of the city hall tower. All I can say is that I felt a yearning to be a part of this city. I felt incredibly, indescribably drawn to Prague.

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Prague was full of so many beautiful destinations (and so many fantastic rooftop views) but I have to admit that it was the libraries that inspired me the most. Shelves stacked with dusty old tomes…glittery illuminated covers…mysterious astronomical globes, ethereal hand painted ceilings…it was a literary dream come true.

Prague has something for everyone …incredible history, beautiful architecture, great shopping, rich food.

My parents took me to Prague when I was a little over a year old. Returning to it almost 20 years later (though I remembered nothing from the first time) was a magical experience. Sharing it with 2 amazing people made it even better!

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Sweet:

– Everything is so inexpensive – beer is cheaper than water!
Czech beer – the lighter beers were so easy to drink and yet so flavorful.
– Stunning scenery and architecture – Prague is fantastic for your IG aesthetic.
– “Ahoy” – this is literally how you say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and this gives me life.
– Breathtaking libraries

Salty:

– Not all signs are in English (but with Google Maps this isn’t a huge deal anyway).
– The food could be very heavy on occasion (no greens but still delicious)


Itinerary:
**my favorites

Day 1:
– Petrin Hill**
– Mini Eiffel Tower
– Mirror Hall
– Old Town
– Astronomical Clock**

Day 2:
– Dancing House
– Farmer’s Market**
– Wenceslav Square
– Old Town Hall & Tower
– Museum of Communism
– Prasna Brana

Day 3:
– Charles Bridge
– Lennon Wall**
– Prague Castle**
– St. Vitus Cathedral (+grave of St. Wenceslav)
– Prague Basilica
– Golden Lane
– Strahov Monastary and Library**

Day 4:
– Jewish Quarter (Old/New Synagogue, Pinkas Synagogue**, Spanish Synagogue)
– Clementinum National Library**

American & Out of Touch

“This loss hurts. But please, please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It’s always worth it. And we need you keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives.” – Hillary Clinton

Yesterday morning I woke up to my worst nightmare – a misogynist, a racist, a supremely unqualified political joke was elected to be the next president of the United States.

In a world where tens of horrible things happen every day, not much can shake me. The last time I remember crying when watching the news was during 9/11 – I was 6 years old and I didn’t understand what was going on but my mom was crying and that more than anything terrified me. A lot of terrible things have happened since 2001 but even when seeing some of the worst, I would simply feel numb, or shocked, or helpless.

But yesterday when I saw that Trump was elected, for the first time in 15 years I cried watching the news. Trump’s election was a wakeup call – it showed me how out of touch I am with the American people.

I grew up in Seattle – one of the most liberal parts of the country – in a multicultural family and surrounded by well-educated, multicultural people. I attend university (and have spent the last 3 years in) Canada – one of the best educated and most liberal countries in the world. I currently live in Denmark, another remarkably educated and liberal country. The Americans I grew up around were mostly liberal. The Americans I study with in Canada are most definitely liberal. The Americans I’ve met traveling around the world are without doubt very liberal.

 

“Life is tough my darling, but so are you.” – Stephanie Bennett-Henry

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In my 21 years of life, tolerance and acceptance have been the mantra of the people around me. “Love yourself and others.” “Treat others how you want to be treated.” “Appreciate each other’s differences and learn from them.” “Be a voice for people who don’t have a voice.” “Let any of you who is without sin be the first to throw the stone.”

Meeting someone intolerant was something of an anomaly – to be talked about around the dinner table or laughed at in conversations with friends. I grew used to rolling my eyes at ‘the type of people that vote for Trump’ without realizing how much of a bubble I live in. Every place I’ve been to, I’ve largely met like-minded people. In voting for Hillary and what she stood for, I thought I was in the majority. I thought wrong.

The optimist in me, growing up in the circumstances I did, couldn’t believe that my country would, when it came down to it, elect Trump for president. How could people be so upset, so angry, so biased that they would elect someone that not only was completely unqualified but also so morally questionable to represent our country? Trump’s election yesterday promptly popped the bubble for me.

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford

I cried yesterday because my understanding of the United States of America has fundamentally altered. I cried because I felt out of place as an American citizen and I didn’t feel connected to the American people. I cried because I felt helpless. I felt helpless because I voted, the people of my state voted, and we overwhelmingly stood up for what we believed in – but we were outnumbered.

Coming out of this nightmare, I have realized something important. I am privileged to have grown up in a community that encourages educated discourse, and tolerance. I am privileged to have a college education. I am privileged to be exposed to the people I am. I am privileged to understand the benefits of diversity and personally benefit from them.

At the same time, I need to recognize that my response to others who haven’t grown up with the same benefits was at times patronizing and even condescending. I need to put that mindset aside and focus on understanding and educating rather than blaming and criticizing. Only then will I fully understand what brought the United States to this point, and start to make real change happen. I will never have the same view of what it is to be an ‘American’ but I will also strive towards helping my country fit the ideal I had in my mind.

When I talked to my dad yesterday, he encouraged me not to “give up on the United States” and I won’t. I am so uplifted by the response I’ve seen from my friends, my family, even strangers. They have reminded me that America the Beautiful was founded on ideals that don’t waver, regardless of the politicians and parties that have power. Knowing for the first time in my life what it feels like to have those values challenged, I will fight even harder.

I will follow the examples of President Obama and Secretary Clinton – both gracious and optimistic in their defeat – and I will recognize that love will always trump hate, even if it takes time. Most importantly, I will not give up. 

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What’s On My Bookshelf?

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C.S. Lewis

A self-declared ‘book nerd,’ I have always been obsessed with literature – especially classic literature. I can remember many a night where I have stayed up past my bedtime with a flashlight in hand for the sole purpose of getting through the next chapter.

However, when I started university, I found it hard to work in time for ‘pleasure reading.’ Between studying, socializing, and getting involved around campus, it was easy to overlook one of my favourite pastimes – to simply push my reading list off until the summer when I would “have more time.” Luckily, sometime during my sophomore year I came to my senses and made a plan.

I decided to read 30 minutes every night before bed at a minimum. There are obviously nights where this doesn’t happen and there are nights where I end up reading 2 hours after getting carried away. Overall though, I have more or less been able to stick to my commitment and it has vastly improved my daily life. Not only am I better at getting through my (seemingly unending) reading list and venturing into previously unknown areas of knowledge, but I also clear my head and sleep much better than I did before. It’s so easy to allocate 30 minutes – especially given most of us can easily take up this time perusing our phones – and there’s so much to gain from it. I highly recommend it.

One of the best parts of traveling is having even more time to read…whether it be during the 30 minutes between flights, or on a long train ride, or snuggled up under a mountain of covers when the weather in Copenhagen gets too cold. Since my travels have allowed me to get through quite a few books, I’ve decided to share the books that have been my recent and current companions.

If you have any book suggestions, I am more than happy to take them!

Currently Reading: 

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

10357575This book’s style is really intriguing to me. Murakami writes in a straightforward way that, as my dad pointed out, is very unusual for someone who is Japanese (maybe one of the reasons my mom doesn’t like his writing). Despite his straightforwardness, there is so much meaning that only develops over time and I’ve found myself on my toes for the entire time. I can’t seem to put this book down – I’ve finished half the book in less than a week – and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Favourite Quote (so far): “‘According to Chekhov…once a gun appears in a story, it has to be fired.'”

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

432394Wuthering Heights has been one of my favourite books since I first read it and has continued to be through my many re-reads. I’ll never get tired of the wildness of the moors or the tragic and terrible romance that is Heathcliff and Cathy. Who doesn’t love a book where the characters don’t conform to rules of ‘right and wrong.’ This current re-read is for my book club with my friend Megan – I’m enjoying it just as much as the first time I read it!


Favourite Quote
: “He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

Recently Read: 

The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

23009896What a mesmerizing read. Ellison’s book is as relevant now as when it was published. Understanding the perspective of a black man in a white society (as portrayed by an anonymous narrator) is incredibly enlightening and fascinating. As a person of colour I found myself sympathizing with, marveling in and appreciating the narrative. I think this is an important read for everyone given the struggles for race currently being brought to light


Favourite Quote
: “Must I strive toward colorlessness? But seriously, and without snobbery, think of what the world would lose if that should happen. America is woven of many strands, I would recognize them and let it so remain.”

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

38447I read this book after seeing a Facebook post from a former teacher (sharing an opinion article) that suggested that Trump’s views and the mindset supporting them may make a Handmaid’s Tale-esque world a reality. Once I started reading, I didn’t stop until I’d read the entire book – nevermind that it was 4am in the morning. This alternate, misogynistic reality is a future that Atwood herself speculated would happen (i.e. it’s classification as ‘speculative fiction’) and I myself can’t say it would be an impossibility. I won’t give away the context, or the ending, but I can say that if you haven’t already read it, you should put The Handmaid’s Tale at the top of your reading list.

Favourite Quote: “Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” – Lemony Snicket

1 Suitcase, 1 Carry-on, 1 Personal

“Simplicity boils down to two steps: identify the essential, eliminate the rest.” – Leo Babatua

If you know me well, you’ll be be surprised that I somehow managed to bring everything in a one check-in bag (medium-large suitcase), one carry-on bag (medium duffle bag) and one personal item (a hiking backpack). I’ve even managed to fit everything into my room without a closet and without a dresser!

Although I did buy a few things while in Denmark, I accounted for the large majority of my necessities in my packing.

Here’s how I did it!

A Quick Summary of My Packing Strategy:

  • Pack neutral colours so that you can pair everything with anything (and so that you blend in with the Europeans).
  • Speaking of Europeans… they always dress better than you do so plan on dressing up from what you normally wear back home.
  • Pack different layers! This is especially important if you’re traveling during multiple seasons like I did.
  • Think and re-think every item. “When will I wear this?” “How many different outfits can I wear this with?” “Is this worth the space it will take up?”
  • Roll everything.
  • Keep accessories simple and to a minimum. You don’t want to have to keep track of too many valuables.
  • Don’t bring unnecessary electronics (ex. hair dryers and straighteners will burn out in Europe anyway – if you need it, buy it when you arrive).
  • Don’t bring unnecessary cosmetic products (I packed some of these anyway but at the very least don’t bring your shampoo, body wash, etc.).
  • Divide heavy items between bags. Airlines may charge extra for overweight baggage but they usually don’t check the weight of your carry-on.
  • Leave room for something special to make you feel at home. You’ll want it when you’ve been abroad a while and start to miss home. For me, it was (more than) a few great books.

In Hindsight, What I Would Leave Behind:

  • Swimsuit – thinking I would use this while in Denmark or traveling was overly ambitious
  • Business heels – fancy boots function just as well in any situation here
  • Casual jackets – unlike the PNW, Denmark makes a quick transition from warm summer to cold autumn and the mid-level jacket stage was skipped

What I Wish I’d Packed: 

  • Extra converters – they’re much cheaper back home
  • Extra makeup – although you can buy makeup here, it’s much cheaper to buy at home and some of my favourite brands don’t carry over (Stila!!)
  • Mid-level layers – sweaters, cute sweatshirts, etc. Basically anything I can layer to be warmer.

My Full Packing List (for anyone who still doubts me or who needs packing inspiration):
**I know it seems like I brought a lot of stuff but consider the fact that I had to dress for two seasons AND it still fit in 1 suitcase, 1 carry-on and 1 backpack***

Shoes:
1 x business-appropriate heels (neutral)
1 x heeled booties (black)
1 x Hunters (black)
1 x heeled sandals (tan)
2 x sneakers (white / adidas, black / nikes)
1 x Birks
*I’ve actually worn all of these already

Apparel:
Dresses
1
x shift dress (tan)
2 x black summer dresses
1 x t-shirt dress (striped)
1 x business-appropriate dress (black)

Tops
4
x sweaters (white, grey, striped, tan)
2 x button-ups (denim, white)
1 x lightweight workout jacket
12 x shirts (casual grey, casual white x2,  white fancy, black fancy x2, patterned crop, striped x2, workout x2)
2 x long-sleeve sleep shirts
2 x tanktops for layering (tan, black)

Bottoms
4 x jeans (dark wash, light wash, white, black)
1 x adidas sweats
2 x loose dress pants (black)
1 x leggings (black)
2 x workout shorts
2 x shorts (black, dark green)
1 x skirt (black denim)
1 x pajama bottoms

Outerwear
1 x Arcteryx rain jacket (red)
1 x Patagonia fleece pullover
1 x wool overcoat (grey)
2 x casual jackets (black, army green)
1 x loose blazer (maroon)
*you can figure out the undergarments, socks, etc. yourself

Electronics:
1 x laptop
1 x iPad Mini (I bought this for my trip and it’s proved amazing!)
1 x computer backup drive – important to anticipate crashes when in a foreign country
1 x cell phone
1 x camera
1 x toothbrush
1 x electronics converter (you can buy USB plug-ins anywhere so you really only need one converter)

Et cetera:
4 x scarves (2 winter, 2 summer)
1 x eyeglasses
1 x swimsuit
2 x earrings
2 x necklaces
1 x sunglasses
1 x purse (black)
1 x perfume
1 x everything makeup
1 x hair stuff (but you can buy this abroad)
1 x necessary medications 
8 x books (judge me, I don’t care)

Traveling With A Friend (& How Not to Hate Each Other)

I’ve always been told that traveling with a friend for the first time will either make or break your friendship. While this may be a bit of an exaggeration (…or in some cases not), I have come up with some suggestions for anyone looking to take the plunge and travel with a friend!

(These suggestions are 100% based on personal experience).

 

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TO DO

  • Recognize when you are actually annoyed or just hangry (usually I’m just hangry)
  • Buy snacks to stave off said state of ‘hangriness’
  • Discuss itineraries the night before and prioritize together – that way you know what to expect and won’t miss the most important things if something goes wrong
  • Take cute pictures of each other (it’s great to have someone to return the favour)
  • Figure out a good way to split/transfer costs and have a conversation about it beforehand (Venmo is awesome!)
  • Discuss budget constraints ahead of time – nothing causes more stress than money and operating on different budgets (consider setting a ballpark meal cost per day)
  • Build in downtime where you don’t have to be together the whole time (reading, relaxing, etc.)
  • Consider building in a ‘luxury’ night where you rent a private room instead of a group room hostel – sometimes bad attitudes come out of not having regular life luxuries
  • Don’t deny the benefits of a selfie stick
  • Be flexible! One of you will be late getting ready for one thing and another will be late for another – temper your annoyance knowing you’ll do it too
AVOID AT ALL COSTS
  • Blaming the other person for anything (it’ll be your fault next time)
  • Feeling like you need to be together 24/7 (exploring on your own is fun and can be a good way to get personal space)!
  • Skipping meals to see more (see above on hangriness – even if it’s just a snack to keep you going, make the time)
  • Being on your phone too much (I can be guilty of this too but you’ll see so much and have so many more interesting conversations if you put your phone away)
  • Holding a grudge (will you really enjoy your trip if you’re still thinking about that one thing they did five days ago?)
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And as a bonus….
TRAVEL FRIENDS ARE GREAT BECAUSE…
  • There will always be someone to watch your stuff when you need to pee
  • You won’t go crazy talking to yourself
  • Good company plain and simple
  • Plenty of “candid” photos to choose from (do it for the Instagram-aesthetic!)
  • An added sense of security (especially as a female-traveler)
  • You can try more things (“Hey, wanna split x and y for dinner and then try z for dessert?”)
  • If you see a cute boy you have someone to point him out to / discuss with
  • If you manage to make it through OK, you will be friends for life
  • FRIENDSHIP XOXO

“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland