Tips for Coping with COVID-19 While Studying Abroad

It’s no question that the pandemic has made it difficult to meet people and visit new places. You might ask, “Aren’t those the main objectives of studying abroad? What’s the point of traveling to another country if you can’t achieve these two things?” Well, I’ve found that there are safe ways to socialize and explore despite the circumstances of the pandemic, so here are 6 tips I have gleaned from living in Copenhagen this term.

1. Go on exploratory walks. A lot of them.

Throughout my time in Copenhagen, I have made it a point to go on a walk every day, either scoping out the city with a friend or going on long solo walks in Frederiksberg Gardens. Whether you walk 2 miles, 5 miles, or 12, getting outside, breathing fresh air, and familiarizing yourself with the city as much as possible while abroad is always a good idea.

Whether you go for a walk on foot, bike to a chosen destination, or take the metro or train to a neighborhood that you’d like to explore, it’s an exciting prospect to survey any location in a foreign country. I have found it to be exciting and liberating to venture into a new neighborhood alone. Briefly researching an area beforehand, learning how to use the public transportation, and strolling through a neighborhood independently made for some unique and gratifying experiences. And though my routine trips to the nearby parks are no longer novel, they are still fun every time I go.

2. Journal! And/or blog if you feel so inclined.

Prior to this trip, I always kept travel journals during my stays in other countries. Because I am in Denmark for 11 weeks, I did not commit to journaling daily, but I did decide to write at least a couple times a week to jot down the experiences I most want to remember. This is also a useful practice in order to produce content for this blog, as I will often consult my journal for notes while drafting a blog post.

If you don’t plan on maintaining a travel blog, I think that journaling itself is a fantastic mindful activity. It is helpful to encourage frequent self reflection and is also a channel to help improve your observational skills and writing chops. Even if you only spend 5-10 minutes journaling before bed, you will create for yourself a resource that you’ll be happy to look back on years in the future.

3. Arrange movie nights, and curate a bucket list.

One of the benefits of living in a Kollegium was that I had lots of time to bond with my flatmates inside the apartment. My flatmates and I produced a bucket list of movies and TV shows that we wanted to watch soon after arriving at the Kollegium. We’ve watched a wide range of genres, from Pulp Fiction, Notting Hill, American Psycho, High School Musical, and Us, to episodes of Black Mirror and Modern Family. From planned viewing parties to spontaneous communal movie-going, I’ve enjoyed spending time with our flatmates in this way.

4. Cook meals with your flatmates. Treat yourself and order takeaway occasionally.

It’s been lovely to join my flatmates for our weekly apartment dinner on Monday. Not having to plan a meal for most Mondays is very convenient, and I look forward to catching up with everyone on these occasions. Since our arrival, a variety of delicious vegan meals have been prepared––carrot soup, Indian curry, rice paper spring rolls, falafel pitas, veggie burgers, vegan burritos, spaghetti tacos, and red curry noodles, thus far.

Because sitting indoors at restaurants is not possible right now, I encourage you to factor in some spending money for takeaway meals into your budget. Copenhagen has a lively food scene, and you should nurture your inner foodie! For a vegan like myself, there is no shortage of yummy options in the city. Check out my Vegan Eats page for cooking and restaurant inspiration, or read about my tips for being vegan in a Kollegium for more guidance.

5. Optimize the breaks you get during Zoom classes.

Stand up, walk around, make yourself a drink, eat a snack, open your window. Zoom fatigue is real, so do not hesitate to ask your professor for breaks during class. If you have time in between your Zoom classes, I encourage you to make use of it by getting outside. Even if you return to the same park you usually frequent, it is nice to vary your environment and take a break from staring at a screen.

The view from our room’s window

6. Have parties with your flatmates in a COVID-safe manner, of course.

Saving one of the most entertaining activities for last! An aspect of living in a Kollegium that I loved was having a built-in pod of flatmates who I could safely and easily have fun with. Within that pod, we threw several parties, some without a designated occasion, and one for Fastelavn! Tuesday nights, affectionately called “American Tuesdays,” are perfect for these festivities (we don’t have academic class sessions on Wednesday), as are the weekends.

Day Trip to Møns Klint

It was a trip several weeks in the making! The plan to make a day trip to Møns Klint was an exciting prospect, from the car ride to the picnic to the hike itself. Signe, Emmelie, and Caroline, our Danish flatmates, had the inspired idea to travel to the scenic overlook, and Nikki and I were enthused to join the journey.

The excursion was about a two-hour drive to Borre, a town south of Copenhagen. Fortunately, we were able to borrow the car from the parents of one of our flatmates. I sat in the shotgun and monitored the directions. Caroline made a collaborative Spotify playlist so that we could listen to a variety of peoples’ selections, which ended up being a catchy assortment of American oldies music that we all gladly sang together. It was a pleasant car trip and lovely to see some of the Danish countryside that I had not yet beheld.

Once we arrived, we hiked to the topmost point where we could enjoy the scenic overlook of the rock faces and the Baltic Sea. The cliff we admired was majestic, with shockingly vibrant aquamarine water hitting the rocky beach in gentle waves. After taking lots of photos of the natural beauty (at a certain point the various angles we captured all began to look the same) we made our way down an extremely long flight of stairs to the bottom of the cliff by the sea.

A portion of the long staircase down to the water

We soon found the perfect large boulder to lay out our picnic spread. Signe had generously baked fresh buns, so we used them to prepare delicious veggie sandwiches with hummus, avocados, spinach, and red peppers. To drink, we each downed a cup of elderflower juice. We all agreed it was super cozy and delightful to eat by the water.

Afterward, we walked further down the beach for a while, pausing occasionally to climb on the rocks, take photos, and admire the scenery. When we decided to begin our return trip, the climb up the long staircase to reach the top was quite the workout! It took some effort while climbing, especially because they were very steep. Once at the top, we took a small break and then proceeded through the wooded area. We scrambled up various hilly patches of the forest until we finally found our way to the parking lot where we had started. Despite the overcast weather, the sun, at last, began to peek through the clouds and illuminate the surrounding trees, water, and sky.

Walking along the rocky beach of the Baltic Sea

We indulged in some vegan banana bread as a snack before our journey home. Made from oats, it was a dense, sweet treat that was perfect to power us for the car ride home. Upon our return to the Kollegium, we were all pretty exhausted but satisfied by a delightful day trip adventure with fantastic company. The perfect escapade with friends to get a breath of fresh air outside of Copenhagen, I couldn’t recommend an afternoon in Møns Klint enough!

*Signe made us warm knit headbands! Emmelie, Nikki, and I wore them.

5 Tips for Being Vegan in a Kollegium

This is the blog post I would have wanted to read before studying abroad in Copenhagen had it existed before my departure! Living in a Kollegium (apartment-style living) is certainly an experience, and preparing my own food for every meal was something that I’d never had to do before since at home I live on campus with a dining hall nearby. Luckily, I’ve found that grocery shopping and cooking is not nearly as intimidating as it may sound. Here are my top tips for eating vegan on a budget in Copenhagen.

1. Buy food staples and keep a running grocery list.

And keep them on hand as much as possible. My grocery list changes by the day. The limited fridge space that I share with my six flatmates means that I usually go on small grocery shopping errands several times a week, stocking up on fresh produce and proteins every time I go. Luckily, the walk to Netto could not be any shorter!

A standard Netto grocery haul

Here’s a list of food items that I suggest buying upon arrival that will keep in your pantry for an extended period of time:

  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar (I love balsamic)
  • Soy sauce
  • Mustard/ketchup
  • Sriracha (If you’re a hot sauce enthusiast like me)
  • Seasonings (salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, curry powder, etc.)

In terms of produce that I buy on a consistent basis, here they are:

  • Orange/apple juice (my roommate and I usually take turns buying these, and then we share them with each other)
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Greens (spinach is my go-to)
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Potatoes (both regular and sweet)
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Avocados

And here are other staples that I frequently replenish:

  • Oat milk
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal
  • Rice cakes
  • Rye bread (a Scandinavian item not widely available at home!)
  • Rice
  • Asian noodles (like ramen)
  • Pasta
  • Soy yogurt (the vanilla and blueberry flavors from Alpro are the best)
  • Vegan butter spread
  • Jarred tomato sauce
  • Hummus
  • Agave syrup (or any liquid sweetener of choice)
  • Peanut butter
  • Jam
  • Nuts
  • Salsa
  • Canned beans
  • Chips
  • Coconut milk
  • Dark chocolate
  • Non-dairy ice cream (an occasional treat-yourself purchase)

2. Treat yourself occasionally.

One of my favorite aspects of living in Copenhagen is sampling the vegan bakeries and cafes when I get the chance. Even restaurants that are not completely vegan usually offer a plant based option! While I intend to continue investigating the vegan scene in the city, here are just a few of the best food joints that I have frequented thus far:

Naturbageriet

A short walk from the Nørreport metro station, this charming vegan bakery offers a wide assortment of items. The outside of the shop features a glass window full of delectable baked goods, many of them traditional Scandinavian/Danish pastries. This is a must-visit shop if you’re scoping out vegan desserts in the city.

Dough Girls

Right across the way from Naturbageriet, this women-owned donut shop is such a joy to visit. The owner of the store, Pamela, is wonderful to talk to and eager to explain the bakery’s origins (it has Australian roots!), as well as explain the array of vegan and gluten free options that they offer, easily rivaling any gourmet non-vegan donut. I could not recommend this bakery enough! *Take my advice and hit up Naturbageriet and Dough Girls on the same outing.

Oli Oli

I’ve ordered Oli Oli on two occasions. The first, on a spontaneous sighting of the restaurant while out-and-about, the second, for our first meal after a grueling juice cleanse. Needless to say, the bowls I’ve had have been thoroughly enjoyable, and I absolutely love the concept of a poké bowl shop (I haven’t been to any like this in the States).

Cafe Oha

This pescatarian/vegan cafe offers a variety of healthy, delicious menu options, ranging from salads, veggie burgers, acaí bowls, avocado toasts, lattes, and more.

MAX Burger

Vegan fried chicken sandwich w/ sweet potato fries

My roommate and I were on the hunt for a quick dinner when we came across MAX Burger, a fast food restaurant that I was initially skeptical of having vegan options. I was pleasantly surprised, however, and saw that they had a whole range of vegan/vegetarian burger options, and even a line of vegan milkshakes! If you’re craving a fast food burger, but vegan, give this place a shot.

Taco Pop

Vegan nachos and tacos with guacamole, salsa chipotle, and salsa verde

Vegan nachos, tacos, and burritos! What’s not to love? Copenhagen does not boast a vast variety of restaurants serving Mexican cuisine, so Tacopop is a rare, fun find.

3. Scope out the grocery stores.

Know your Danish/Scandinavian grocery store options! If Netto is the closest and most convenient, I suggest going there most often. For a wider variety of specialty items––say, nondairy ice cream, meat/dairy substitutes, and any hard-to-find ethnic foods––you may have to put in a little more work. Irma is known to be a high end grocery store, and Fotex is the closest thing to a Super Target, supplying everything from groceries, to clothing, office supplies, laundry detergent, cosmetics, and more.

4. Get your flatmates to try new vegan dishes with you. And ask them for help!

My flat went on a three-day juice cleanse. If that’s not an indication of strong communal spirit and dedication, I don’t know what is. What’s more, our next trial may be a week-long challenge of vegan eating! It’s great fun to introduce new dishes and vegan substitutes to those who you’re living with, especially if they’re curious and open to it.

Also, take advantage of their knowledge if they’re familiar with great bakeries and food joints that offer vegan options. Dough Girls, the bakery where I tried the best vegan donuts, was a spontaneous recommendation made by one of my flatmates. On several occasions, when I have returned home with a selection of baked goods, I’ve invited everyone to sample them with me.

Additionally, my flatmates have been super accommodating of my vegan diet, and have opted to make plant based meals for our weekly Monday night flat dinners. It’s been such an understanding gesture. Last week, someone made fresh rice paper spring rolls, and fried some tofu that everyone could use as a filling. I haven’t had much luck locating tofu in the nearby grocery stores, but upon asking my flatmates where I could find it they were easily able to tell me where I could locate it.

5. Establish a repertoire of easy-to-make meals that you can enjoy throughout the week.

Banana oatmeal. Cereal with oat milk. Peanut butter and apples. Roasted veggies with jasmine rice. Avocado on rye bread with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Peanut noodles with sauteéd mushrooms. Carrots and hummus. Rice cakes with peanut butter and jam. Snacking nuts. Frozen plant based pizza. There are so many options to choose from once you’ve done some basic, foundational grocery shopping.

Once you start a routine and settle into a rhythm of cooking and preparing, the process will become much more efficient! In terms of meal preparation, it doesn’t need to be a stressful, time consuming process. I usually make a batch of rice and some roasted vegetables, and stock up on raw produce that I can snack on throughout the week. Keeping peanut butter, hummus, and avocados on hand is also a good idea, since these are great additions to bulk up any meal.

Lastly, I recommend saving some money by focusing on buying whole foods––lots of fruits and vegetables, grains, pasta, and plant-based proteins. The food stipend that DIS gives you is not meant to last the entirety of your stay in Copenhagen and at the Kollegium, but I intend to draw mine out for as long as I comfortably can. This means being a bit thrifty, and purchasing filling, nutritious foods on a regular basis.