Aarhus Adventures + DIS Study Tour!

I decided to make a trip up to Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark, during my week-long DIS Study Tour. With only one class to attend (remotely, due to the pandemic), it was wonderful to have the flexibility to travel to another city in Denmark for a couple of days. The perfect opportunity to spend a couple of nights in Aarhus, I could both sightsee and complete class assignments at the same time. Fortuitously, we had planned this trip several weeks in advance, unsuspecting that COVID-19 restrictions would be relaxed on March 1, the day before we arrived. Thus, we reaped the benefits of the shops opening, and were able to browse inside stores in a safe, masked, and socially distanced manner.

On March 2, Tuesday morning, Nikki and I took a train from Copenhagen Central Station to Aarhus Station. A two and a half hour ride, it was a pleasant journey and a lovely survey of the Danish countryside. By the time we arrived, it was a brilliantly sunny day without a cloud in the sky. The Airbnb that we rented was a tiny house on the Docklands, right by the rippling water. The giant glass windows permitted the relentless rays of natural light to stream into all corners of the indoor space. Because of this, upon stepping into the house I was hit by a wall of heat. To air out the space we resorted to keeping the door slightly cracked open and putting the blinds down once we ventured into the city. Also of note: lining the water nearby our tiny house were a wide variety of food stalls, selling pizzas, burgers, ice cream, coffees, and drinks. It felt like we were living on a bustling pier!

The Aarhus Docklands

Once unpacked and situated in the tiny house, we strolled into the central part of the city, inadvertently stepping into the Latin Quarter, a trendy neighborhood chock full of colorful buildings, lovely cafes, and clothing boutiques. We walked without a destination in mind, briefly entering several expensive clothing stores that were fun to browse in, though less tempting to purchase something. The best part of the evening was stumbling into a one-of-a-kind vegan restaurant called “Plant Food,” that specialized in burgers. I treated myself to the “Avantgarde Burger,” a tasty creation with fermented cabbage, fried onions, and truffle mayo. It was perhaps the best burger I’ve ever tasted.

On Wednesday morning, both Nikki and I had zoom sessions for our Core Courses. My class, titled “Cultural Diversity and Integration,” was visited by the former executive director of Trampoline House, a Danish NGO committed to providing community space for refugees and asylum seekers. We learned about the importance of dissolving the offensive, condescending hierarchy that often forms when volunteers prioritize charity by handing out money and resources to those in need without asking for anything in return. The need for mutual respect between the volunteers and the migrants, without the damaging victimization of the people on the receiving end of help, is vital for the success of an organization like Trampoline House.

In the afternoon we visited Den Gamle By, an open air museum featuring 75+ historical houses that were moved to the site from 20 Danish townships. Although we could not enter the buildings, and the employees acting as townspeople were absent from the scene, it was a unique experience to witness the streets without the company of many visitors.

Later in the afternoon, we decided to go shopping in Ryesgade, an extensive shopping street in central Aarhus. Our first time shopping within Denmark, it was exciting to have the chance to go inside stores. We popped in and out of a variety of clothing shops, taking note of lots of distinctively Danish/Scandinavian clothing styles (sweater vests, collared shirts, and fabric jackets, to name a few).

For dinner, I identified a fancy pizza place called “Piccolina,” a joint that had tons of vegan menu options. I tried a vegan variety that had potatoes, salami, onions, cheese, and truffle oil. Like the burger I had sampled the night before, this was likely the best vegan pizza I had ever tried.

GRØD oatmeal bowl with all the toppings

Thursday morning was sadly time for our departure from Aarhus. We grabbed breakfast in the Latin Quarter at a cafe called GRØD, well known for its gourmet oatmeal selection. I ordered a porridge bowl with all the vegan toppings––decked out with homemade peanut butter, apple compote, almonds, hazelnuts, coconut, granola, cacao nibs, chocolate chips, banana, and raspberries, it was a luxurious treat.

My time in Aarhus, though brief, was very diverting. Having spent a couple of months in Copenhagen, I am glad I had the opportunity to familiarize myself with another Danish city. Right by the sea, the ambiance was clearly different from that of the more urban environment I had grown accustomed to. If you plan on traveling to Denmark, I enthusiastically urge you to scope out Aarhus (and spend a few days there)!

*I did an Instagram takeover for @dis.copenhagen while in Aarhus. To check out my photo/video documentation of the trip, tap through the “Spring 2021” saved story.

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.

My Flat Took on a 3-Day Juice Cleanse

One of our flatmates recently decided to purchase a juicing machine––a thrifty investment that got a lot of use these last several days! The amount of produce that had to be acquired was enormous. To sustain all five of us for three days, we had to obtain our fruits and vegetables from a bulk store where restaurants are the target consumers.

Nikki and I met our flatmates at the Copenhagen Central Station to aid them in the laborious process of bringing back the gigantic haul of food. In total, there were multiple crates of fruits (such as apples, pears, pineapples), as well as super heavy tote bags containing heads of broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, parsnips, beets, bananas, and more. It took some hard work and endurance to carry all of the food back to the apartment. Predictably, we were all sore, some of us even a couple of days after. It was certainly a jumpstart to the challenge and drained us of so much energy that we all vowed to make the journey worth it and complete the three-day cleanse without cheating (spoiler alert: we all succeeded!).

The cleanse began the following day, on Wednesday morning. We woke up early to go on a thirty-minute walk, an exercise mandated by the program we were following. Once back, we tried the first juice. It was quite tasty, albeit very strong-tasting from the abundance of beet. We also downed some spicy ginger shots, which all of us found quite enjoyable.

The first juice of the cleanse

Throughout Day 1, I felt myself becoming progressively hungrier and hungrier. I had a field study in Nørrebro in the morning, and a classmate and I walked around the neighborhood to record a podcast. A bit tired from the morning outing without my normal sustenance, I had very little energy and felt lethargic for the rest of the day. I think that everyone else also experienced similar symptoms.

Perhaps the most eventful moment of the challenge occurred while juicing dinner on Day 1. Made of broccoli, celery, cucumber, asparagus, parsnip, ginger, sprouts, and apple, it was not a pleasant drinking experience to say the least. While making the juice, the juicer became overworked at one point (the fibrous broccoli took its toll) and actually starting smoking, which may have imparted a slightly bitter, burned flavor into the already pungent juice. By far everyone’s least favorite, it was not a strong end the night.

The morning of Day 2 of the cleanse, it was time for yoga. We gathered in the common room to do a yoga flow. Despite the intense hunger that I’d felt the night before, I woke up feeling somewhat refreshed. However, soon after breakfast (which I did not particularly like because of the overpowering flavor of sour citrus), I quickly began to feel hunger pangs again. Though lunch was thoroughly underwhelming, luckily dinner was the best yet! Made creamy by avocado and sweet from the luxurious additions of several fruits, it was a satisfying, satiating way to end the long day.

Yoga session

On Day 3, the last day of the cleanse, we went for another brief walk for morning exercise. The juice afterward was amazing––it was super creamy and sweet from mango and banana, fruits that were lamentably not present in most of the other juices. Lunch was another green juice that I found much better than previous ones. Before dinner, Nikki and I ate a few snacks to get ourselves through our afternoon class (it was a necessity at that point), and then we headed out to pick up our flatmates’ orders from Oli Oli, a delightful poké bowl shop. Everyone loved their bowls, and it was such a treat to consume solid food once again.

My build-your-own poké bowl

Throughout the cleanse, we kept records of our favorite and least favorite juices using a rating scale of 1-10. Overall, I’d say that the experience was rewarding and fun because it was a challenge we were completing together. I cannot imagine trying to finish it without fellow sufferers and moral support. Another point to consider: the work put into making the juices was pretty time consuming. From cleaning the produce, to cutting it, juicing it, and cleaning up, we had to plan around our meal times very methodically.

We plan to use the juicer to make the occasional juice in the future, but we all agreed that putting ourselves through a three-day cleanse again is not an activity that we wish to repeat. So, to sum it up, here’s my advice: go on a juice cleanse so you can say you’ve tried it, but only with friends who will hold you accountable and keep spirits high (trust me, it’s harder than you might expect)!

A Food-Filled Weekend

Saturday was a great day for exploration! Nikki and I decided to visit and explore the commune of Freetown Christiania within the neighborhood of Christianshavn, and the surroundings that we took in were pretty striking. I’ve already written a blog post about our visit to Christiania, so check it out for a more in-depth description of what we saw and experienced.

Later that day, we stopped by a very high end burger restaurant called “POPL Burger.” Incidentally, we weren’t aware of how upscale it was, only realizing the luxury of eating there once our orders were rung up by the cashier. This restaurant on the water is a spin-off of the renowned Michelin restaurant in Copenhagen called “Noma.” I ordered the vegan burger combo, which consisted of cooked quinoa that “goes through a two day process to become patties, which are handmade in Noma’s fermentation lab,” fries, and a fancy lemon soda. The burger was delicious, and unlike any veggie burger I’ve ever tasted before. To our initial shock, our meals combined cost over 60 USD–so expensive, but a worthwhile treat.

Nikki’s burger (top), my vegan burger (bottom)

We also sought out some trampolines, embedded on the path by the water front at the Havnegade Harbour Promenade. Waiting in line to get the chance to jump on the bouncy sections of trampoline, we observed both children and adults happily springing off of the elastic base. Once we had the opportunity, we rushed onto the platforms and jumped around for a bit. It was a fun, lively way to end our day trip.

On Sunday after dinner, our flatmates made a special rice pudding that they veganized by using oat and rice milk as the liquid. A festive occasion, we ate the pudding while listening to Danish Christmas music, in celebration of 11 months until Christmas (obviously a worthwhile date to recognize). The dish was super creamy and subtly sweet, made even better by topping it with cinnamon sugar.

Rice pudding!

On Monday, it was my turn to make dinner for the flat. I prepared an Indian curry called Aloo Matar. Containing a tomato curry sauce along with peas and potatoes, it was relatively easy to make. I doubled the recipe so that there was enough for everyone and served it with jasmine rice. Then, after the meal we played “Code Names,” a word association game. It was a lovely way to round out the evening!

Mermaids, Monuments, & Many Miles

Saturday was a leisurely morning, and we left the apartment around noon. After some deliberation, we decided to use the Metro to arrive at the Østerport station. Once there, we made our way to the “Little Mermaid” statue by the waterside, which depicts a mermaid becoming human. At only four feet tall, it’s more miniature than I had imagined it, perhaps because of its renown as a Copenhagen icon since its unveiling in 1913. Notably, the sculpture is based on the 1837 fairy tale by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, so it was cool to see the statue after visiting H.C.A.’s grave in the Assistens Cemetery on Thursday. Still a popular tourist site despite the chilly weather and pandemic, people crowded around the mermaid, taking her photo and posing on the rocks.

The Little Mermaid

We also passed by a much larger, eye-catching statue called “The Maritime Monument,” a memorial commemorating the lives of civilian Danish sailors who died during World War I. The podium features dramatic narrative reliefs, illustrating a sinking ship with sailors diving off its side. I closely inspected the ornate reliefs before my eyes were drawn upward toward the winged figure positioned atop the podium.

Maritime Monument

Both the Little Mermaid and the Maritime Monument are conveniently close to the “Kastellet,” a remarkably well-preserved fortress built in the mid-1600s. In the shape of a star, its points (technically “bastions”) are raised above the ground that now form a nice path that people can walk on. Here’s an aerial view of the Kastellet from Google Maps:

The Kastellet fortress

Within the fortress are various buildings that you can view as you make your way around the star-shaped path, including a church and windmill. The windmill is especially picturesque. We walked the entire perimeter of the star-shaped fortress, admiring the scenery. Ducks and swans waddled across the frozen body of water surrounding the fortress, and we were among the many people who paused to observe the funny spectacle.

The windmill

On Sunday I decided to go on a long walk on my own. I walked through the Frederiksberg Gardens again and fortuitously caught sight of the elephants from the Copenhagen Zoo roaming in their enclosure. People were scattered around the fence admiring the elephants, and I couldn’t help but snap a few shots myself. I love elephants, and seeing them brightened my day.

Elephants visible from the perimeter of Frederiksberg Gardens

In total, I walked about 11 miles. I also explored a park positioned behind the Frederiksberg Palace called Søndermarken. Both parks are very kid-friendly, and it’s common to see young children toddling about, hampered by their puffy jumpsuit jackets. Near the end of my walk, I stopped at the coffee stand I’d tried before and picked up a chai latte again. I figure that this will become a place I frequent!

Exploratory Walks!

Getting our bearings of the city is a top priority right now, and so far Nikki and I have been navigating the Metro system with relative success. We’ve visited City Hall Square in central Copenhagen twice now–our first visit we were adventuring without much direction, the second time we used the Metro system to get there. Likely due to the pandemic, as well as the dreary weather and cold rain, the square was impressive to behold but without many people to observe. People walked across the square in pairs, bundled up in coats, scarves, and hats, remarkably almost out-populated by the many flying seagulls who meandered around the square, aggressively pecking at food scraps when given the chance. (Nikki made the mistake of dropping a french fry on the ground, and soon after the whole flock eagerly swooped in.)

Today, between our morning and afternoon classes, Nikki and I walked to the nearby Frederiksberg Gardens, an expansive park with Frederiksberg Palace scenically perched atop a steep hill. Our flatmates informed us that while strolling through the park, sometimes you can see elephants from the Copenhagen Zoo that conveniently borders the perimeter of the park. Unfortunately, the elephants weren’t out and about this morning.

We did, however, come across a lovely little coffee stand within the park, at which we both ordered warming chai lattes (mine with oat milk!). Given the chilly temperature, wind, and drizzly rain, it was a delicious, worthwhile comfort.

Frederiksberg Palace

Last night we had a Zoom call with Kelly, our friend from home who we miss dearly. It was great to update her on our whereabouts and also be kept in the loop about Carleton. She also met a few of our flatmates virtually. Sending love to friends and family in the States!

First Impressions

It’s officially been a week since I arrived in Denmark! On Thursday, Nikki (my roommate) and I moved into the Nimbus Kollegium and met our flatmates living there. We have five in total, four of whom are Danish and one who is Norwegian. I feel so lucky to have such a large group of flatmates to share the apartment with.

Arriving at our flat in the Kollegium!

Immediately upon our arrival to the door of our apartment, we were warmly welcomed by our flatmates, all of whom were by the dinner table and had prepared dinner to greet us. It was exciting to be received so graciously. Later that night, three of them took us to the grocery store to give us a quick introduction to the area. I look forward to getting to know all of them better in the coming weeks and months!

The famous canals.

This weekend was our first in Denmark with the opportunity to explore. Several of our flatmates and one of their friends took us to some of the touristy spots in the center of Copenhagen where we saw the picturesque canals, the Amalienborg Palace, and a special bakery to name just a few. Once we became acquainted with the area, we returned to the apartment and drank some hot chocolates (they generously bought a vegan brand so that I could have some) and ate the pastries.

After this helpful introduction to the central part of the city I can’t wait to explore more of it on my own. I’m also starting to get a better grasp of using the Metro system which is great. It’s impressive how efficiently and smoothly it functions as a mode of travel.

Thus far, the flatmates we share the apartment with, the opportunities we’ve had to explore the city, and the first couple of days of classes have been promising! I’m optimistic about the time I’ll spend in Denmark and will continue to post updates about my experiences.

Reflecting On My Upcoming DIS Semester

I’m so excited to be in Denmark! Although I have visited Copenhagen once before with my family several years ago, I am eager to familiarize myself with the city, get to know new people, and take classes with the DIS program. Despite our classes beginning online due to the pandemic, I am optimistic that my time in Copenhagen will be immensely rewarding, prompting lots of personal growth and learning.

Though I’ve traveled to other countries before, my stays have been much shorter. My brief travels to China and Thailand, for example, lasted only a couple of weeks and were service based. Travels to Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and The Netherlands with my parents have been great fun, but much more touristy than immersive. I look forward to living in the Danish Kollegium and getting to know my flatmates while I’m here, learning from them about Danish life and culture as well.

I anticipate that the classes I am taking with DIS will be very reliant on my presence in Copenhagen. I am told that my core course, “Cultural Integration and Diversity,” will involve ethnographic reflections on various locations in the city. Thus, part of the class will rely on my personal exploration of the city (in a COVID-safe manner, of course). I also am particularly enthused about my “Renewable Energy Systems” class that will enlighten me about sustainable and efficient environmental practices employed by Northern European countries like Denmark. “Glued to the Screen,” a course about Scandinavian and American cinema will certainly be interesting, and hopefully my “Travel Writing” class will function as great guidance for my blog writing here as well!

While studying abroad in Copenhagen, I intend to blog about a wide variety of my experiences. From living in a Kollegium, to grocery shopping, visiting restaurants and shops, taking classes, and exploring the city, I’ll document aspects of my life in Denmark that strike me as most unique and engaging. Stay tuned!

Quarantining at the Clarion Hotel

To take proper precautions due to COVID, everyone who is part of DIS is staying at the Clarion Hotel at the Copenhagen Airport for three days before we establish ourselves at the Nimbus Kollegium. My roommate and I are excited to move out of the hotel, meet our new flatmates, and begin exploring the city!

Our window view.

We’ve had virtual orientation sessions on Zoom these past couple days, learning about what to expect living at the Kollegium and what our academic experience with DIS will look like. To pass the time, my roommate and I have taken on a 1,000 piece puzzle and watched several movies!

As I await my departure from the airport, my anticipation is growing. Living in a brand new city is daunting, but I’m looking forward to it. During my time in Denmark, I hope to acquaint myself with Danish culture (and perhaps adopt some much-needed “hygge” in my life), get to know my flatmates in the Kollegium, learn how to use the transportation system, bike around the city at least once, and make the most out of my classes! This blog will highlight some of my favorite experiences over the course of the term.