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.

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)!

An Outing to Dyrehaven

“The air is so fresh here!” exclaim our flatmates. We’ve just exited the train station, accompanied by three of our flatmates who generously offered to show us Dyrehaven, a famous deer park.

A short train ride from Frederiksberg gets us here, to the beautiful forested park just north of Copenhagen. I imagine in the spring and summer months, lush greenery occupies every inch of the environment, but on our visit, the landscape is filled with hues of cool blues from the sky, and gleaming white from the thin blankets of snow covering the ground. The snow is striking to the eye and reminds me of Carleton’s vast arboretum in the winter, perpetually characterized by thick white carpets of precipitation.

The weather is refreshing, though chilly. Upon arriving at the park, we stop at a small coffee stand where we indulge in hot cocoa, chai tea, and coffee. While strolling through the park, we encounter many horse-drawn carriages. Horses prance by, pulling bundled up adults and children in their tow. Blissful dogs trot alongside their owners, happy to be outdoors and among the fresh air, just as their human companions are.

An empty ride

We pass through “Bakken,” an amusement park located within the Dyrehaven woods. Notably, it’s known as “The World’s Oldest Amusement Park,” a venue visited by people seeking out the area’s natural springs in 1583 because they were believed to have curative properties. Now, it’s empty, made barren by the pandemic. Colorful roller coasters sit in disuse, only taken in by the eyes of passersby like ourselves wandering through.

A recreation of the set of “Matador”

Coincidentally, Nikki and I notice a recreation of the set of the iconic Danish television show “Matador” (Monopoly, in English) within the amusement park. We watched an episode or two of the show for our class titled “Glued to the Screen: TV Shows, Norms, and Culture,” and it’s intriguing to see a model of the fictional town in real life.

As we cautiously make our way across the icy paths, I observe lots of young kids tugging on clunky sleds, accompanied by their parents. Denmark isn’t a particularly hilly country, but within this park, the topography is great for sledding. It’s a fantastic recreational activity, and to get a taste of the fun the children are having, my flatmates and I take turns trying to slide across the icy paths by getting a running start and coasting down small hills on the bottoms of our sneakers.

Finally, we see the Hermitage Hunting Lodge far in the distance. The sun is perfectly angled and shines directly on the majestic building as if showing us the way to our destination. Originally built in 1734 for the royal family to host banquets and hunting trips, it looks remarkably well preserved. Imposing and grand, its teal rooftop complements the color of the vivid blue sky.

We pause for a brief snack break and enjoy the homemade pizza we prepared the night before. The pizza is piled with thinly sliced potatoes (a new concept for me!), zucchini, onion, mushroom, pepper, and vegan cheese––the perfect portable treat. After we finish, we head back in the direction of the train station. It’s a pleasant, leisurely stroll, and the bright sun filters through the branches of the trees that line the paths we walk on.

We only see one deer on the jaunt. It’s far off in the distance, slightly obscured by the foliage, delicately grazing. Too far away to capture in a photo, I simply take in its presence. It is a deer park, after all, and I’m glad we saw at least one of the creatures responsible for the setting’s namesake.

On our way home, we pick up some fancy vegan pastries at the bakery I’ve come to frequent, called “Naturbageriet.” Nikki and I select a variety of baked goods for the flat to try later, and once home, all of us dig into our tasty haul. It’s a delightful way to end the trip, and I’m appreciative for the outing, company, and special treats.

Our delicious Naturbageriet assortment

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!

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.