DIS 101: Life in a Homestay

I think the absolute hardest part of leaving Copenhagen next month will be leaving my amazing host family. Here are my top 10 moments from this semester!

10. Visiting Tivoli and Bakken

A few weeks ago, we went to the pre-opening of Tivoli (an amusement park in Copenhagen) because my host mom’s oldest daughter works there. We had an amazing time riding roller coasters and exploring the parks, and you can read about it here! We also went to Bakken, an amusement park right outside Copenhagen.

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9. Visiting the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, and the Statens Museum with my host parents

When my host sister was away for the weekend, my host parents took me to see the Lousiana Museum of Modern Art. We were able to see beautiful paintings, sculptures, photographs and more from all around the world. It was a really amazing place to visit, and it’s even better to visit it with your two wonderful host parents! On other weekends where my host sister was away, we visited other museums in the Copenhagen area. These visits have been a highlight of my semester.

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8. Seeing the Round Tower

The first time I visited the Round Tower, it was with my host family. It became one of my favorite places in all of Copenhagen, and I have my host family to thank for it!

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7. Taking Selfies with my Host Sister

We take a lot of selfies… that is all.

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6. Celebrating my Host Sister’s Birthday

We celebrated my host sister’s 14th birthday in March, and it was an amazingly fun experience! It was great to see what a traditional Danish birthday party is like.

5. Going to Zumba with my Host Sister

Going to Zumba was quite the experience! Since I don’t speak Danish, I had to just try to follow the instructor. My host sister did a great job translating the directions for me!

4. Visiting the Blue Planet with my Host Sister

A few weeks ago, my host sister and I went to the Blue Planet, Copenhagen’s Aquarium. We had a wonderful time, and she showed me an amazing park on the way back where I go for runs now.

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3. Watching Movies Together

We’ve watched some great movies together! My host sister showed me her favorite: Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief. I showed my host family School of Rock, and we are watching the Sound of Music tonight. These movie nights are a great chance to relax and spend time together on the weekends.

2. Laughing Together

As with any group of people from different cultures, there are bound to be a few miscommunications! When we picked up my host grandmother to go out to dinner a few weeks ago, she told me that her husband was staying at home and would eat some “snakes” with friends. I was immediately very confused, and I started to think I had come across some different element of Danish cuisine. However, the look on my host father’s face told me that I had reason to be confused! “Snakes?!,” he said, and my host grandmother insisted they were having snakes. After some quick translations, we realized that the true meal was “snacks.” 🙂

1. Eating Together

Every night, I have dinner with my host family. I look forward to these meals, because they are an opportunity to relax together and talk about our days. We talk about Danish life, American life, and life in general. We laugh, we joke around, and we enjoy great food with big smiles on our faces.

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This is currently the background on my host sister’s phone, and it’s one of my favorite pictures from my time in Denmark.

As the time is ticking away in Copenhagen, I’m starting to realize that there is nothing I will miss more than these experiences with my amazing Host Family!

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DIS 101: Culture in Stockholm

For more about the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, check out the rest of my DIS 101 series.

Now that I’ve told you about our academic visits in Stockholm, I’m excited to tell you about the cultural aspects! One of the reasons I chose DIS was because of their unique study tours program: week-long visits with your Core Class where you get to visit another country and apply what you’re learning in the classroom. For my core course, Children with Special Needs, we visited Stockholm, Sweden for one week.

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On our first day, we started experiencing the culture by having a delicious meal of Swedish Meatballs! I swear, they have nothing on the ones you can get at IKEA in the states. So delicious! After we checked into the hotel, we came back into the city for a scavenger hunt. We saw many awesome places and historic buildings in Gammel Torv, or the old city.

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We had the evening to explore by ourselves, which led to some beautiful views of the city at night!

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Our next cultural experience was a tour of Stockholm by boat. It was extremely cold outside, but it was lovely to ride a boat from the harbor and around the many islands that make up the city of Stockholm. There were some beautiful views from the boat, and our tour guide was able to tell us all about the history of the sights.

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Stockholm’s architecture was absolutely gorgeous from the water!

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Our next cultural experience was very interesting: we went to the see The Magic Flute performed at the Royal Swedish Opera! What made it difficult, though, was that both the opera and the scrolling subtitles were in Swedish! Before the show, we were given a brief synopsis in English so that it would be easier to understand. The opera was crazy, but it was very cool to see how much you can understand when all the words are in a foreign language.

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Our two final cultural visits were to Swedish museums. One was called the VASA museum, where a ship from the seventeenth century is preserved. The ship sunk in 1628, and wasn’t pulled out of the water for 333 years! The ship was absolutely enormous, and it was covered with sculptures and decorative elements.

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Right next door to the museum was Junibacken, an amazing museum for children that is based on the stories of Astrid Lindgren. Most American people will know her for her amazing book, Pippi Longstocking, but she also wrote many other books that are classic in Scandinavia, like The Brothers Lionheart and Ronya, the Robber’s Daughter. I’ve been reading her books in my Children’s Literature class, so it was absolutely amazing to visit a museum build around her stories!

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Above the entrance to Junibacken, there is this adorable collage of characters from Lindgren’s stories. Recognize Pippi?

One of the coolest elements of the museum was the Story Train, where you sit and hear passages from Lindgren’s story while riding above beautifully constructed visuals of the stories. It was similar to the Hans Christian Andersen ride at Tivoli in Copenhagen!

The museum also had plenty of little places to explore, and we all had a fun time walking through this building of stories. It was definitely a highlight of our trip to Stockholm!

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I felt like Harry Potter, sitting in this cupboard under the stairs!

While each of our cultural visits was an absolute blast, we also got to experience Swedish culture through eating Swedish food all week. We had many delicious meals where we were able to bond with one another over food.

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At dinner on our last night in Stockholm

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Having dinner out together before the Royal Swedish Opera

We had an amazing time on our trip to Stockholm, and it’s definitely a place worth visiting!

 

DIS 101: Learning in Stockholm

For more about the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, check out the rest of my DIS 101 series.

As part of every core course, DIS students go on two trips: a short study tour and a long study tour. The trips are a great opportunity to apply our knowledge in a larger context and learn about the issues facing different geographic regions. For my core course, Children with Special Needs, we went to Western Denmark for our first tour and Stockholm for our longer tour.

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The view from our plane on the way to Stockholm

Visiting Stockholm as a group was an amazing opportunity to get to know each other better, as well as apply what we learned in the classroom to field visits in another country. In this post, I’ll focus on the academic portions of the trip, but my next post will focus on all the fun cultural stuff!

We started the trip with two interesting lectures: one by a child psychologist who works with adolescent victims and perpetrators of sexual assaults, and one by a former DIS professor on the TEACCH method for students with Autism. Both lectures were amazing, and got us thinking more about the ways in which we can educate all types of students.

When you’re studying Education, academic visits can also be extremely fun! Our next visit was to a Culture House called Rum För Barn, which is a library especially for children.

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The space was absolutely beautiful, and it was completely designed around what would be best for children (taking their input to determine what “best” is)! We learned about nooks and crannies where children can sit and read, the various rooms that are organized by reading level, and more. For example, in the room for children 0-3, soft covered books were on the bottom shelves so that the children could reach them on their own. The higher shelves included fragile paper books that only older children or adults should be handling.

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There was even a beautiful reading room where we listened to a story, and blocks to play with! It was a wonderful visit that really allowed us to see libraries from a child’s perspective.

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After Rum För Barn, we made three more visits. The first was to a school for children and young adults who may have had behavioral troubles or learning difficulties in a traditional school. We were able to talk to a group of teenagers, asking them about their life in Sweden and telling them about life in the U.S.A. However, my favorite part of this visit didn’t come from small talk. My favorite part was hearing the teachers and the students themselves talk about the school.

The teacher in the classroom we were visiting was talking about how she didn’t consider this school to be a “last resort” for “troubled children.” Instead, she considered it a place for “VIPs”: a place where children with extraordinary talents could grow through different learning techniques and small class sizes. One of the students reiterated this point, saying that the school was a place where he could be accepted for who he was, and success was still expected of him. I think this is what every school should be like: a place where individual weaknesses are accepted and individual strengths are encouraged.

After this, we visited a therapy center for students who fall on the autism spectrum. To be completely honest, this was my least favorite visit. The work the center is doing is great, but the center itself felt very clinical. It felt like a place people go to be “cured” or “treated.” After visiting a number of places where the buildings themselves are built around children and their needs, this place felt a little too much like a hospital. However, it was a great way to see a different approach for autism treatment.

On our last full day, we had an amazing visit to an incredible preschool. The preschool itself is multicultural, where 3/4 of the children speak a language other than Swedish at home. The school uses Reggio Emilia methods, and documentation of student success and parental involvement are two key focuses.

When we arrived, a teacher took a photo of us. We went inside and sat down, and adorable children pushed in a cart filled with coffee, juice, and biscuits. On the cart, there were individual cups with slips of paper inside. We were told to wait as the children picked up one cup at a time and brought it to the teacher. It turned out the children had written our names down on slips of paper, and when the teacher read them aloud, the children brought the cup to the right person. This went along with the center’s philosophy that your name is a huge part of your identity.

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The children did a great job writing out my name!

The students also performed a rendition of a Michael Jackson song for us, which was one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen! After a brief presentation, the children gave us tours of the facilities. Considering they were all under the age of 5, this was very impressive! The walls of the school were absolutely covered in photos of the children with descriptions of successes they had at the center. The children each had an individual book that documented their growth during their time at the school, and the students were so eager to show us their individual books! It was an amazing place where every single child was taught to be proud of themselves. They also showed us a new addition to the walls – a poster welcoming us to the center, with the picture we took outside when we first arrived!

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My favorite part of this visit was hearing about the mentoring program. When a new child is going to start attending the preschool, they are matched with an older child (around age 5). The older child goes around the school and takes pictures of the things they want the new student to see. The mentor then visits the home of the child and tells them all about the school. On the first day, the mentor and the teacher meet the child at their home and walk with the parents to the school. The second day, they meet halfway and walk with the parents to the school. The new, young child already has a cool, older friend, and the parents feel welcomed into the community. I think this program is AMAZING, because it empowers older students to take responsibility and guide a younger child.

Overall, I learned SO much during our trip to Stockholm. It was an amazing week filled with fun and practical academic visits. The study tours are an absolutely incredible part of the DIS experience, and I think they are what make DIS so unique.

New Word Wednesday: Rutchebanen

For more Danish vocabulary, check out the “New Word Wednesday” series on this blog.

This week, I have a very fun word to share with you all: rutchebanen! The pictures below probably give it away, but rutchebanen is the Danish word for “roller coaster.”

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Last night, my host family and I attended Tivoli’s first open evening. The park doesn’t officially open until tomorrow, but they have two “pre-open” nights for friends and family of people who work in the parks. Two of my host mom’s daughters work at Tivoli, so we were able to get in for free!

The second we entered the gates, I realized this wasn’t your typical amusement park. The full name of the park is “Tivoli Gardens,” and the park definitely lives up to the “gardens” part of its name! Green grass and beautiful flowers are everywhere you look, along with some beautiful architecture.

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Our first ride of the evening was the Hans Christian Andersen ride. On the ride, you enter cars that take you through a narrated summary of many of Andersen’s most famous stories, like Thumbelina, The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, and more. It was absolutely gorgeous inside!

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The tower outside of the ride

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Thumbelina’s habitat

After the ride, we went to see a little show that was being performed for the children. Tivoli has many stages spread throughout the gardens, so there are multiple places to see live performances.

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After the show, we went on a few more roller coasters before eating dinner at one of Tivoli’s great restaurants.

Finally, we finished up the night by viewing the light show that happens at 9:45. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen! I strongly recommend it for anyone visiting the park.

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Overall, it was a really beautiful evening spent with my amazing host family!

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With my host sister in front of Tivoli’s beautiful blossoms

Copenhagen Crash Course: The Round Tower

Want to learn more about life in Copenhagen? Here’s my feature on a Copenhagen landmark: the Round Tower! For more about the sights and cities of Denmark, check out the rest of my Copenhagen Crash Course series.

One of my favorite things to do in new cities is to get a view of the rooftops. I think it’s a great way to take a look at the architecture. Some buildings are built to stand out, so their towers are a highlight of the city skyline. Other buildings are more understated, but beautiful nonetheless. In Copenhagen, there are a few great places to see the view. The Round Tower (Rundetaarn) is a must see for any visitor to Copenhagen!

Where is it?

The Round Tower is located just a 5-10 minute walk away from Nørreport Metro Station, one of the busiest spots in Copenhagen. It’s also extremely close to Strøget (Copenhagen’s “walking street”), the Botanical Gardens, and the King’s Garden – highlights of the city that I’ll be blogging about in the future!

When did you visit?

I first visited the Round Tower with my host family. It was such a beautiful day, and I immediately fell in love with the view. I’ve been back a few times since then with friends.

What makes the building unique?

It’s actually super interesting – the Round Tower is part of a building that contains a church, is home to an observatory, and used to house a university library. This blending of science and religion was very unique when the tower was built from 1637-1642!

What does the inside look like?

The Round Tower doesn’t have any stairs. Instead, it’s just one winding walkway that goes up over seven stories. The whole walkway is 209 meters long! Rumor has it that when noblemen would visit, they could ride in carriages up to the top of the tower. Horses could walk up, and it was beneath the European royalty to walk up to the top!

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One thing that children love are the little niches in the center of the tower. Kids love to hide inside and shout out at their families as they pass by. My host sister fit perfectly!

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Why is it a Copenhagen must-see?

The view from the top is absolutely spectacular. As you begin to climb, the views from the windows get nicer and nicer. Windows from the buildings next door turn into roof-tops, and eventually the sky fills the windows. Once you reach the top, there is a panoramic view of the whole city.

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Is there anything else besides a spectacular view?

The old library in the tower has been turned into an exhibition space, so different art pieces or informational exhibits are located there during the year. It’s a great open space that’s included with admission.

You can also see the bell room that’s above the church that the tower is attached to. The attic has some beautiful bells and interesting artifacts from the earlier days of the tower.

The church that’s attached to the tower, Trinitatis Kirke (or Trinity Church), is worth the visit as well! This part is free to visit, and it only takes a minute or two to stop in and see the beautiful sanctuary.

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Any suggestions for visiting?

A friend of mine came to visit last month, and we took a Canal Tour of Copenhagen in the morning. We climbed the tower in the afternoon, and it was so cool to be able to spot out all the places we had visited on the Canal Tour! I recommend taking in this view after a day of exploring the city, because it’ll be fun to find all the landmarks you’ve been to so far.

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My friends Chapin and Amy visited the Round Tower with me after a long day of exploring the city

How much does it cost?

Tickets are just 25 DKK for adults, which is about $4.60 in US currency. It’s definitely worth it!

Where can I find out more?

The Round Tower’s website is located at http://www.rundetaarn.dk/.

DIS 101: Healthcare Strategies for At-Risk Populations

For more about the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, check out the rest of my DIS 101 series.

In addition to my DIS Core Course of Children with Special Needs and my practicum course, I’m also taking three elective courses at DIS. One of my favorites is called Healthcare Strategies for At-Risk Populations, and it’s allowing me to take a closer look at the public health issues Denmark and the world are facing.

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What’s the course description?

According to the DIS website, “This course will study harm reduction as a healthcare strategy for at-risk populations such as intravenous drug users, undocumented immigrants, prisoners, sex workers, and homeless people not easily targeted through programs in conventional health care delivery. The course will explore Danish case studies. Societies implement programs to lower health risks for vulnerable populations, but challenges arise due to external circumstances such as legal restraints, stigmatizations, or barriers involved in accessing hard to reach populations.”

Who teaches it?
One of the reasons I chose DIS is because of the professors. DIS professors are experts who have practical experience in their fields. Our professor for Healthcare Strategies, Morten, is a Research Assistant at HIV-Danmark.

What is a typical class session like?
Before our class, Morten sends out questions to go with the assigned readings. At the beginning of the class, we start with an engaging lecture about the topic for the day. Although Morten is delivering information, we are also participating by bringing in thoughts from the readings and our outside experiences. We usually have very active discussions and group work later in the class. It’s been amazing to hear the perspectives of my other classmates and contribute my own.

What kinds of assignments do you have for the class?
We have two tests for the class over the course of the semester, but a large majority of what we are doing comes in the form of our group work. We were split into five groups at the beginning of the semester, and each group is matched with an organization that assists an at-risk population in Copenhagen.

What organizations do students have the opportunity to work with?
We can work with organizations that seek to assist asylum seekers, intravenous drug users, victims of sex trafficking, and more.

What do you do with the organizations?
My group has been matched with the Trampoline House, a culture house in Copenhagen for asylum seekers. Our academic work is largely interviewing people at the house, but we also have the opportunity to participate in the work the house does. One of my group members is taking Danish classes at the house. We can also attend the Friday dinners or house meetings on Tuesdays. At the end of the semester, we’ll be writing an article about the house for a website.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned in this class so far?

Honestly, a lot of our readings have been fascinating. They all show real life cases of harm reduction, which seeks to reduce the harm to individuals and society that come from at-risk behaviors.

One of the most eye-opening things has been reading about the asylum process in Denmark and other countries. Being stuck in poor conditions while waiting for months and months to hear about your fate can cause some serious mental health issues. Luckily, some great organizations like Trampoline House are working to empower asylum seekers and give them the support they need.

What’s your favorite part of the class?
I really like talking through the issues in class. My classmates have such amazing ideas, and we all get something different out of the readings. I’m very glad I signed up for this class!

DIS 101: DIS By The Numbers

For more about the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, check out the rest of my DIS 101 series.

Now that I’ve been going to school in Copenhagen for over a month(!), I thought I’d share with you all some of the basics about the Danish Institute for Study Abroad!

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DIS students in the Child Development and Diversity program.

Number of academic programs offered at DIS: 22.1 At DIS, every student is a part of one academic program. That’s what you’ve chosen to focus on during your semester at DIS. You travel with the program on study tours and field studies, and you pick a core course within your program.

Number of electives offered at DIS: over 190.2 In addition to your core course, you take elective classes. They can be related to your major or totally different – it’s up to you! This semester, I’m taking Scandinavian Children’s Literature, Healthcare Strategies for At-Risk Populations, and Danish Language and Culture as electives.

Number of housing options for DIS students: 6.3 DIS students are all over the place! We live in homestays, Living and Learning Communities (LLCs), kollegiums, DIS Residential Communities (DRCs), at Folkehøjskoles, and with Danish roommates.

Number of selfies taken during the arrivals workshop: limitless.4 DIS Executive Director Malene Torp welcomed us to DIS by asking us to take selfies with the people around us. Inspired by President Obama’s selfie with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, DIS students filled instagram with selfies!

Money raised for the Danish Heart Association by the DIS Ambassadors: over 900 DKK! 5 On Valentine’s Day, we set up a fundraiser near Copenhagen’s City Hall. We gave out balloons for a 5 kroner donation, and we had over 190 balloons in the air! Even though it was cold, this was a great opportunity for us to interact with some Danes and tell them more about our American traditions. Check out some pictures of the event, and click here for more information on the DIS Ambassadors program!

Number of times I smiled during this DIS Yearbook video: countless. To be honest, this video is one of the reasons I chose DIS! Countless more amazing videos can be found on the DIS Youtube Channel.

Number of student bloggers this semester: 26.6 I’m so grateful to be a part of this program where current students can share their experiences with friends, family, and prospective students. Click here to read about DIS from a different perspective!

New Word Wednesday: Musik

For more Danish vocabulary, check out the “New Word Wednesday” series on this blog.

So, this week’s word is very easy to translate, but I thought I’d write about some Danish musik for you all!

Many of the popular Danish artists write songs in Danish and English, probably because writing in English opens up the songs to a larger demographic. This is great for students like me, because it means we can understand some of the musik that is popular here in Denmark!

One of the extracurricular activities I’m taking part in during my time in Denmark is the CBS International Choir at the Copenhagen Business School. We are having such a great time rehearsing so far! Our instructor, the amazing Asrid Nora, conducts rehearsals in English and chooses a great mix of music from many different cultures.

While we will be singing some songs in Danish, we are also singing some songs in English that were written by Danish artists. At tonight’s rehearsal, we started learning “Geronimo” by Aura Dione. It’s ridiculously catchy, and actually sounds really great in a 4-part choir! We have an awesome arrangement that we’re performing, but here’s the original for your listening pleasure:

I also keep hearing a lot about Danish artists Nik & Jay. The first time I heard of this duo was at an event with people from my homestay network. DIS organizes a jump-start event where people living in the same area can meet up. Our first event was one day before the Superbowl, so one of the host dads invited all the students to join his family for a Superbowl party the next day. We ate great burgers and played board games, but we also got to talk to him and his wife about Danish culture for a little while. He said that Nik & Jay were super popular with his wife and young daughter!

According to Nik & Jay’s website, they have had 19 hit singles in a row! They’ve also been around and having major musical success for the past decade. I can only think of a few comparable American superstars!

Nik & Jay do record a few songs in English, but most are in Danish. That doesn’t make them any less enjoyable to listen to! Here’s one of their Danish songs, called Mod Solnedgangen, or “Towards Sunset.” I like the chorus at 1:15!

And in case you love their voices and want to hear an English tune, here’s “United” by Nik & Jay featuring Lisa Rowe!

I definitely suggest taking a closer look at some of these Danish artists! There’s a lot of great music coming out of Europe, and I hope these songs spread to the U.S.

Copenhagen Crash Course: Denmark by the Numbers

Want to learn more about Denmark? Here’s Denmark By The Numbers! For more about the sights and cities of Denmark, check out the rest of my Copenhagen Crash Course series.

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Size: Slightly less than twice the size of Massachusetts1. It’s strange to think that the foreign country I’m living in isn’t so much bigger than the state I live in at home!

Population of Denmark: 5,556,4522By comparison, New York City had a population of 8,337,000 in 2012.

Population of Copenhagen: 1,206,0003. I feel lucky to be a part of that 1.2 million for the semester!

Kilometers traveled by bicycle every day in Copenhagen: 1.27 million4. I contribute 2km by biking to the Metro stop and back each day.

Length of Strøget, the longest pedestrian street in the world: 3.2 kilometers5. Located close to DIS, Strøget is an awesome place to walk around, enjoy pastries, and do a little shopping, all without cars in the way!

Number of nobel laureates from Denmark: 146Denmark has had one Peace Prize winner, and 5 in physiology or medicine! For a country with such a small population, 14 winners is a huge number.

Use of candles per person per year: 2346 grams7Candles make up a huge part of decor – they can lead to a hyggelig atmosphere!

Number of Danish films that have sold more than one million tickets: 38In comparison, The Hunger Games sold over 50 million tickets.

Days with precipitation each year: 1719. It rains every second day in Denmark. Good thing the Danes know how to keep a good attitude about it!

Number of letters in the Danish alphabet: 2910In addition to the 26 letters we use in English, the Danish alphabet includes the letters ø, å, and æ.

New Word Wednesday: Cykel

For more Danish vocabulary, check out the “New Word Wednesday” series on this blog.

When I decided to study abroad in Denmark, advice started pouring in from former DIS students and friends who had visited Denmark. The most common piece of advice I received was “rent a bike!” At first, I was hesitant. Biking in a city can be scary, especially when there is snow on the ground! But after living here for the past three and a half weeks, I can’t imagine my daily life without a bicycle.

The Danish word for bicycle is cykelThe word isn’t pronounced the way you would think. In the US, our word “cycle” is pronounced SAI-kul. In Denmark, cykel is pronounced SOO-kul. It’s a pretty common word here, because Danes love to ride their bikes!

According to Denmark’s official website, over 50% of Copenhagen residents ride their bike every day. There are more bikes than inhabitants! What is even more surprising is the use of bicycles by political figures. 63% of the members of parliament commute by bike! Can you imagine seeing Nancy Pelosi hop on a bike towards the Capitol Building?

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Bicycles at Nørreport Station, where I get off the Metro every day. Yes, there is a second level to the bike racks!

I love riding my bike every day! It makes my commute much shorter, because I can bike to the train station instead of walking. The hardest part of riding my bike is definitely when there is snow on the ground, although it’s easier than I thought. I think it’ll seem strange to be back in Boston or DC and have no bicycles around from November-April!

For DIS students, two companies have a really great deal on bike rentals. The school is also super informative when it comes to giving us all the information about traffic laws, bike safety, and more. If you’re considering DIS, read more about Cycling in Copenhagen here!