Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Copenhagen, Denmark

November 24-26

This was my last getaway before the term ended, and was very much needed to de-stress before the start of finals. The weekend was mostly spent walking around the city, getting lost in the streets and seeing some of Copenhagen's iconic sights. We obviously spent time in Nyhaven and the city central, but also ventured out to see the Little Mermaid, Christiana and the royal palace. Overall a well spent weekend, and quite relaxing for me having been there a few times before. I was pleasantly surprised to remember a lot of the town and be able to show my friends around.
I feel that a theme of these travel posts has been for me to talk about something I've learned, specific to the trip. For this weekend I think the thing I recognized the most is both the necessity and want to spend money. More and more I've realized that my time here is so limited and the likelihood of me going to some of these places ever again is very slight. With that, I've known that spending money in order to enjoy my time abroad has always been necessary. I want to have that extra cup of coffee walking the streets or have a nice dinner in the center of town or spend the few dollars for an entry fee to something that is completely unique to somewhere I'm travelling.
This partially comes with a bit of wisdom for any fellow travelers; budget generously, spend wisely and come to grasp with the idea that experiences cost money. It sucks, but missing out on things and good food and amazing places will suck at lot more. The one thing you do not want to come home with is regrets. I see coming home without money as a successful time spent here. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

London, England

November 10-12

This trip was probably my favorite place out of all the travelling I've done during this term. I think there were a lot of contributing factors to that, but mostly because I got to see Taryn and meet her new friends along with exploring one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

What I enjoy most about travelling is just taking to the streets and wandering the town. Of course not all of my time can be spent getting lost in a city, but I think it gives me an idea of what its like for the people that live there rather than just being a regular tourist the whole time. I think that I've learned that although being a tourist can let you see some incredible things, it doesn't give you the same impression of the city. I've realized that I go places not to see the sights, but rather to become part of the culture, even if only for a short time, and possibly see myself living there. I have become more and more open to the idea of living in a foreign country since I've been in Denmark, and I think its mostly because now I know I can do it on my own, and its not as difficult as everyone seems to make it.
In London we spent most of our time near the river, walking along the water to find little Christmas markets, eating good food and even finding a Cider-Fest that felt very picturesque. We went and saw Big Ben which was unfortunately covered in scaffolding, rode the London Eye, shopped at Covent Garden and ate at a few proper English pubs (gin included of course). It also happened to be Veteran's Day weekend while we were there and we watched the parade on Sunday morning with a visit from the Queen.
The weekend was all too short and I know I will be back someday to this wonderful city I just got a taste of, but for now I'll just have to look forward to Copenhagen next week. I am also realizing how quickly this semester is coming to an end, seeing that I only have a month left until I see my family!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Making Friends

November 6

Being here has really changed my perspective on what a friendship is. I've come to realize that I rely a lot more heavily on my support system of friends and family than I initially thought, so being here as an individual has given me new challenges.
The system obviously creates the pathways and knowledge to make great friends here. Most of the people I'm closest to here I met in the first few weeks during orientation and the first weeks of class. They are all amazing people and I hope that after we leave here we will stay just as connected and one day reconnect somewhere on the planet. However with all this hope, I still know that I'm not as close with some people as I wish I was, and hopefully in the future weeks we can grow together before we have to leave.
The other group of people here I've had more trouble connecting with is the local Danes. Although extremely friendly and gracious, they are a much harder group to break into. I don't have much contact with locals to begin with, and the few I do, mostly roommates and a few classmates, are weary to new friends, given they've already created their long-term friend groups. Still all lovely people, but definitely not as likely to be bffs.
Also, even more surprisingly, I have become close with many OSU students while here. Although we didn't know each other before, I think the comradary of a similar school and language make bonding much easier in an initially scary situation. It may be against some people's views to keep friends from home rather than branch out, but I think a little bit of comfort and friendly "go beavs" nature while here is that little piece of home that keeps it together.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Classes in Aarhus

November 2

I have about a month left before finals start, and its really starting to kick in that the term is coming to a close. I feel like I have been in classes for forever because the terms here are by semester and not quarter, so there's an extra five weeks of classes and information that I have to know for this paper.
Classes are very different here in Denmark. There's no homework, quizzes or assignments during the term and the final is a paper rather than a test. I know this all sounds amazing at first glance, but you actually end up putting in a lot more work, and I think stressing yourself out, way more than I ever have at home. The problem with no work during the term means two things: one, that you have to make up for a lack of assignments in hours and hours of reading (which lets be honest you will not do all of it) and two, that its very easy to fall behind without realizing it. Although there's a lot of reading, you do benefit by getting less class time every week (usually one or two lectures per class per week). And as an international student you have the added bonus of travelling on the weekends, which takes away reading time and often distracts you from getting things done. I'm definitely one of those people who only gets things done when they really have the motivation of a deadline, so keeping up in classes has been one of my biggest struggles while here.
The other impeding doom about this term is the final. For the most part all the finals here are a paper, with the occasional class that has an oral presentation. That means NO multiple choice, short answer or "easy" tests. For every class that I have I'm writing a 10 page paper in anywhere from 3 to 12 hours. That's a little scary, especially for someone like me who's in business to avoid copious amounts of writing.
Overall school is not stressing me out too much. Although there's a lot of reading and I have so much preparation to do still for finals, I keep having the voice in my head that says its not the end of the world. Yes I need to pass my classes, and yes I want that second degree, but no, failing a class will not be the end of the world and eventually I would recover. Besides, I'm here for the experience of Denmark, its culture and its people, not its textbooks and the walls of a library.

Madrid, Spain

October 26-29

This past weekend I decided to travel to Spain to meet up with my friends Taryn and Ricardo. They are both also on exchange with OSU in Murcia, so we are meeting closer to them, because they are coming to Copenhagen for Thanksgiving.
The weekend started off great. I got there earlier, so I spent the afternoon wandering El Retiro Park and finding some tapas. They came in later that night and we had planned to go to the biggest club in Spain, Teatro Kapital. The whole night reminded me very much of being back in Corvallis; I don't know if it was the people, the places, or what we were doing that night, but it was a welcomed event to see familiar faces and spend a night on the town with the people I trust. I had an amazing night dancing and drinking the night away, and although there were some mishaps, I think everything turned out okay.

The rest of the weekend was a little less eventful. We spent the mornings sleeping in, the afternoons were left to wander the city and get lost in the little streets in the center of the city and at night we went out on the town, drinking and spending too much, but having the best conversations and truly living in the moment.
Our most common conversations during the trip consisted of how different our two experiences had been thus far. I had barely learned any Danish, and they had become nearly fluent out of necessity. I cooked for myself every night, and they could afford to go out to eat almost every weekend. I had become close with a few people from OSU, and they considered their little band of beavers to be family. IT makes me wonder how different my experience would be if I was in a different country or with different people, even though I wouldn't regret anything I've done it the past three months.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Fall Break

October 12-20

In Europe, or Denmark at least, instead of a Thanksgiving break there is one week off in the middle of October right about at the halfway point. Being the opportunistic international student that I am, I took those 8 days to do a big trip to a couple of places I've wanted to go back to ever since I first went.
I have been extremely fortunate to have my family travel somewhere almost every year. So I've actually seen quite a bit of Europe before coming here, but there's always plenty to see. My first time to Europe my entire family took a cruise along the Italian coast, so to go back there as an adult on my own was an amazing experience.

Rome, Italy
Rome is probably one of my favorite cities in the entire world. We only had two days here, which is never enough, but we actually accomplished a lot more than I was ever expecting we would. We had an overnight flight and layover which made us very tired the first day, but nothing a good Italian cappuccino and pastry couldn't fix. We only really had time for the usual tourist stuff: Colosseum, Vatican, Ancient City and other random historical spots along the way. Don't get me wrong I love seeing all the history and learning about that stuff, but my absolute favorite thing to do in any place I go is sit and have coffee or a drink on a little side street watching people and really absorbing the true nature of the city.

I had an overwhelmingly magical moment when we went into the Colosseum on the first day. The last time I was there I was eight years old and barely understood what was happening, but I had this clear image in my mind of a picture my entire family took. It still hangs in my family's kitchen at home and it was the first time everyone in my family had come together for an extended period of time. Without really knowing it as we wandered around the inside of the Colosseum I led myself to the exact spot where we took that picture. It was bittersweet, to be back in such an amazing place, but I couldn't help but remember all the good memories I had with my family. All at once I had this fall to your knees, tear-jerking, wonderful moment of bliss and acceptance that I could do life by myself just as much as I could do it with my family or anyone else. It was quite freeing actually.

Florence, Italy
Just like Rome, I had been to Florence before but didn't really remember too much of it. We had more time here, so I got to really explore, and take my time doing it. Florence is like the smaller version of Rome, with less tourists and more culture. There's just as much to do, but the pace of life is just a little slower and more about enjoying life rather than getting things done.
On the second day we went on a wine tour through Chianti Tuscany. Probably my favorite day of the trip because we did something that was new to me and I got to see some of the most beautiful views in the world. I was equally jealous and ecstatic that people actually lived there and had normal lives. Also checked off a bucket list of drinking wine in Tuscany where it originated from.

Zurich, Switzerland
Two things to know about Switzerland: its one of those places that just takes your breath away everywhere you look, and its insanely expensive. We took the train from Florence up through the country, and it was probably one of the most insanely beautiful train rides ever. Since its October all the trees were just starting to turn colors, and it made the rolling hills come to life with color, which was contrasted with the clarity and deep blue of the lakes. Nothing like it in the world, but that's what makes all these places so special.  

We didn't really do much in Zurich because it was so expensive to do anything or go anywhere. It also wasn't much of a tourist location, so there wasn't a lot to do in the first place. As usual with the typical European town there was some beautiful churches and cute little city squares, but the one thing that stood out in Zurich was the magnitude of high-end shopping, which surprisingly was more cheap than a meal sometimes.
Here, and many of the other places I've traveled I begin to realize how much I depend on myself and that I need to make decisions and choices for myself, not for anyone else. If I want to do or see something, I have to speak up and do it, I can't wait around for someone else or let anyone else sway my opinion. It's making me realize that although I like having lots of people around me and having my friends, I CAN manage without them, quite a bit more than I thought I would ever be able to. If this trip has taught me anything its that I am my own person, and even though sometimes I get lost in the crowd, I am an individual capable of almost anything.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Being in a Foreign Country

October 9

I'm not gonna lie this is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Believe me it's also been one of the greatest experiences of my life, and no matter how much good or bad comes out of this, I'll be extremely thankful for everything that has happened.
It sneaks up on you, that feeling that you are in a foreign country all by yourself. Sometimes I completely forget that I'm in a different place until the lady at the grocery store can't speak English with me, or I have to figure out how to make a doctors appointment, or something as simple as returning home to an empty room. I've realized that life is not that different, no matter where you go. Obviously the language is different, and you're in a different place, but people and your day to day habits are pretty much the same everywhere.
I keep going back to the loneliness, because that's the emotion I feel most here. The hardest part about my life here is being away from my friends, family, and just the familiarity of being home. You make friends here, but I think everyone has the mindset of only being here for a short time, so its hard to really connect. Even the people from Oregon State here are all on such different paths that its difficult to keep track of one another. I'm so used to having a swarm of friends and family around me that being on my own, all alone, all of the time has been the change I have noticed most. And maybe that's a good thing, it shows that adjusting to life in a different foreign country hasn't been that hard; it's just my own emotions that are holding me back.
When I first moved here I remember thinking that every little task I had to do seemed impossible and scary. Now, that I've created some habits and a bit of a routine, it just seems like a regular life. It's not like the movies or all those crazy stories; yes you have your fun nights out and travelling weekends, but day to day, week to week, my life is not incredibly different here.