Welfare State? Complicated. Pastries? Delicious.

I’m certainly ending my first week in Copenhagen in a much more relaxed place than I started it. Picture writing in a cozy living room after sleeping in and making eggs and toast, and then picture me sprinting across the airport after getting lost and then getting the wrong directions and about to miss my flight. It has been an absolutely crazy (but also wonderful week) and I’m so already loving the program and Copenhagen.

Isn’t it beautiful, even below freezing in the rain? *insert heart eye emoji*

Before I get too far, let me elaborate on my travel mishaps. My flight from Phoenix to San Francisco was delayed by two hours, which gave me a small window of 30 minutes between landing and my flight for Copenhagen departing. I knew it would be a stretch to make it, and once I landed, I quickly realized I was no match for a large and unfamiliar airport. I made the mistake of leaving security to make it to the international terminal, and I only made it back through 10 minutes after my flight departed. I was able to get rescheduled to a flight the same time the next day, and luckily enough, I was able to stay with the family of one of my best friends at Georgetown who lived just south of the airport. I was extremely frustrated at first, but realized how lucky I was to have somebody so close to me to stay with and ended up having quite a nice day exploring Palo Alto, so I honestly can’t even complain that much about missing my flight!

View of Stanford and Palo Alto from The Dish (This hike and view was much needed to destress after the hot mess I was the day before in the airport!)

About a week in, there is already so much I can say that I love about this city. DIS classrooms are located in the heart of the medieval city center, which means that I pass by countless cafes and monuments making my way between classes. My goal has been to scout out a new cafe or study spot whenever I get the chance, and I have yet to be disappointed! Quite honestly, I don’t think you can find a bad pastry in the city, and it’s so hard not to pop into a cafe and buy one every time you see the mouthwatering display in the window. The combo of cozy cafes and minimalist libraries represent two of the most distinctive elements that make up the fabric of Copenhagen: hygge (cozy, warm, content) and good design! I have turned down the wrong street and gotten on the wrong train line more than enough times for me only being here a week, but I’m relying less and less on my phone’s map to guide me which is a promising sign. I’m also massively struggling with pronouncing Danish words: my Duolingo practice did not give me the right kind of prep for the words and phrases I’m encountering in everyday life, but most Danes I have interacted with speak excellent English so it is luckily not hampering my ability to get around day to day.

I have always disliked commuting, but my commute into Copenhagen from my homestay is actually quite pleasant and a welcome departure from dorm life, with a short walk to the train station and then a 10–12 minute ride into the city (it helps that trains are quite reliable and arrive once every 3–5 minutes during commuting times)!

Left: The Black Diamond/Danish Royal Library, Right: cafe a few blocks from DIS classes with delicious chocolate chip banana bread

One of the main reasons why I wanted to study in Denmark was because of its reputation as one of the happiest countries and its robust welfare state that is frequently referenced in US politics, as well as Copenhagen’s reputation for sustainability and excellence in urban planning and design. Both in my Scandinavian Welfare States class and in conversations at the dinner table with my host family, I have already engaged quite a bit in deconstructing expectations about policy and how Danes interact with this structure in their everyday lives. The picture of motivations and outcomes is a lot more complicated than I imagine most Americans see it as, and I’m excited to continue to learn quite a bit more and hopefully be able to engage in really thoughtful conversations about what the US can learn (or not) from Denmark when I return home.

There is so much to look forward to right around the corner: I’m traveling to Hamburg with my urban studies class in just under two weeks! I’m excited to continue to settle in to my routine and find some favorite spots but also to keep exploring this beautiful city!

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