This winter break, I had the privilege to leave the United States and fly across the continent to a small country in Europe called, Denmark. As a student with UMBC, I decided to apply for the study abroad program to Denmark because not only am I senior who is going to graduate this year but I also wanted to experience studying abroad in a European nation by learning about its culture and history. I was already familiar with the study abroad program before because I had the opportunity to travel to Africa for a study abroad trip to Ethiopia with Montgomery College, so I was not afraid to travel and get out of my comfort zone.
Here are some fun facts about Denmark before I dive into my experience about my time in a small city called, Slagelse and my brief stay at Copenhagen.
Fun facts about Denmark
- One of the happiest countries in the world
- The Danish language has no word for “please”
- The oldest flag in the world
- Have a word for that cozy feeling of togetherness: Hygge
- Danish pastry actually origins from Vienna
- Don’t have any mountains, so biking is never uphill
- More than 50% of Copenhageners cycle to and from work every day
- The Danish alphabet has 3 additional letters: Æ, Ø, and Å
- Have some weird Danish traditions
- You’ll find the two oldest amusement parks in the world in Denmark
- LEGO® was invented by a Dane
- Denmark has 444 islands, but only 76 of them are inhabited
- You’ll never be more than 52km from the ocean in Denmark!
- The Copenhagen harbour is clean enough to swim in
- You can drink water from the tap
- Denmark became the first country to legalise same-sex unions in 1989
- There is an unofficial Danish law for “no one is better than the other”
My group and I stayed at a place called, Gerlev, which is a Sports Academy in Slagelse. My program was specifically about dance and culture and with that I was able to learn how to dance for three weeks while learning about Danish culture and history. As students at Gerlev, we participated not only in our major/minor classes, but we had theme parties, group activities, morning assemblies and team building exercises. Despite the language barrier, I was able to make friends with the Danish and other international students. I was well welcomed and the Danish people were very friendly and accommodating. The food was healthy compare to the American diet and I was able to appreciate the socialization of everyone here in Gerlev. While staying in Gerlev, I learned that it is common for Danish students and other European students to take a gap year after high school and attend a place like Gerlev, where they learn about finding themselves or traveling to other countries before heading to college. This was new to the Americans because it was interesting to learn that there is a culture of self-growth and an emphasis on this type of education.
I further explored this concept and learned that this is known as Folk High School movement and was developed by a guy named, Grundtvig in the 18th century. Grundtvig is said to be the most influential people in Danish history because his work influenced the Danish culture in education, politics and the church. He influenced the Danish education system by advocating that every Danish student should have an education and should communicate ideas and speak out collectively. Grundtvig wanted to educated the Danish youth and take active part in the newborn Danish democracy. Studying about Grundtvig and his impact on the Danish culture was informative and significant because I was able to truly understand the value of the education system of Denmark compare to the United States. Grundtvig’s folk high school movement demonstrates that the Danes value education and believe that every citizen should take part in their nation and democracy and is through education that one can achieve that.
During my stay in Denmark, I had the opportunity to visit Copenhagen and see historical sites. The historical sites that I got to visit were Rosenborg Castle, the Little Mermaid Statue, the West Indies Port, Christianborg, Stock Exchange, Nyhavn, Royal Theater, Marble Church, Amalienborg and the Kastellet. All these historical sites were significant to me because as a history major, I am able to appreciate the historical information but also take from the history of Denmark and apply to my knowledge on European history. My favorite historical places were Rosenborg Castle, the West Indies Port and the Little Mermaid Statue. These were my favorite because I enjoyed studying about the history of Denmark’s monarchy, their role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and their writers.
In conclusion, my study abroad trip to Denmark has been excellent and I would rate it 9 out 10 of an overall score. I had so much fun and despite being homesick, I was able to get out of my comfort zone, challenge myself further, especially in my dance classes, and appreciate the Danish culture and history while learning about myself in the process. My time here in Denmark is thus bittersweet and I will not forget the bonds I have made with so many people here. Though, I wish we had stayed a week longer, visited more historical sites and learned more about the culture, I am satisfied with how everything went and I am immensely thankful for Gerlev community for accommodating our stay and being so hospitable. I would highly recommend this program to the students at UMBC so they can appreciate the wonderful community at Gerlev Sports Academy.