How to not lose your mind while traveling on your own

At DIS we have two week-long travel weeks. Core courses travel during these weeks but it’s split up, so everyone has at least one week off. I didn’t have a study tour the first week so I traveled to Dublin, Edinburgh, and London.
Edinburgh was my favorite city and reminded me very much of living in Harry Potter. This post will include a lot of how much I loved Edinburgh, just a warning. London reminded me a lot of being in New York mixed with D.C and Ireland really was green.


Step One: Plan and plan and plan ahead. For this trip I actually didn’t travel alone, I traveled with three of my housemates. I did, however, plan everything on my own. It’s weird to think that after 20 years I have never actually done a trip all by myself. Now I understand why I haven’t. It’s super stressful. We did book everything in advance, but there are little things to always look out for. In Dublin, we figured everything the morning of and there were some mess ups. Luckily, many things were free in Edinburgh like the free ghost tour or free Harry Potter tour. Even though I usually hate tours it was a great opportunity to see the city with interesting stories.

Step Two: Always make sure you understand transport. Transport from the airport to where you are staying, as well as to the city center should be on the top of your list
Public transit should be second on your list. As much as we all like to think that city centers are walkable, they all aren’t and sometimes a day pass can really save time. Other times, however, they just simply aren’t worth it. For example, London’s transport was worth it but very expensive. It would have been impossible, however, to see everything if we had not had one. We didn’t need a day pass in Edinbrough. Getting from the airport was relatively cheap round trip and everything was walking distance of each other. The city was so beautiful that the journey really was worth the destination. Dublin, however, was a toss-up. We really didn’t need a travel pass, but the walks were pretty long and the day pass was a little expensive.

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Step Three: Consider the surrounding locations. Surrounding cities should be the third on your list (as well as transport to these cities).
Cities are fun but most can be done within a day or two. This is when one needs to make a crucial decision. Is it better to try and see everything and get as much out of the area as possible or is it better to take things at a slow pace and relax a bit. This was probably the biggest fight we had amongst ourselves during the trip. We often had a slight disagreement on which one was optimal. I often choose to relax and spend time in the city as well as seeing sights, but while abroad I’ve been more interested in soaking up everything. While in Dublin, we saw most of the city in less than a day so the next day one of my roommates and myself went to the surrounding city of Glendalough. It was by far my second favorite part of the trip and really beautiful.

Step Four: Getting along with who you’re with (even if that’s just yourself).
I think it my roommates and myself got along very well, however, spending all day and night with the same people can sometimes be very stressful. We often became crabby and it was important to understand that everything was situational. If in a situation like that I would recommend scheduling even just 30 minutes to an hour of alone time or time, not with your group. I met up with friends from home many times in Edinbrough and had alone time and I think I was in a very good mood for all of the trips because of it. Even if you’re traveling alone it’s important to give yourself a break from yourself. This could take the form of taking a break from planning or just relaxing somewhere it is very beneficial.

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I hope all these steps have helped you when planning your next trip. At the end of the day, I think it’s just important to trust yourself and trust that everything will work itself out. Even with complications, everything is still an experience, With that mindset, any setbacks aren’t as bad and good experiences can be appreciated more.

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Vienna waits​ for you…..if you rush

 

This weekend I took my first official trip outside of Copenhagen. Yes I know I went to Malmo earlier, but that was only a short bus ride. I actually boarded a plane and went through security for this trip to Vienna. One of my housemates was nice enough to invite me with her friends to visit a city that in all joe art I would not have thought to go before. I’m extremely happy I did because not only did I learn a few things about myself but I also feel a bit more confident actually doing things by myself abroad. 

The highlight of the trip was truly the Alps so I’m going, to begin with, that. The really high up Alps are in another city and the ones that are featured in the sound of music are in Strasbourg. Because of logistical reasons and just overall freedoms, we went to the RAX Alps and that was truly the best decision. We could walk around all we wanted, we didn’t have to rent anything and the views were absolutely breathtaking. I also think that because it was an offseason and not as popular of a place, we were the only Americans there. I just had to take a moment to sit and admire the vastness of the mountains. Truly the cost and time it took to get there were worth it. I also use to love the sound of music and I very much did stand on the side of the mountain and listen to a few songs of the sound of music soundtrack. 

In the actual city, there was so much to see but I really enjoyed the Schoenberg palace. It was massive and it was so unlike any palace I’ve seen before. The gardens are free and are pretty large. It blows my mind that people actually use to live there.

A few other things I liked was the cafes and the Christmas market. There was so much to see and there was ice skating. I didn’t ice skate but I loved seeing the decorations. Did not love couples…..

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We went to this cafe that Freud use to study at as well as a few other famous Austrians. This cafe was the culmination of the outer worldly part of the trip for me. 

         We also struck a conversation with this random guy on the street and he started talking about how he’s a healer and reads auras. This led us to hear about how one of the girls with me got a card from another stranger that said: “this is not a dream”. The card was very plain and simple, but it was to help distinguish between what is reality and what are dreams. If it was a dream the card would not look like it did. The spooky part is that she said she had a dream where she saw the card and it was distorted and said this is a dream. Rationally it may have just been a subconscious thing, but I learned that Vienna is not only the city of music but the city of dreams because if Freud. With all the encounters that weekend everything culminated at the cafe where Freud once worked from. It was a pretty experience in all honestly albeit a bit spooky. 

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Some things that I realized about myself during this trip were: 

I really need nature and cannot be in a city too long. I know u mentioned in a previous post that I had nostalgia being in the woods but now I realize it is a need. It’s good to know when figuring out where I want to live when I graduate. 

Another thing u learned is that I really do like people and making relationships even if they won’t last. I find myself connecting to almost everyone in some way and actually like talking to people and being friendly.  Even though it seems trendy now to pretend to hate people, I think that everyone is super interesting to talk to. 

The last thing I learned was that I do have the ability to say no and that I do need a little time for myself in most extended circumstance. 

Some observations: 

The first thing that I was told by an Austrian living in the city was that Austrians are a little jealous of Germans. I never understood that but as I talked to more people I kind of understood what he meant. Another thing everyone was soooo friendly to Americans. Especially the older generation. On the Alps, they all genuinely smiled at us as we were walking around and offered us help and to take our pictures. The same goes with the vibe city center. I really think that only added to the city. 

In comparison to Copenhagen Vienna seems like the older aunt that really values what things use to be. I only say that because if all the magnificent architecture and sculptures. It felt like every place I looked had some sort of deceiving building!!

My Green Copenhagen

 

This weekend has been the first real experience is culture shock I have ever really had. I like to live my life thinking that humans aren’t all that different. I don’t think that there’s much to how we interact with each other and live our lives that can’t be understood by one another. That being said, I do think there are times when having grown up in an area affects how well we can navigate these minute differences. 

So we started the day with my green LLC biking to Østerbro. I don’t know why this was a particularly green city, but the bike ride was cool and for once I actually felt safe going through traffic. After a bike ride, we found ourselves in a swimming pool which I would compare to a YMCA. You could image my excitement when I got the opportunity to swim in the middle of winter. Something I would not usually get or chose to do (lol). The inside was very pretty and the most important is that everything was very warm. I understand why people go swimming now at 30 degrees.

This is where things get different. One must strip down and wash themselves all the way down before going into the pool because of how sanitary things must be in the pool. They don’t use as many chemicals so it’s important that going in clean. We understood this so we chose not to go into the pool. However, we could not find the sauna and asked questions from the lifeguard. While there, we were given a chat and told we had to follow the rules due to the culture and had to rewash ourselves and do it correctly. It was made sure we did it correctly. Afterward, we just went into the sauna and overall had a good rest of the day in the pool house.

What I took from this was to just be more intentional with other cultures. While even thought it was important to stay comfortable I think we needed to be ready to encounter different reactions

We also went to the most sustainable restaurant in Copenhagen called soul today and for someone who doesn’t like veggies, it was really gooooooddd.

I also appreciated this trip because it was the first time we really had the chance to interact with the rest of the green LLC. I love the idea of living in a green LLC, but sometimes I feel like I only interact with my floor. Even though I think we have different personalities, I like it when we interact.

Lastly, we went to a little flea market. The flea market felt very much like a community event where individuals came to not only buy but to hang out. I bought two things and spent only around $15. Overall it was a pretty cool way to see ways to be green in Copenhagen.

That one time in Malmö

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I  feel like I should make a separate post about my time in Malmö, Sweden because it was actually life-changing. This is not going to be the typical study abroad life-changing post. It was one of the most surreal out-of-body experiences I’ve had in probably ever.

Before I start, it’s important to note that Malmö is about a 45 min bus ride from Copenhagen. There’s a really cool bridge that connects Denmark and Sweden and it cost around $10 round trip to go. We decided to stay overnight even though most DIS students only go for the day because we wanted to see how the city was at night.  I think the decision to stay the night is what causes the domino effect of events. As we were driving the bus driver had a very eerie low voice and talked for about 10 minutes while we drove through an uncomfortably long tunnel. When we passed customs a passenger was escorted off of the bus for what I assume not having the right kind of identification. (Students always brings your passport no matter how close)

The city itself, at only 8pm, was quiet. There were barely people on the streets and not a lot of signs of movement. Our Airbnb was 15 minutes from the city center and looked exactly like an apartment complex is (insert African part of Minneapolis or Maryland). No one really populated the area and we got very ominous vibes. On the flip side, there was really cheap food and groceries, but everything else was surreal.

In the morning as we waited for the bus stop it was very overcast which didn’t help with our feelings of eeriness. There were also ravens and loud clicking coming from the meters on the street. We ventured to a mall and there were around 5 guards protecting a line to one store that had a sale.

After migrating a bit more into the city center Malmo started to look a lot like Copenhagen. There were older buildings with colors and statues and shops. Because we were in Sweden and because we had seen many different faces of Malmö we decided to go to IKEA.

IKEA in Sweden is another experience in itself and yes I would recommend going all the way to Sweden to go to IKEA. Did a bunch of 20 something-year-olds walks around and see every section/display within the 2 floors of IKEA? Yes. Did we regret it? No. There was also a pretty big restaurant and I got Swedish meatballs. I don’t want to get super sentimental, but meatballs have a special place in my heart. They’re versatile yet so simple. The Swedish meatballs were Much different from the meatballs I’ve had at home (home cooked) but the sauce did really give it a little something extra.

I’m going to do an actual post about what I did the rest of the week I just thought it was important to highlight this trip and also so I wouldn’t forget a single moment of my unique experience with Malmö.

Tak,

Joe

Electric Feel of the City

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I’ve been thinking of all the ways to begin this blog because so much has happened. I should probably start with first impressions of Denmark. It’s completely not what I expected, yet exactly what I expected. Even though the city is quiet it is also very busy. It doesn’t feel desolate or anything, but I also don’t feel as if I’m in the middle of a huge crowd.

I think my housing situation is going to be the most impactful part of my stay in Denmark. Do you know when you just click with a group of people? That’s how I feel about my floor on the green LLC. There are so many different personalities but we all have a common trait that is hard to explain. Maybe it was our eagerness to establish house rules and chores. Maybe it was our mutual love of staying home and snacking on discounted Brie. Whatever it is, I find myself effortlessly spending time with my new home and my new family.

We also enjoy doing activities together. We’ve gone grocery shopping together, supply shopping together, we’ve visited Nyhaven and the botanical gardens and we’ve bikes together. I almost feel like we’ve spent too much time together for the first weeks so I’m eager to set up some alone time. Nyhaven was as beautiful as google images presented it to be. We were also lucky because many tourists don’t visit it during the winter season. I was also surprised at how small it was. I had about the same reaction to the botanical garden, but the weather really put a damper on what we could see outside for free. The palm house, however, was really warm and I appreciated the amount of mineral they had out with the succulents. It reminded me that I needed to see the geology museum.

Now feel free to ignore this part, but I’m going to talk about two food adventures. One good and one bad to balance each other out. After the botanical gardens, we (I) decided we wanted hot dogs from Pølsevogn. After walking around for several minutes and wandering around the glass market for what felt like years we realized we were looking at the wrong place. After almost going to the corporate office of one of the Pølsevogns and finding ourselves in a public restroom we realized the hotdog stand didn’t exist anymore. Instead, we just got hotdogs from 7 eleven.
Hotdog: 1, Joe: 0.

On the flip side, one of my housemates and myself walked a little bit from our street and found a really good and cheap pizza place called Pizzeria Florentina. We want to make it our go-to pizza place because there are so many different options. It also only cost around 8 for a whole pizza!!

Classes at DIS, however, have been a bit of a different experience. DIS has had us do a lot in the first week such as the opening ceremony, book pickup, and tours around the campus. I think with jet lag all of the activities started to blur. I’m very interested in my classes so far and really appreciate my professors but I’m kind of worried about the prevalence if “oral exams” on so many syllabi.

Just a Stranger

I’m currently reflecting in my own bed for the last time in what will be a long time. A year ago today I was in the warm beach city of Nha Trang, Vietnam and had no thoughts of home. As I prepare to head to Copenhagen I know the weather has been about the same as Indiana and that gives me a bit of comfort. I know I will be reminded of home. Besides the weather, everything about the next four months has seemed so far away. Copenhagen resembles a stranger that I have yet to meet. I know a lot about what my semester will look like, but it still feels unreal.

At DIS there are core courses and elective courses. Often individuals chose a core course that aligns with their field of study at their home universities. Some, however, chose to branch out. My core course incorporates a case study involving glaciers in Iceland. I’m excited about this core because it integrates actual human impact scenarios and climate change. DIS incorporates field study trips within the semester so we will visit many different places that supplement the course. Aside from my interest, this course will count towards my Environmental Geoscience degree at DePauw University. Whoo graduating on time!!

I have spent the past few weeks saying my final goodbyes to friends and family (yes, I know it sounds like I’m going away forever). A lot of DePauw students study abroad and the majority of those students study abroad during the spring semester of their junior year. A good chunk of us will embark on our own little study abroad adventures and its pretty cool to see and hear about everyone’s experiences. I’ve probably had some sort of shared food related goodbyes with at least 20 of my closest friends to prepare for the 5 months of separation. I’m sad, but also anxious, to get started on my own endeavors.

I’ve also been preparing for the actual journey. I continuously fight against my urge to over prepare and my hate of having too much stuff. I have settled on one checked bag and reluctantly a carry on along with my backpack. I don’t think the trip will be too hard as I enjoy a long ride, but I’m extremely worried about navigating through.

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Greetings from Copenhagen​!

 

My name is Joevita Weah and I am an Environmental Geoscience major at DePauw University.

I will be studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark through DIS (Danish Institute for Study Abroad). While in Copenhagen I will be studying Glaciers and Human Impact: Icelandic Climate Change Case Study as a core course and living in the Green Living-Learning Center

My elective courses are:
Renewable Energy Systems
Waste Management Systems in Europe
Environmental Economics
Danish Language and Culture

I plan to update this blog regularly about my academics, travel, and relationships abroad. I plan to post pictures, thoughts, and recaps to bring a little bit of Denmark to you.

Best,
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