“Studying” Abroad

I have seen a windmill in Malmö. I have drunk a liter of beer in Berlin. I have made pierogies in Poznan. I have spent an afternoon in the thermal baths of Budapest. I have seen a classical music performance in Vienna. I have seen a puppet opera in Prague. I have eaten a Belgian waffle in the middle of the town square in Brussels. I have seen the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night while eating macarons. I have eaten a particularly special cupcake in Amsterdam. I have done all of these things around Europe, but after each trip I get to come home to Copenhagen.

Throughout my time here, I have learned some of the city’s quirks. The sun is a fickle monster here. It comes out for a few days then says “just kidding” and leaves for weeks, occasionally poking its head out for minutes at a time just to check in. I don’t think I will ever get used to crossing the bridges on my way to school and seeing the colorful buildings lining the canals. One thing that Danish people do that I thought I would never get used to is that they actually leave their babies outside. Oh you have to go in to buy a sweater? Just park the stroller outside, no big deal, it will be there when you’re done. And it always is. Another thing, when a kindergarten class gets on your bus in their colorful onesies in the morning it will undoubtedly be the highlight of your day. Speaking of public transportation, it never ceases to change. Not only that, but I will consistently be 15 seconds behind the bus I desperately needed to catch. The construction here rivals Nashville. In my time I have seen the construction of four new metro lines and a new bus line, much to the dismay of my friends. Perhaps the most important thing I have learned here, is that I look damn good in a castle. I think I am going to stick around for a while to increase my chances of running into the 11 year old prince of Denmark to solidify my spot in the oldest monarchy in Europe. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. There was only one thing that truly disappointed me in theory… the reason I was able to make it through the Scandinavian winter was because I thought it would be sunny with a high of 75 the last two months I would be here. That, my friends, did not happen. I am two weeks away from leaving and it snowed two days ago, and I am still wearing my biggest coat since it is consistently 40 degrees. My Cuban blood is not happy at this, but as my parents would say, it builds character.

Some of my best moments and days during my time abroad have been because of DIS, my study abroad program. The other day, my Biology of Marine Mammals class boarded a train to Helsingor, the home to Hamlet’s castle. It was a quaint town on the water where you can see Sweden across the inlet. We got to explore the aquarium and the castle grounds while waiting for our turn on the boat. They put us in these over-sized dry suits in a bright orange color, and we looked like Danish kindergartners in their onesies mixed with ghost-busters. We got on the boat, made it out of the marina, and got to get on plane and run north in the inlet searching for birds that would indicate harbor porpoises. “I’ve got this, I’ve been training my whole life to spot birds in order to find fish” I thought. We had no luck for the first part, and we turned and headed back south towards the castle. Then we saw it, the swarm of birds. There had to be at least five porpoises foraging, so there was one breaking the surface at all times, I didn’t know where to look. At one point one swam under the boat and broke surface two feet in front of where I was standing. I stood there, on a boat in the middle of an inlet between Denmark and Sweden, with the sun shining and warming my face, watching these cool as heck animals feed energetically with the backdrop of a historical castle that even Shakespeare admired. My resting face at that point was a smile. I truly don’t think I could have been happier. It was one of those moments where you are so happy that you find yourself just looking up and thinking “thank you.” In addition to that day, I have gotten to IV, as in literally stick a needle into, my friends for class, along with nasogastric tubing them and using an endoscope to see their vocal chords like we did today in class. I have been a guinea pig on a field trip and been shocked for fun to learn about nerve behavior, and I’ve seen every paraclinical test imaginable done on myself or my classmates. I’ve seen a storage room packed to the gills with priceless marine mammal skeletons that look like they are as long as a football field. I have touched a narwhal tusk, and I have sat on the beach watching porpoises on an island in the middle of Denmark. I have visited a brain rehabilitation center and talked with patients, and I have seen and heard the world’s foremost researchers on neuroplasticity.  I have been a VIP at the UN European headquarters and the Red Cross, where I have met people whose sole goal is to better the world. Learning, in every sense of the word, is so much fun here, because we get to do, and I am a do-er. I really do not think I could have had a better experience in Copenhagen. When I am here, I am unequivocally myself, the joyous version of myself. Joy runs deep, my friends, and I’m learning that sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone, sometimes even your home continent, to find it.


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