I am taking a class called Sense of Place in European Literature. On the first day of class, my teacher Birgette introduced the concept of place. The opposite of place is space, which is simply an empty, meaningless location. Place, she said, is a space that we fill with our own meanings and memories. When I arrived in Copenhagen almost two weeks ago, I certainly found myself in a world of empty space. I did not know the language, the people, or the rules of biking (there are a lot). I have spent the last two weeks struggling with my sense of place. I bought throw pillows and blankets to make my spacious dorm room into a cozy place. I lined my shelves with books and strung lights over my bed. I made a picture board in an attempt to force memories to enter my space. Of course I miss my family and friends, but I am quickly finding a new place in Denmark.
My dorm is incredible. I live in a residential section of the city called Amager (pronounced Ama). We are about 4 minutes by bike from a mall and metro station. There is a daycare right outside of my window and as it turns out the sound of giggling children is a wonderful backdrop for studying. The 17 of us are split into two apartments separated only by a hallway, so we freely flow through both rooms. We have family dinners on Tuesdays and we all seem to get along quite well. I am extremely excited to see how we grow together over the next year. However, we all live together, and all of our classes are composed only of the 17 of us, so I am trying to meet other people and have some alone time. In fact, I discovered the loveliest beach about a mile and a half from our house this morning while on a run. It was pouring rain, and a danish gentleman stopped running to high-five me and utter what I presumed to be a term of danish encouragement. One of my biggest goals is to gain an understanding on conversational Danish.
The people of Copenhagen are reserved but also kind. I certainly see the title of “happiest country in the world” in action. I can’t tell you how many strangers have helped me in the grocery store or even just smiled on the street. Being in such a happy place has given me certain joy in my heart, even with a ridiculous amount of school work.
We started classes last Thursday, and we were all hit with the reality that this is not a grand vacation. We are now in college. I am surprised by how little free time I have. I bike 20 minutes to school each day, attend each class in the same room on the 4th floor of our central Copenhagen School building (soooo many stairs), bike home, and (attempt to) study until I go to sleep. My friends and I are learning to balance studying and fun just like any other college student. I am writing this as a break from sociology reading, so apologies if there are errors!
I have already experienced so much of my new home. From the colorful houses of Nyhavn, to meeting my wonderful host family in Fredericksburg, to running a 5k on a freezing Sunday morning at the harbor with my friends, to finding a trampolines park on the canal, I am thriving. The food is amazing. The people are amazing. The parks, castles, and museums are amazing. I still have so many cobblestone streets and small cafes to discover, and I feel so incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to do so.
I already have travel planned! I will be going to Sweden this weekend, Venice for a week in October, and Amsterdam for a weekend. I also hope to explore the United Kingdom for travel break in November and Paris for Thanksgiving. Stay tuned to see what spaces I will turn into places!