Coloring Outside the Lines

The American bubble is real – but it doesn’t have to be. With over a thousand American students at DIS, one could easily go through the semester without befriending a single Dane. However, I chose to study abroad in Copenhagen because I wanted to meet many different kinds of people and be immersed in a new culture while learning about Scandinavian society, not to only meet other Americans.

The first step I took to becoming more immersed was picking the right housing option. I ranked Homestay, Kollegium (shared kitchen), and Folkhøjskole as my top choices. I knew all of these would allow me to meet Danes. Now, I live in a lovely Homestay with a host mom and host brother.

However, I also wanted to meet local Danes and Europeans my own age. It’s difficult to meet local Danes your own age if you’re not in the Folkhøjskole or a kollegium with a social atmosphere. Luckily, DIS held an Activities Fair with a few clubs that peaked my interest.

This week, I joined the staff at Café Retro, a volunteer run, non-profit café in downtown Copenhagen. I’ll be working at the bar, making coffee, and pouring beer for our customers. I’m very excited to meet fellow volunteer barista Copenhageners and to bring the joy of good coffee to others (although my first few cups will no doubt be going down the drain).

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Café Retro – a cozy nonprofit café in downtown Copenhagen

Not only that, I’ve also taken up Rugby! I went to the Copenhagen Business School women’s rugby team practice on Wednesday. It was quite tough, but fun. I will definitely be going back again next week. I’m terrified but also extremely pumped to be part of the team (that is, if I can keep up).

It’s easier than you think to get involved. In fact, it feels easier to join an organization here than in the States because many clubs here are open to all students and often not tied to one school. Perhaps, the egalitarian culture here also has something to do with it, where there is a feeling that everyone should have the same access to pursue things they are interested in. To join Café Retro and the rugby team, I just contacted them, showed up to the meeting, and made a decision to commit. That being said, I know I will have to put in some extra initiative to meet others and to show up consistently at events rather than spend the weekend traveling.

Some other students I’ve talked to at DIS have also gotten involved by joining the frisbee team Copenhagen Hucks, the orchestra SymfUni, or by volunteering at the student union Studenterhuset. Even if you don’t find anything at the DIS Activities Fair, try Googling or asking around. There are no boundaries here to limit what you can and cannot do. If you’ve always wanted to be involved in something, Copenhagen might be just the place to do it.

Of course, everyone has different reasons for going abroad. But for me, I know that this might be my only opportunity to study and live abroad, and I’m not about to let it slip away.