Skagen/Grenen/Den Tilsandede Kirke

Blogging is weird.

I don’t know how else to put it, but I’m sure that fellow bloggers can relate. A blog is an online, public journal. A little piece of your soul that you put on a screen, for being read by other people and, thus, criticized, judged, etc.

So, in relation, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I choose to reveal about myself and my life online. I’m able to curate a particular image of myself that is (as I try) honest, but is really only a small snapshot of everything I’m experiencing. Heck, all social media is the same. It’s all curated, it’s all carefully constructed. I think that is important to keep in mind that a blog is such a small aspect of a person. I’m sure, when I return home, some will expect me to say: “I had an incredible, flawless time abroad! Do it immediately! Every second is enjoyable!” And sometimes, I think this is the impression that one can get from social media, like blogs, where the individual can choose to only write about pretty, comforting things. The truth is, when I return home, I’m sure my response will be much more complicated. Being abroad is a beautiful experience, but it is beautiful because of its complexity. I don’t know if a blog can capture the experience as a whole.

Anyways, I still love to blog. I just think it’s important to keep everything I just said in the previous paragraph when reading and/or writing online. I really like to share what I’m experiencing online for others, but also for myself. The internet is this crazy infinite, eternal entity and it will be interesting to look back on this whole period of my life years in the future.

The weeks go by too quickly.

This week was special. I got to visit the charming town of Skagen, which is nestled at the very top of Denmark, on the peninsula that juts out towards Sweden. When a couple friends and I left Aalborg early in the morning, it was pouring rain and we all considered turning back and postponing the trip for a nicer day. I’m glad we didn’t because during the hour-long train ride, the clouds began to clear and although it was still overcast, the rain stopped for the remainder of the day.

Two things are immediately noticeable about Skagen: the smell of fish and the bright, cheerful yellow that nearly all the buildings are painted. It was a quiet day, the chilly weather kept most people indoors. This left the beaches beautifully abandoned; we were able to enjoy them with just the sound of our own footsteps along the rocky shores, the waves, and the occasional screeching of gulls and other water fowl.


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I enjoyed searching for sea glass and other humble treasures that lay strewn across the sand. I collected several items in the pocket of my rain coat: shells, glass, smooth stones. We also found several WW2 bunkers that were used by German soldiers. Some of them looked as if they were being slowly sucked into the sand dunes, others looked as if they were going to be swept into the sea. Graffiti and soot from long-burnt-out campfires decorated the cement walls. If I was feeling especially brave, I would peer into the decrepit bunkers through holes created by vandals and others explorers.

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One of many WW2 bunkers
One of many WW2 bunkers

After walking nearly 4km, we reached the very tip of the country, where we could watch the Baltic and North seas smash together in a wild display of splashing foam. The peninsula is called Grenen.  Behind me was sand, grass and a lighthouse on the horizon, in front of me: endless ocean, theoretically Sweden, and an angry ocean that insisted on battling itself forever.

Jonas (Spain), me, Pavel (Brazil) and Cassidy (California)

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We headed back to town for some long-awaited, warm pizza. We we’re cold, exhausted and damp, but incredibly proud of our accomplished journey.  The pizza warmed us up, and we began in the opposite direction in search of Den Tilsandede Kirke, in English, the sand-covered church.

A long trail led to the church, through dark firs and grassy sand-dunes. The church was built between 1355 and 1387. This building is older than the United States (!!!) and continues to retain its simplistic beauty. Part of the church was demolished in 18th century, because a sand dune repeatedly was blown in front of the entrance and it became too much work to dig out. I’ve grown to appreciate minimalism more since I’ve been in Scandinavia, most churches are painted white, with simple decoration. I can see how, in some ways, these churches seem more revered in their unassuming appearances. They politely ask for your attention, rather than demanding it.

Den Tilsandede Kirke looking ethereal with a stormy grey sky

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Towards late afternoon, we decided to head home. As we ran to catch the train, I could feel the shells and stones clinking together in my pockets, little pieces of the top of Denmark that I will always have.

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

What a week. From enjoying to the sunny weather, to exploring, to school projects and meeting new people, I have been busy nearly every day. It has been busy in the best way possible (full of new and entertaining happenings)– but also the kind of busy that makes me step back, astonished and ask, “How is it already mid-March?” I find myself cherishing each experience because it’s all going by much too quickly.

Aalborg has been looking especially stunning
Aalborg has been looking especially stunning
Baby leaves! I can't help but stop and take a picture; I'm so excited for green trees!
Baby leaves! I can’t help but stop and take a picture; I’m so excited for green trees!


One thing that has been on my mind: distance truly does make the heart grow fonder. In more ways than one. I wouldn’t say I miss home as a geographic location that much, but I miss the people that create the place I call home. It wouldn’t be home without the faces that I associate with home. I miss them, but being far away from loved ones has also helped be realize how lucky I am to be surrounded by unending support, encouragement and love. I have taken it for granted in the past; now I have a growing appreciation for my vast support system that my amazing parents, family, friends, boyfriend, etc. all form. I have received letters, gifts and pictures in the mail. There’s nothing quite as wonderful as coming home to find something in my mailbox and, more than once, I have teared up reading  simple thoughts that the sender put in a card and sent across the ocean. There’s something so special about hand written notes. Also, whoever invented Skype deserves an award.

Sunset from a rooftop
Sunset from a rooftop
My California-based friend Molly. She's kind and intelligent and a good person to have around.
My California-based friend Molly. She’s kind, intelligent and a good person to have around.

My heart has expanded in other ways too. The people that I have met abroad have been some of the most selfless and inspiring people I have had the privilege to encounter. I’m lucky to say that my friend family has extended across the Atlantic. I have been reassured that humans are inherently good. People all over the world want to be loved and accepted, just like I do. Yes, humans are silly and make bad decisions and fight and are messy. But they’re also looking for connections and others who will share in their human-ness. I think that’s the most important thing that we, as humans, do. We’re so much more than our superficial differences.

Dinner parties have become a regular thing and I couldn't be happier about it! There's something very rewarding about cooking and sharing food with other people.
Dinner parties have become a regular thing and I couldn’t be happier about it! There’s something very rewarding about cooking and sharing food with other people.
Thai wraps. So yummy.
Thai wraps. So yummy.
Post-dinner entertainment from Tess and Molly.
Post-dinner entertainment from Tess and Molly.

I’m really looking forward to the coming weeks: I’m in the process of trip-planning! I’m beginning to think I’m a hopeless addict for travel– too bad it’s a very pricey addiction. There will be more on the upcoming adventures later.

Short and Sweet

This week was decidedly Danish. I’m starting to feel a little more of a “local” as I settle in to my routine, familiarize myself with the twisting streets of Aalborg and find my favorite corners of the city to observe life from. I spent a couple hygge evenings with friends, over Carlsberg beers and pancakes, and more than a few hours in tucked-away cafes, reading or pondering how different my life has become in a very short amount of time.

Delicious lunch at a cafe down the road. Fig bread, brie, berry marmalade and a smoothie. Can I have this every day?
Delicious lunch at a cafe down the road. Fig bread, brie, berry marmalade and a smoothie. Can I have this every day?

One item of interest: I finally got myself a bike! I’ve been wanting one more since the weather has been decent and I saw one on an online forum where people post things for sale. Usually there are some pretty good deals and when I saw “red woman’s road bike, good condition, 400kr” I went for it. It was very spur of the moment, but bikes sell so quickly here.

The bike is a bit scratched up and makes some rattle-y old bike noises, but it is good enough for the time I will be here. What used to be a 30 minute walk is 10 minutes. I’ve really come to love zooming down the streets (it’s quite fast). I hope to find a basket for grocery store runs.

My new (old) red bike.
My new (old) red bike.

Other than that, it has been a very quiet week. Most everyone I know has come down with the flu this week and seemingly all around the same time. Most were in bed for 4 – 6 days. At a school the size of Aalborg University, it’s hard not to catch what nasty bug is going around because you’ll mostly likely encounter more than one sick person. I’ve been doing my best to avoid getting sick (i.e. constantly washing my hands, eating copious amounts of garlic and lemons) and I haven’t had any symptoms yet, thank goodness.

One last thing. I never think that I will enjoy a crime TV show, until I watch one. I just finished the Danish television series The Bridge and I couldn’t be sadder. Is there anyone out there who shares my love for Saga Noren? I wont give anything away but if you come across this gem, give it a chance! You wont be disappointed.

Wall mural at 1000Fryd. No racism, no sexism! Can you see why this is my favorite bar?
Wall mural at 1000Fryd. No racism, no sexism! Can you see why this is my favorite bar?
Sweet little necklace I bought from a local artist.
Sweet little necklace I bought from a local artist.

Springtime and Weekend Getaways

Spring is on its way over here in Denmark and we couldn’t be happier. I say “we” because I’m sure everyone (Danes included) share the same sentiments when those clouds blow away and the temperature reaches up into the mid-forties. I never thought I would feel this way, but 45 degrees is completely manageable and if it isn’t sleeting, it’s enjoyable even! Ha! The other day, my neighbor was having friends over for drinks on the patio, wearing shorts and obviously basking in the rare sunshine that we were so lucky to have for a couple days. I’m pretty sure those are the afternoons that everyone is dreaming of right now. Currently, it is back to the cloudy/windy/sleet-y mess that I am getting quite used to– but I couldn’t have been happier to absorb some vitamin D this week.


Besides the beautiful sunshine, this week was pretty amazing, I have to say. Tuesday night I joined a few friends for “Vegan Dinner” at one of the local bars. Now, being a vegetarian is nearly impossible in a country like Denmark. They love anything with meat in it and I’ve gotten used to maybe one vegetarian option on most menus– if any! Their version of vegetarian is usually “dusted with bacon-bits.”

Pretty sunsets in Aalborg, viewed from the hill behind my residence
Pretty sunsets in Aalborg, viewed from the hill behind my residence

So, when I was invited to come to not only a vegetarian dinner, but a vegan one, I was ecstatic. Tusin Fryd, the bar, is probably my favorite haunt found in Aalborg so far. Everything on their menu is vegan (White Russians with rice milk, please) and it’s entirely run by volunteers. It’s a very casual, friendly and welcoming atmosphere that I’m immediately drawn to. Their vegan dinner is in very high demand, so my friend got us on the list a week in advance. We weren’t disappointed. For 25kr each (about $3.75) we got a hearty Indian stew and a hunk of baguette. There was enough food for everyone to go back for seconds, which I eagerly did. It was probably the best meal that I have had in Denmark so far, one, because of the food, but also the atmosphere and the lovely people I got to share it with. We all went home satisfied and full of warm food.

Another cool experience I had this week was going to the local sauna. I’d never been to a sauna before, but it is decidedly Scandinavian, so I knew I would come across one eventually. The sauna was at a large complex that also housed a cafe, three swimming pools and a library. My friends and I alternated between the sauna and the swimming pool, finally understanding how Danish people make it through the long winters. I could only stay in the sauna for short amounts of time before hopping back in the pool, but it was refreshing and I left with my skin feeling softer than it has in a long time. I definitely know where to go now if I need some time to relax.

Steamy pools on a cold day

Finally, I got to visit Copenhagen again this weekend and this time, I wasn’t alone. My boyfriend, Jeremy, flew over from England (where he is studying at Leeds University) to experience a little of Scandinavia. He bought tickets a while ago and surprised me with them for our second year anniversary. I was really excited for him to see one of my favorite places in the world and I don’t think he was disappointed. Saturday (our full day in the city) was one of those rare sunny days; that was enough to make it a successful trip.

Morning views
Morning views
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Danish coffee = A+

Nyhavn seemed even more colorful than before and flower shops were bursting with springtime blooms. Bouquets lined the sidewalk. The city seemed to wake from hibernation: Strøget was completely packed with pedestrians, cafes were filled with coffee-seekers, ice cream shops opened their doors and beckoned with traditional Danish pancakes topped with ice cream. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. Jeremy and I shared an insanely unhealthy concoction of churros, chocolate sauce and soft serve. It was delicious.
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We also got to explore the Latin Quarter of Copenhagen a bit, enjoying a more eccentric side of the city. We saw a woman dancing with her enormous pet rabbit and took up a woman’s offer of FREE HUGS. Around sunset, we climbed the Round Tower (a historic observatory) and got a phenomenal 360 degree view of the city. I even spotted the bridge that connects Copenhagen to Malmö, Sweden. Do you ever have experiences where you wish you could put them in a box and store them away for when you want to have them again? This was a weekend like that. I couldn’t ask for more.

Views from the Round Tower
Views from the Round Tower
Christiansborg Palace and where the Danish Parliament currently resides.
Christiansborg Palace and where the Danish Parliament currently resides.

On Adjusting

I live in my own apartment, in a foreign country.

A year ago, I would’ve never thought that statement would be true. And now, it is. I also wouldn’t have thought that I would have been able to handle it as well as I have. I’ve always been quite independent, but it’s easy to get lonely. Despite meeting lots of really amazing people here and the sense that I’m beginning some deep, meaningful friendships, it can be hard to come home to an empty kitchen, empty room. There isn’t even a cat to greet me — besides a (kind of creepy) paper one taped to my wall (see my last post if you’re confused). Cooking alone can even be a bummer because you don’t have anyone to impress with your resourceful, look-at-how-much-money-I-saved recipes.

I’m not sure how many students have lived alone while studying abroad– but it wasn’t what I was expecting. Four weeks away from everything familiar has seemed like a lot longer than a month. I’m not going to say that studying abroad is all roses and is easy and is going to be this picturesque experience where you discover the meaning of life. But I think it can be better than the idyllic daydream that I imagined it would be like.

There’s three main things that have truly helped me adjust to my life in Denmark. For anyone living alone for the first time, or is in a completely unfamiliar place (mentally or physically), maybe these will help you too.

1. Go for walks. 
Nothing has helped me cope more than getting out of the house and going for a long walk. First of all, European cities beg to be explored on foot and walking is the best way to get to know one. Yes, the weather is cold and rainy and windy here, but it hasn’t stopped me. Maybe it’s the endorphins, maybe its being genuinely curious about where I live. Taking the bus is one thing– and necessary at times– but the view out the window is only so much. You miss the details: the tucked away bakery, the park with swans making lazy circles in the water. Walking around Aalborg has made me appreciate the present moment more than anything else.

The hill behind my apartment has some amazing views of my little town and the fjord.
The hill behind my apartment has some amazing views of my little town and the fjord.

2. Be open. 
I can’t stress this one enough. Say yes to more invitations, even if you wouldn’t normally. The more I’ve said yes, the more I’ve experienced and the more connections I’ve made. It helped me become more vulnerable and willing to get to know people.

Good times, good people.
Good times, good people.
The greatest coffee in Denmark!
The greatest coffee in Denmark!

3. Love yourself.
This should be a rule for any situation, but I’ve found it especially crucial for my particular experience.  Whether this means exercising or binge-watching Netflix, go for it. There’s even simple things like eating healthy and drinking more water or taking a really long shower that have improved my outlook. I’ve also found that it’s been hard to “check in” mentally with myself while I’ve been here, simply because I’ve been constantly preoccupied with something. Journaling has helped– it forces me to sit down and gather my thoughts. Often I’ll realize things that I hadn’t even thought of, things that had been internally shut up, just waiting for me to recognize them.

Fastenlavnsboller: creamy, chocolaty pastry of paradise. Like I said, take care of yourself.
Fastenlavnsboller: creamy, chocolaty pastry of paradise. Like I said, take care of yourself.

To end on a positive note: the sun came out today and it was beautiful!

The Good, the Bad

It has been one heck of a week in over here in Denmark, in both good and not-so-good ways.

The bad: 

On February 14th, Copenhagen experienced its first terrorist attack in over 20 years at a cafe where the Swedish artist Lars Vilks was holding a free-speech event. The event, called Art, Blasphemy and the Freedom of Expression, was heavily guarded by security, some fearing a Charlie Hebdo copy-cat attack.

Sure enough, shots were fired, this time by a 22-year-old Danish native who allegedly has been linked to extremist Islamic militancy. Filmmaker Finn Nørgaard, attending the event, was killed. Lars Vilks, who in 2007 drew a caricature of Mohammed as a dog, has publicly stated his belief that the attack was directed towards him specifically.

Soon afterwards, the same suspect is said to have opened fire on a Copenhagen synagogue, killing one security guard, Dan Uzan. The suspect was soon killed by police officers in a shootout.

I am heartbroken over this event. I discussed it with some locals and they solemnly commented that it was “only a matter of time” before something like this would happen in the country’s largest city. I hope beautiful Copenhagen and all of its inhabitants can grieve and recover peacefully.

I also hope that Danish Muslims don’t feel the islamaphobic backlash for the acts of extremists, as many Muslims in France and the United States have. I understand that it is a confusing time for many, but Islam itself is not the culprit.

Bouquets decorated the Copenhagen synagogue where Dan Uzan was shot
Bouquets decorated the Copenhagen synagogue where Dan Uzan was shot

The good:

I was lucky enough to visit the ancient burial site Lindholm Høje this week. It was a freezing cold day (there were even some snow flurries) but it didn’t detract from the complete awe I experienced. Around 700 graves have been excavated at this particular site, as well as the remnants of villages and stables. The burials began at the top of a tall hill; I could see Aalborg, the fjord and surrounding areas for miles. It was an advantageous spot– the Vikings who lived there could spot any oncoming attackers.

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A cold, but happy Taylor
A cold, but happy Taylor

Although Vikings are often believed to be ruthless, brutal killers, the ones in Aalborg led a much more peaceful existence. There wasn’t a lot of plundering for Aalborg Vikings, instead, many spent their time farming. Some graves were even found with food preserves, leading archaeologists to believe that Vikings were extremely well fed with a plethora of grains (muesli has become a huge part of my diet– I would totally get along with these guys). People all over Aalborg have found delicate Viking-made jewelry and trinkets that were forged with impressive craftsmanship.

Basically, these weren’t the Vikings you thought you knew.

Here's a picture of a Viking getting his hair combed and his feet washed. They were actually quite hygienic
Here’s a picture of a Viking getting his hair combed and his feet washed. They were actually quite hygienic

Unfortunately, the area has faced a lot of upheaval since the end of the Viking era. The stones that were used to mark graves have been used for construction and roads in the past. German soldiers even dug trenches through the burial sites during WWII. Finally, however, in 1952, Lindholm Høje became a protected area and the museum that I got to visit (for free, thanks Aalborg University) was built. It was a great experience and learning about Aalborg’s history added a whole new dimension to my time here.

Many bodies were found along side dog bones. It gave a whole new meaning to "man/woman's best friend"
Many bodies were found along side dog bones. It gave a whole new meaning to “man/woman’s best friend”

I also had the privilege of attending the Fastelavn event that was put on by one of the student organizations at the school. The main purpose of Fastelavn, historically, was to beat a barrel with a cat inside of it. Basically, old-school Danes thought they were defeating “evil” by doing so. I DO NOT support the beating of cats, inside or outside of a barrel and neither do present-day Danish people. Now, we beat a barrel full of candy. The only thing that is harmed during the present Fastelavn festivities is our health. Rather than a real cat being present, there was a cute paper one taped to the barrel. I stole the paper cat, and it is now taped on my wall. I named it John Stewart, in honor of my favorite talk show host announcing his resignation.

John Stewart, the cat I rescued from Fastelavn.
John Stewart, the cat I rescued from Fastelavn.

Introduction to Aalborg

I have reached my final destination: Aalborg. This charming town is where I will spend most of the next six months of my life and I couldn’t feel luckier. I have already given a short background of Aalborg’s history (see: and I have to say that the town retains the atmosphere of an ancient place. Many of the streets and sidewalks are cobblestones (many times, with moss growing on them, which is always surprising to a Arizonan).

There was  a light layer of snow when I arrived. Since, it has melted, but I was very pretty while it lasted.
There was a light layer of snow when I arrived. Since, it has melted, but it was very pretty while it lasted.

The homes usually made out of brick with white windows, which almost gives them a tidy doll-house look. There are no buildings taller than around 3 or 4 stories, so one may see the several church spires protruding from the rooftops.

A blurry, albeit beautiful view out the bus window. Look at the gorgeous Arctic sky.
A blurry, albeit beautiful view out the bus window. Look at the gorgeous Arctic sky.

I am finally feeling settled in. After a week of figuring out the bus stop, where to buy the cheapest food, how to communicate, where the school is, etc., I seem to understand my surroundings, at least, a bit better than I did when I first got off the train from Copenhagen. There are still some difficulties, yes, but I didn’t come here for a vacation…

My attempt at making my home a little cozier: a Danish flag garland, a Hemingway-esque portrait of a sailor that was left by the previous residents, and a cute teapot.
My attempt at making my home a little cozier: a Danish flag garland, a Hemingway-esque portrait of a sailor that was left by the previous residents, and a cute teapot.

Being a Foreigner 101 

One thing I have noticed during my first week, is how much I feel like a foreigner. I’ve grown up in Arizona and besides some various trips when I was younger, I haven’t ever felt entirely culturally different. Now I do. A large percentage of the time, when I’m not in class or with other international students, all I hear is Danish. Now, I understand what it is like to come to a foreign country and feel the need to blend in– because, if you don’t, someone might spot your foreign-ness,  your otherness. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be foreign at all– but when you’re completely mystified by the currency, called Kroner, (why the hell doesn’t Denmark have 10 and 20 bills?) and trying to pay a bus fare as quickly as possible, it’s easy to feel silly. Sometimes, I have even felt stupid and when I mumble a quick “sorry,” everyone knows I’m American.

Danes love their sweets! A plethora of candy is normally found in all grocery stores and gas stations.
Danes love their sweets! A plethora of candy is normally found in all grocery stores and gas stations.

That’s another thing: I never thought about how I had an accent, but now I’m very conscious of it. I hear, very clearly (almost annoyingly so), how different my English sounds from a Danish or British person speaking English. I stand out. There aren’t a ton of Americans here and so sometimes I feel as if I have an enormous American flag behind me with the words “GOD BLESS THE USA” in flashing lights above it, maybe even a couple gunshots ringing out as I walk by (because, as Europeans seem to think, all Americans love guns). In short, this isn’t what I would like to be necessarily associated with, thus, my desire to blend in.

However, I have also become proud of being American, despite the stereotypes that are sometimes thrust upon American travelers. Danes are more often then not very interested in hearing about Arizona, my studies, my future plans. I’ve become proud of the fact that I live very close to the Grand Canyon and love describing, to most people’s surprise, the winter storms that my hometown gets. As I describe the pine trees and the desert (in all of its unique beauty) I’ll find myself missing home– even though I thought I wouldn’t.

I have a bright green jacket that I brought with me for the cooler months. It’s a little too big for me, has a bright plaid lining and isn’t at all subtle. It’s not necessarily the jacket that I would have chosen to bring if I knew how much I wanted to blend in with Danish people– they all wear black or grey. So I’m sure you can imagine me, lost or possibly chasing the bus, in my giant green jacket– a spot of color in a sea of black, navy and grey jackets. I was joking with a Danish friend about this jacket and how much it stands out. She laughed and commented, “Sometimes I think it is good for the Danish people to be challenged.” I thought about what she had said for a long time after and I have come to realize that my difference, my status as a foreigner, isn’t such a bad thing.

From this point on, I’m going to embrace my differences, embrace the Kroner and embrace my green jacket.

The American in her green jacket, exploring cemeteries (she's really weird).
The American in her green jacket, exploring cemeteries (she’s really weird).

Big City #2: Copenhagen

You might have heard that the Danish people are the happiest in the world. Although they do seem very happy I cannot say with complete certainty that this claim is true, solely based on my own observations in Copenhagen this week.

Although happiness is stereotypically associated with Scandinavian countries, there is another more specific word that comes to mind when I think of an all-encompassing description of Denmark. This word is “hygge.” If there’s any Danish word that I will remember after I return to the United States, it will be hygge. Interestingly, there isn’t any direct translation of hygge in English that matches its Danish meaning: the closest is “coziness” or “security.” Happiness is an aspect of hygge, but its definition seems shallow in comparison.

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The Marble Church (also known as Frederik’s Church) is a beautiful structure near the Royal Palace. During my tour, we even caught a glimpse of Prince Frederik and his wife Mary. They lead very simplistic lives in Copenhagen and even send their children to public school.

A Holiday dinner spent with close family and friends could be considered hygge. Hygge looks like enjoying a cup of tea and a book. Hygge can also represent a mental state: a sense of togetherness, security or comfort. It’s a necessary aspect of Danish culture, especially with the extended, dark and frigid winters.

The Danes make an effort to incorporate hygge into their daily lives. For instance, Copenhagen contains the longest pedestrianized street in the world, called StrØget. Everything one could possibly need can be found along this street, grocery stores, clothing, housewares, restaurants… the list goes on. I have spent a considerable amount of time exploring StrØget, and I have barely seen all that StrØget contains.

"The Little Mermaid" is known as one of the most disappointing tourist destinations in the world. Although she has a poor reputation, I thought she was cute.
“The Little Mermaid” is known as one of the most disappointing tourist destinations in the world. Although she has a poor reputation, I thought she was cute.

However, what has made an impression is the sense of comfort one finds on StrØget. There are no cars, so there is no risk of being hit or having an angry driver honk at you. The road is quite wide, so one may leisurely walk, browsing the store windows. If you miss one H&M, no worries, there’s another three down the street. Restaurants advertise with simplistically decorated tables along the street, often with a red or white rose perched on the white tablecloth.

Smorrebrod is the most common meal found in Denmark. It can come with a variety of vegetables and meats piled on a single slice of rye bread. Mine had curried Herrings, tomatoes, capers, and eggs. Curried herring is a hard flavor to get used to....
Smorrebrod is the most common meal found in Denmark. It can come with a variety of vegetables and meats piled on a single slice of rye bread. Mine had curried Herrings, tomatoes, capers, and eggs. Curried herring is a hard flavor to get used to….

Along the way, I found three street performers: a violinist, clarinetist and guitarist. All three were very talented and I heard the music continuing from far away. I noticed the smell of crepes and hot, sweet drinks as I walked, lending more to the hygge atmosphere. It also doesn’t hurt that Danes are some of the most beautiful, graceful people I have seen in my life—tall, blonde, impeccably dressed. They reminded me very much of Denmark’s national bird, the swan.

Copenhagen 4
Found this balding bicyclist in Christiania. Christiania is located within the city limits of Copenhagen, but considers itself an independent entity. It formed as a social experiment in the 1970s when hippies began to squat in the abandoned military base located there. Now it is a flourishing, eclectic community, containing the Green Light District, where marijuana is legally sold.

I was at first apprehensive telling Danish people that I was American. Americans might not have the best reputation among Europeans and I was a bit nervous about what preconceived notions they might associate with my nationality, or how other Americans had poorly represented my country.

As my time in Copenhagen went on, though, I found it easier to say that I was Arizonan. Danes always react with interest and curiosity, making jokes about the heat or asking me about my travels in Denmark. In these interactions, I have found the purest meaning of hygge: the sense of acceptance from the Danish people and security in my surroundings.

A picture of me in Nyhavn! This beautiful harbor used to be quite dodgy-- a haunt for sailors and prostitutes. It now is very clean and has  several nice cafes and restaurants (that are all way out of my budget!)
A picture of me in Nyhavn! This beautiful harbor used to be quite dodgy– a haunt for sailors and prostitutes. It now is very clean and has several nice cafes and restaurants (that are all way out of my budget!)

Farvel for now!

Big City #1: NYC

I flew into JFK on Friday, stunned by the vast metropolis that my plane circled from above. I knew that New York City was big, but buildings stretch in every direction,  right up to the waves of the Atlantic. The jagged skyline dominated the horizon with metal and glass. I had reached my first stop in a long journey, and I feel lucky to explore some of the best cities in the world before returning to school.

I met my friend, Azain, who is letting me stay at his apartment until I leave for Copenhagen. He has only lived here for four months, soon to be attending Fashion School, but already seems to know the city quite well. I was impressed by his knowledge of the twisting, subterranean Metro and its two primary unspoken rules, which are, according to him: no eating and no loud talking. If you know your route and refrain from doing either of those, you may come off as a seasoned New Yorker.

I have realized that New York City is a place of dichotomies. The first of those is the Metro itself. Coming from a place where public transportation is unfortunately nonexistent, I was fascinated by the Metro. What most caught my attention was how crowded a single car may be– at one point, we stood so close to the other passengers that we were stuck between the wall and another’s huge backpack. I’ve learned to grip a hand rail and adopt a stronger stance as to not fall when the car lurches forward into the dark tunnel. And although everyone stands so close together, nearly touching, eyes are averted. Most times, the only sound is the screeching of brakes and a muffled voice over the intercom, announcing the coming stop. No one talks (unless you’re riding with someone you know), and the absence of courteous phrases like “hello” or “excuse me” left me wondering if New Yorkers felt any sort of camaraderie with their fellow Metro passengers.  Other than the eerie silence that persisted within the car, I thoroughly appreciate the Metro in its convenience and availability. I wonder how the subway in Denmark will compare.

The second dichotomy I realized is the immediate proximity of nature and city. Azain and I were able to visit Central Park on the way to MOMA (!!!); the enclave of twisting trunks and branches was a relief from the non-stop rush of the streets. If I had visited during the summer, I’m sure that the leafy canopy would obscure the sky-scrapers surrounding the park. This time, I could barely make the buildings out through the low-hanging clouds.

Central Park
There’s me!
Central Park 2
My favorite gloomy weather

If it wasn’t for the amount of people enjoying the park, I’m sure one could feel very far away from the city. I wonder what impact urban parks like this one have on the attitude of city-dwellers. Central Park’s importance lies in its enormity. In a city where apartments are smashed between two other buildings, built into basements and on top of each other, Central Park must be appreciated, lest it be developed into more housing, stores, or banks.

Another dichotomy I recognized in the city, was the nearness of ultra-modern sky scrapers and architecture that has been around since the beginnings of the city. We’d be walking down the street and suddenly be in front of a gothic cathedral– its spires nestled among the metal of the surrounding buildings. These cathedrals and churches seemed to appear out of nowhere and from a different time, randomly placed between modern behemoths.

Architecture NYC
An example of a randomly found, beautiful church

Finally, the most obvious and visible dichotomy for my visit in particular was the weather. When I arrived on Friday, it was cold but the sky was a flawless blue. Azain and I even had a discussion about how mild the weather had been this winter. In a nutshell, we were wrong. I underestimated the capriciousness of Mother Nature and a (possibly) record breaking blizzard rolled in today. It has been snowing consistently all day and, as I write this, I’m watching snow flurries settle on the window ledges across the road. Several flights have been cancelled so far, and I have been nervously watching my flight for Denmark, which is supposed to leave tomorrow evening. Hopefully the weather will mostly blow over by then, but I suppose this is the first lesson of travel: always be prepared for the worst and don’t make any plans too concrete.

My experience in New York has been wonderful and eye-opening. Although this city can be unfriendly and cold, I also see why it is one of the most populated and sought-after places in the world. I’ve seen some beautiful sights and eaten great food. After getting lost in Brooklyn, Azain and I were able to cross the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset with some views I will never forget. At MOMA, I got to see Monet’s Water Lilies and the largest display of Matisse’s cut paper pieces in the world. I was able to experience a city with a learned guide (thanks Azain) and was a valuable step towards being alone in Denmark.

Brooklyn Bridge
Looking back at Brooklyn

Farvel for now,


Who, Where, What, When, Why


Hi! I’m Taylor, and this is my study abroad blog. I’m 21 years old, a junior at Northern Arizona University and soon-to-be exchange student at Aalborg University in Aalborg, Denmark. I’m majoring in Political Science and Journalism. The journalist in me found it appropriate and necessary to keep a personal narrative about my experiences during this time away from home (and, really, away from all things familiar).

This is the picture that will be on my official Aalborg Uni student ID! Look at how smug I am!
This is the picture that will be on my official Aalborg Uni student ID! Look at how smug I am!

I hope that this blog serves as a reflection of my growth as a person and a student, but also a record of interesting things and thoughts I encounter. I’ve been a lifelong diarist and I’m hoping this blog develops into a more public, interactive version of that. It might serve as a platform to incite discussion among others in a similar situation. Maybe I’ll keep it going and write about my (hopefully extensive) travels throughout my 20s. Maybe somebody reading this will be inspired to embark on their own journeys as well. But, what can I say, I’m an idealist.


Aalborg is the 4th largest city in Denmark and resides in the Northern Jutland Region. It’s basically a hop, skip and jump away from big Scandi cities like Oslo and Gothenburg. This city is old. It has served as a docking site for Vikings and other medieval travelers. It is dotted with ancient Viking burial grounds as well as more recent (yet still really old) monasteries and convents. The only thing I can compare this kind of history with is Native American structures that are common throughout the Southwest. It really reminds me of how short my life is, yet, in contrast, how long humans have been just hanging out, doing their thing.

That's Aalborg!
That’s Aalborg!

Modern day Aalborg is a university town much like my sweet little home. It seems like there’s lots of things to do and places to see, but I’ll have to let you know what it’s like when I’m actually there.


I will be participating in the International Cultural Studies program at AAU. It’s a program designed for exchange students specifically, so I will probably be working with other students from all over the world who are interested in similar topics. I’m excited about the global approach to learning that AAU seems to foster; it’s the most internationally cultural way to direct an International Cultural Studies program.


The plane tickets are bought. My housing is set up. The bills are paid. The countdown begins: 2 weeks!

All there’s left to do, is wait. I’m a constant planner, and this part of the process is probably the most difficult for me. On one hand, I can’t stop reimagining worst case scenarios, but I also can’t stop daydreaming and wondering what this whole thing will be like. The best word to describe it is “antsy.” I’m feeling a serious itch to get out of my day-to-day routine and get to Denmark already. I just finished the book “How To Be Danish” by Patrick Kingsley (yes, I am over-prepared), and although I still don’t know how to be truly Danish, it gave me a head start on a lot of the cultural norms and quirks. I highly recommend “How to Be Danish,” it’s a quick read but you’ll learn interesting facts about stereotypical (and not-so-stereotypical) Danish things like fair-isle sweaters, fancy innovative Danish cuisine and their welfare system. But, you might be surprised by some things, like I was.

How to be Danish


Why am I doing this?

It’s expensive. I’m the only student from NAU going to Denmark. I’m not used to staying in hostels. I don’t know what my classes will be like. Essentially, from a certain perspective this whole thing seems like a pain! And at times, I have to admit, I thought it was a pain. It’s fun to romanticize and daydream, but when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, figuring it all out is a time commitment and an emotional commitment.

However, the benefits (even before I have left), outweigh the negatives infinitely. I have learned important things about research and asking for help. Also, I am pushing myself farther than I have before. I love the challenge. I’m even learning some elementary Danish (yikes), and I hope to use some if I’m not too embarrassed!

I have always wanted to do this. From the time I was very young, I’ve loved travel and seeing new places. Denmark will be an experience, to say the least.

Farvel! (Goodbye!)