Musings from the first week

Hej from Copenhagen!

My name is Ursula Vollmer and I am a rising junior at Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City. I will be spending Summer Session Two in Copenhagen and Session 3 in Stockholm. I just touched down in Denmark less than a week ago and I wanted to begin my blogs by sharing how I ended up here, studying abroad for a summer with DIS.

For some background on me, I’ve always loved cities but never thought I would be able to live in one. Growing up in the suburbs of Connecticut, it was typical to go into New York City for holidays, during breaks, and eventually go out when I was older. Yet, I thought that I didn’t want to live in a city, at least until after I finished college. I was much more comfortable in the safety of places that weren’t too confusing and felt familiar, giving me a feeling of routine ease.

However, after a rollercoaster of a freshman year and a last minute gap year decision, I found myself as a new transfer in New York City come September of 2023. And despite the fact I was overwhelmed and a little lost, I was most of all very excited. I was suddenly surrounded by different languages floating through the streets, a diverse array of people, endless stories, restaurants, and places to explore. There was this pulsating energy and an unknown aura of who I was going to be and what I was going to find upon living as well as going to school here. It was different than before and this new adventure gave me so much hope. This is what I wanted to replicate when I began to choose where to go abroad. 

Yet, as an English major concentrating in film studies, I knew that my summer abroad was most likely not going to be the place where I continued to fulfill English literature classes or things related to my major. And when I began searching for the best program during the dark winter months, I was drawn to DIS in so many ways.

I grew up celebrating my dad’s family’s Swedish traditions (like Lucia buns, crayfish parties,and Dala Horses at Christmas), so I felt a deep connection to the cultural and communal celebrations that were a part of my life. In this way, Scandinavia, especially Sweden and Denmark, have always had a strong personal allure. As a young girl, I often wondered if I would get to go there and experience all of the magic I had imagined. And in the summer of 2013 I finally did.

Over the course of a little over two weeks, I had the incredible privilege of visiting both Copenhagen and Stockholm with my Swedish grandfather as well as the rest of my immediate family. I saw the beautiful cities. I heard the languages. I even stayed on an island in the Baltic Sea. I knew after that trip that one day I would have to go back. I wanted to recreate this newfound sense of independence, exploration and self-discovery just like I had in New York City. Only now, in a place I feel so personally connected to. The opportunity to experience these unique cultures is a privilege and one I already feel as if I have been embracing since I first arrived just this last week. 

Sitting here outside of a café the afternoon after finishing my first full week of DIS classes, I feel as if I have a slight picture of what the rest of the summer will bring to me. For starters, I want to be present while taking my classes of Early Childhood: Nordic Education and Parenting and Photography in Europe: Technology, Culture, and Art in Sweden.

I so often get tired of the countless hours of school and work during the school year, so I wanted to take thisopportunity to embrace learning as a place to be curious, as a place to ask questions and a place to learn for fun. And I am already feeling this in my Early Childhood Education class! My amazing professor has lived and experienced both an educational life in America and in Denmark and brings a unique perspective, just like the rest of my fellow classmates from schools around the world. This gives me ample space to ask questions, to be open minded, and to really get to know these people.

Another goal I have is to do the things that speak to me and the things that make Denmark unique. Already since getting here, I’ve embraced my newfound independence and walked the King’s Garden and seen the Crown Jewels, the typical tourist things I knew would be essential to see. But I’m also doing the things that bring me peace with adjusting to new city life. I’m walking into new cafés, wandering the streets to learn the signs and ways I’m going, unplugging and listening to the city’s sounds, and asking questions. And yes, I’m also goin to watch the football games and order something on a perfect day outside. It’s all about balance here. I’m taking time to be alone, but also embracing the collective spirit and community culture that Denmark is so well known for. The sense of community and welcoming atmosphere, the cleanliness and the passion for the outdoors have all made it quite easy for me to accumulate here from the very beginning. I can not wait to continue to explore, learn and be apart of Scandinavia while I spend my summer here. 



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