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1 Year Since Being Abroad: My Reflections

Zoë reflects on her study abroad experience a year after the fact, providing advice and recommendations.

Zoë reflects on her study abroad experience a year after the fact, providing advice and recommendations.


Right now, I am a junior living in a dorm on campus in Northfield. A year ago, however, I was living in Copenhagen, Denmark, sharing an apartment with my roommate and 5 Danish/Norwegian flatmates. While the pandemic compromised several aspects of my study abroad experience—with classes held on Zoom, museums closed, and no travel outside the country permitted—I still came away from the trip with an enormous sense of self growth. I had never lived internationally before, and I am thankful for the opportunity.

nyhavn
The iconic and picturesque Nyhavn canal.

The Carleton Off-Campus Studies office is a phenomenal resource for students. About 70% of Carls go abroad, and this is due to our flexible liberal arts curriculum, top-notch academic advising, eligibility for a variety of Carleton and non-Carleton study abroad programs, and access to generous financial support. The financial aid that a student receives transfers to any Carleton program and 1 non-Carleton program! I reaped the benefits of this set up, and studied abroad with a third party organization called DIS Copenhagen.

Without further ado, below I describe several Copenhagen highlights that were central to my time abroad. I also offer some advice and recommendations.

Life in the Kollegium

Living in the Frederiksberg “Nimbus Kollegium” was the highlight of my trip, and I absolutely loved it. Sharing a living space with students from different parts of Denmark and Norway was such a cool experience, and the environment naturally fostered a lot of intercultural exchange. 

nimbus kollegium
The common room of our flat in Frederiksberg. It was such a cozy space.

Our flatmates generously took my roommate and me on several outings. We made trips into central Copenhagen, Dyrehaven, and Møns Klint. Throughout the week, we would bond over our weekly Monday flat dinners. Everyone took turns preparing dinner for the flat and we would all enjoy eating together. Sunday brunches were also a common occurrence. Fresh rolls were baked regularly, as were other Danish classics that were readily shared.

sunday brunch
Weekly Sunday brunches were always something to look forward to.

Perhaps one of the most memorable moments was completing a 3-day juice cleanse with my flatmates, a challenge that certainly bonded us as a result of our shared misery. We also watched lots of movies together. I was continually impressed by my Danish flatmates’ knowledge (that often surpassed my own) about American pop culture!

copenhagen
Day 3 of the juice cleanse, a truly grueling challenge. Make no mistake, we were smiling through the pain!

My Travel Blog

Though I had never maintained my own blog before, I decided I would give it a try in Copenhagen! I love writing and photography, and blogging pairs these two interests perfectly. My blog (bonnellabroad.wordpress.com) became a beloved project, and I was always excited to write and document my adventures. Keeping a detailed travel journal was a routine of mine, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. It’s a great practice to reflect on your time abroad and to document the experiences you want to remember. For me, it inspired a lot of the content I published on my travel blog.

travel blog
The main page of BonnellAbroad, my travel blog.

Learning how to blog got me involved with the DIS Communications and Marketing Team, which was an awesome opportunity. They advised me in my blog writing process, had me host an Instagram takeover, and wrote me a letter of recommendation afterwards. Starting my own blog was an invaluable experience for personal growth and even career development.

Public Transportation Savviness

Prior to Copenhagen, I had never lived independently in a city before. That said, I was nervous about using the metro system, trains, and buses. I was surprised by how intuitive the system was, and was impressed by how easy the city was to navigate. Biking is also an extremely common means of transportation throughout the city, and I loved giving that a try as well. As someone who loves going on long walks, I would frequently stroll through the large park by the Kollegium, or hop on the metro and explore a new part of the city.

palace
My flatmates and me by Amalienborg Palace, with Frederik’s Church in the background.

A Sense of Independence

On that note, having the ability to explore the city and travel throughout Denmark was incredible. The sense of autonomy and independence I felt living in an apartment with flatmates, cooking meals, navigating the city, and making the most out of my time in Copenhagen was amazing. Perhaps one of my favorite memories was when my roommate and I took a train to Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark. We stayed in the coolest Airbnb, a tiny house on the pier, and spent a couple of days sightseeing together. 

aarhus
Our incredible tiny house.
aarhus
The pier our tiny house was on.

The Food Scene

As a foodie, I was super excited to scope out the food scene in Copenhagen. The vegan options were spectacular, and it was so much fun finding restaurants and bakeries to try out. Oli Oli, a poke bowl restaurant, became a favorite of mine. I also loved Naturbageriet and Dough Girls, two bakeries that specialized in vegan baked goods like doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, and even the Danish specialty called fastelavnsboller. Food became such a central part of my experience that I dedicated a web page of my travel blog to my favorite Vegan Eats.

vegan eats
The vegan pastries to be found in Copenhagen are mind blowing!

My Key Takeaways

I have several takeaways from my study abroad experience, all of them positive!

  1. Studying abroad helpfully exposes you to a setting with different cultural, social, and political features than what you are accustomed to.
  2. Keep an open mind. No matter where you end up you are bound to encounter a variety of perspectives, politics, and value systems that might challenge your own. Engage in intercultural dialogue and learn as much as you can about the people and place you are visiting as a tourist.
  3. College is the perfect time to push outside of your comfort zone. Though I knew I wanted to study abroad, the prospect still made me nervous. I’m so glad I took the leap.
  4. Take time to travel and explore the destination you’re living in alone. Learning how to use the city transportation systems, navigate unfamiliar surroundings, and enjoy my own company instilled me with newfound confidence.
  5. Try out something you’ve never done before to enrich your study abroad experience. Start a travel blog like me, or try your hand at photography if it interests you.
  6. Have fun! Dedicate time to your studies, of course (it is called studying abroad for a reason), but prioritize having new experiences and embrace an adventuresome spirit.
    denmark

    Møns Klint, a stunning chalk cliff on the Baltic Sea. Featuring my wonderful roommate Nikki!

Zoë is a junior Sociology-Anthropology major who loves traveling and studying abroad, taking photos, and luxuriating in long walks in the glorious Arb. At Carleton, some of Zoë’s favorite pastimes include frequenting the various coffee shops in downtown Northfield, playing cello in the orchestra, participating in club soccer, and spending time with friends. Meet the other bloggers!