Dyrehaven Forest

As I sit here drinking a succulent Danish mocha surrounded by candles and what is actually termed 'post-modernism jukebox' music my artistic self bids me to write and screams "Write you fool!" through my core so that's us.

Denmark is a very liberal nation to put it lightly. Anything and everything goes here. It's very different from what I'm used to, but I don't think America is far from being this liberal. The Danes, I would say in my limited perspective, pride themselves on welcoming any and every kind of people. While sometimes this has surprised me, I have to say that I have learned so much from the way their culture is built on respect. The Danes are content to let people have their own opinions and not have to prove that their personal opinion is better. This a far cry from America where you begin talking about religion or politics and you have to run and find shelter before the conversation blows up.

Having grown up in a southern Baptist church in a Christian homeschool circle,  I've unknowingly adopted certain views about groups of people - views filled with prejudice and judgment, some of that prejudice and judgement warranted, but most of it not. I would not attribute all of this view to me and how I grew up but rather with American society as a whole. Tolerance and equality are preached in America, now more than ever, but never actually realized. In my experience, someone has said they respect my view and don't agree with it which is totally ok, but then follow that statement up with why and how my belief is wrong all the while insulting me and my intelligence. Americans have this innate need to prove things. We are not very good at agreeing to disagree and this leads to conversations like the one above where someone's intelligence is insulted. This needs to change!

One of my favorite things about studying abroad, especially in Denmark, has been to be exposed to different worldviews, many of which I don't agree with, but I can still respect. One of my good friends here in Copenhagen is bisexual and in almost everything, she has opposite views from me. But you know what? We actually laugh about how different we are and then we begin discussing our understanding of life, the universe and everything but without getting angry, being disrespectful or rude. As two intelligent adults, we are just interested in knowing more about each others worldviews and sharing about our life. Everyone has a desire to be understood and to share about themselves so that others can understand them and we are connecting on a human level by talking about what life means to us.

Antagonistic conversations rarely help any situtation or friendship, rather they serve to drive friends and family members apart. As Christians we are called to love everyone - even our enemies! Some may think I've become more tolerant/accepting over this semester abroad because I've been "indoctrinated by worldly ideals" since anything goes in Denmark. What's really happened is that my snap judgments and privileged prejudices and opinions have been erased and I've begun to see people who I wouldn't normally associate with/agree with clearly as Jesus sees them. They are people who live life like me, go through similar things and have the same hopes and dreams that I do. I'll admit that I used to judge people quite a lot - I never shared my judgement with others, but nevertheless I still judged when it wasn't right to judge and that's wrong.

I've definitely seen some things in Denmark/abroad that disturbed me to my very core but from being exposed to that I've been forced to examine my responses and actions to such things. At the same time, my views and perspective of people has changed from judging them right away to seeking to understand them and get to know them and for that I'm grateful for my time here in Denmark.

Jesus calls you to love. Passing automatic judgment is the opposite of that. What did Christ do? He went and spent time with those who the society rejected - lepers, tax collectors, sinners. What did He do? He got into their world, sought to understand them and then loved them and challenged them right where they were.

We as Christians are called to this same path and it's taken me traveling all the way to Copenhagen to live here for five months for me to even begin to see clearly and scratch the surface of this crucial concept. I'm not even close to understanding yet, but God has changed my heart and opened my eyes and I hope He challenges you to open your eyes as well.


Burat, Albania

"You’re my wanderer, little wanderer
Off across the sea
You’re my wanderer, little wanderer
Won’t you wander back to me
You’re my wanderer, little wanderer
How I wish that you could see
You’re my wanderer, little wanderer
How I need you back with me
Back with me" -Death Cab for Cutie

A few months ago a friend sent me this song by Death Cab for Cutie saying that this song described me at this point in my life. After being halfway through my study abroad journey, I cannot even begin to explain how accurate that portrayal was. 

Before I arrived in Copenhagen, I told myself that one of my goals was to figure out where my life was headed and my life goals so I would know the next steps to take when I returned home. I assumed that being abroad would give me plenty of time to think, ponder, and contemplate what I desired in this short time on earth and what God desired for me. This assumption was correct, but I feel like I am further away at knowing what I want to do with my life than ever before due to not knowing how I can best glorify God. 

Budapest, Hungary
Before coming to Copenhagen, I had my whole life laid out: finish school, get my Ph. D in Genetics, do cancer research and hopefully get married sometime along the way. My wandering in Europe has mirrored my wandering in my mind of trying to figure out what God wants me to do with my life. After wandering around Europe the past few weeks, I've realized that it is going to be hard for me to go back home to North Carolina after seeing all I have seen. There's no denying that I miss my family, my friends and my church, but being a little wanderer trying to find my way within the world has grown me and shaped me so much as a person. I've become independent and comfortable when there's just me and no one else. I've gained such an appreciation for different kinds of people from different cultures, religions, worldviews etc. Most importantly, I've learned to give plans to God and try to not be the overstressed planner that comes naturally to me, and trust me, I'm relearning this every single day. After being abroad for this short time, I've also realized that there are so many opportunities and experiences to be had overseas that I had never considered before and I am now much more open to coming back to work, go to school or give my time.

Vienna, Austria

Two weeks ago, I traveled to Kosov0 with a team from back home to work with a school and teach various courses to the students. I had expected to just assist with some of the classes as a teacher's helper but I ended up teaching my own science class and lab to the students. These kids had the most curious and interested spirits I have ever seen before. They asked question after question about how they have blue eyes and their parents have brown eyes, why DNA is the way it is and even how computer code and DNA code are similar. Long story short, the same excitement and fascination that I had with science In high school, these kids had at an even earlier age, and I got to be a small part in fanning that excitement. It gave me more of a love for science and even more of a love for these kids. People have told me before that I should be a teacher and until this past week, I had no idea why. After one of my lessons, the head teacher told me that I had a gift for taking difficult concepts and simplifying them so even children could understand. God gave me this gift for a reason so how does he want me to use it? 

Prague, Czech Republic
Denmark has also captured my heart. I have fallen in love with the people, the culture and the language. There are some fantastic doors open to get my Master's and then Ph. D here in Denmark. The research facilities are state-of-the-art and crazy awesome cancer research is currently happening here in Copenhagen. But at the same time, if I go and get my Ph.D in Genetics and do cancer research (which has been my dream ever since I was 11) how lonely and without people would I be? The life of a scientist can lead to isolation and selfishness due to the focus in getting your projects done, furthering your research and becoming a better and more well-known scientist. I may be influencing the lives of people down the road, but would I be influencing those around me who need more than just a medical cure, but really need a spiritual cure? I can not deny my passion and love for science, but I want God to get the most glory from what I end up doing in life.

For those of you who know me, I understand life and what goes on around me through writing, so this is my attempt to understand what is swirling around in my own mind, but also sharing what's going on with me here in Copenhagen. At the moment, I'm striving to trust God and give him my life to do with it as he wishes, but it is probably one of the most difficult things I have done. I am a natural born planner and I have an obsessive need to know what is going on so I can plan effectively but also just have some control over situations. While we were in Kosov0, plans changed by the minute and it took constant reliance on God and his bigger plan to calm my nerves and squelch my need to know what is going on. Through what is going on right now in my life, God is continuing to teach me this lesson through not knowing what I am going to do with my life. It's a wild ride, and definitely not easy, but God is sovereign over all of my life and His plans for me will glorify Him. To God be the glory. 


Lund, Sweden 
Studying abroad is portrayed as the best time of your life. The time where you get to find yourself. The time where you have the most fun. The time where you meet your best friends. The time where you find who you are. This may be true... but to be honest, studying abroad has been one of the most difficult, lonely, and soul-searching times of my life thus far. Culture shock is such a general word for it, but it is so much more than getting adjusted to a new culture, it is the yearning for a support group, the want to be understood, but most importantly getting used to being by yourself.

One of the most difficult things for me has been finding a support group to encourage me while I'm here in Denmark. When you move to another country you are literally picked up and dropped in a country with no support group. You may know some people in the country but they don't truly understand you, that takes time and effort and is not immediately in place when you get here. When you're living somewhere for only a semester it's difficult to make relationships where you can open up your heart and be vulnerable by sharing with others the difficulties and struggles with your life. Even when you open up your heart, it's difficult to receive the encouragement you need because people don't know you like your support network back home does. I have missed my friends the most while I've been over here. Yes, I'm able to Skype/Facetime and text them, but there's something totally different about going to your friend to tell them in person what excited things are happening in your life or calling them to ask for prayer and them offering you encouragement or advice in return. I love getting to know new people and going deep in conversation, but it takes time for me to trust them in order to reveal my heart's desires and soul's questions.

As humans we all desire to be understood; that's one reason I write a blog. I desire for people to understand how I think and my thought process, but more than that, I write so that I can understand myself better. When you're living in a foreign country you are not understood in the same way anymore. Your humor, way of communicating, and even your likes and dislikes are subject to the magnifying glass of the culture you are now in. This is not a bad thing in and of itself as it causes you to look at your culture back home in a different light and examine your reasons for why you are the way you are, but it is confusing and difficult to adjust to. The foundation you stand on is being chipped away while you try to balance and still stand strong on the foundation. When I meet someone who is American, it is a sigh of relief. They understand me, my language, how I act and how I live and we often share similar humor. It is relaxing and comfortable. It takes a lot of time and effort to get to know people from other cultures because it's literally a whole different culture. It's so worth it to get to know them and learn to think of things differently, but it is nice to be able to relate to those from your own culture every once in a while.

Studying abroad requires you to be comfortable with being alone. I'm literally half introvert half extrovert, but I've found myself utilizing more of my introverted self while I've been here. I've definitely enjoyed being able to think and ponder the ins and outs of life, but there are times like yesterday when I needed a big bear hug from either my family or my friends and no one was there to give me one. It is in those times that you grow the most. You are a penguin on an iceberg in the middle of a wide, wide ocean; It's only you and God and you can either choose to wallow in the sadness of your loneliness, or ponder it and examine the root cause of it. I may still be lonely some days, and that's ok, but I have grown a lot through addressing my loneliness and clinging to the Lord during this time.

Studying abroad has been great, and I know I'll look back on it as one of the best times of my life, but I wanted to be honest about what studying abroad is like as I feel like not all aspects of it are fully represented within the American culture.

I've been in Denmark for five weeks now and I thought it was about time to delve more into the Danish culture and what has surprised me about it thus far. Adjusting to life here in Denmark has not been that much of a challenge, yes I miss my friends and life back home, but I've been able to find my place within the city of København and learn to love where I'm at right here. In my mind, I know that I will be returning to Cary, North Carolina in just a few months so there is no point in lamenting over what I have left, because I will return to see it again. That doesn't mean to say that I am relishing the moment when I will get to open up a glass bottle of Cheerwine and drink the sweet goodness that is North Cackalacky but I digress...

Se! Det er mig! 
Back to Denmark... every day I am surprised by the way Danes do things here but in good ways! I think the most surprising thus far has been the trust and helpfulness of the people.  Coming to Denmark I heard that the Danes were a rude people, and I have found that to be totally false in my experiences. People have carried my bike up slippery metro steps, figured out my train route when I had lost all hope, and just last week a lady opened up her home for me so I could use the bathroom to change because I was running late for Ultimate Frisbee practice. Having lived in America for all my life, I wouldn't dream of ever letting someone in my house for fear that I would be stuffed in a black bag, but people here are extremely trusting and Denmark is one of the safest places in Europe.

Kronborg Castle
This safety has something to do with the equality ingrained in the Danish culture. Everyone here is equal. A few weeks ago I ran into the Prince of Denmark and his wife Princess Mary at Kronborg castle. They were shooting a commercial in front of the castle but they only had two agents with them, not a whole entourage complete with police cars and limos. The Danish royals and celebrities pride themselves on being accessible to everyone because they are real people and do not want to be put on a pedestal. The inherent safety of the culture comes from the sense of belonging and equality that the Danes have in their society. Collectively, they are responsible for their Danish brothers and sisters which means that I can walk in downtown København late at night without the fear of being mugged which is a far cry to how I feel walking down the streets in Raleigh at night. 

Our hearts ever hold you N.C. State
Within my classes (which just began yesterday!), the professor's job is not to lecture at you and convince you of their belief, rather it is to facilitate the discussion of ideas where everyone has a chance to talk and give their input. Decision does not come about by one person in authority deciding for everyone, rather, decision comes about by people chatting and discussing an issue. The focus is on making your own choice instead of being told what to do. This is one reason why I am seriously considering doing my Ph.D over here in Denmark. You are given a lot more freedom in terms of what project you choose, how much time you spend on it, and how much help you want. It is not your job to be the PI's slave, rather your project is your own and the relationship between you and your PI is more of a mentorship and partnership.

Forever reflecting
One of my favorite things that I have heard about within the Danish culture is their view upon work. Work is extremely important and many Danes find their identity in their work, but they are not focused on the hours of work they do, or the pay, rather they are focused on the quality of work they do and getting the project done. Companies strive to understand how the employees are feeling because they know that if the employees aren't happy then the work will suffer. This seems like a much better way to ensure that people are happy with their work and getting work done without the issue of people not having enough work to do.

Some goaty-legs 
There are numerous amusing and funny things that the Danes do that I was not used to before I came here to Denmark. I'm currently studying Danish as a language while I'm here which is so much fun and so difficult at the same time. If Danes they are trying to define what something is, their language has the ability where you can string as many nouns together as you want to define and name something else. Hans Christian Andersen named one of his characters "Gedebukkebensoverogundergeneralkrigskommandersergenten" which is literally translated as Goaty-legged-above-and-under-general-war-commanding-sergent. This makes the language 10x more complicated as I have to break down these super long words into their constitutive pieces and then translate them all together.

The beautiful town of Elsinore from Hamlet
Danes also don't really do small talk. I personally enjoy this very much because small talk can get so old, but it's also difficult to ask someone who you've barely met, deep, personal questions without feeling like you are barging in on their personal life. Danes also tend to be more direct in their communication which I have struggled with sometimes. I tend to beat around the bush with new acquaintances and friends as I don't want to come off as brash and intruding. Once I know someone I'll be quite direct with them; you can ask some of my friends ;) I'm also not extremely decisive and I want everyone to be happy with a decision so it is still going to take time for me to be more direct in my communication.

To be honest, trying to think of reflections that I have had so far of Denmark has been difficult as I feel like I have just adjusted to the culture without any sharp cultural differences that have shocked my world. I do hope to explore these sort of comparisons more over the next four months as it has been very rewarding to seek to understand my own culture more to know how it is different from the Danish culture.

Reflection from Christianhavn

"Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt of every situation you believe to be the Will of God." - Jim Eliot

A sweet friend gave me "Let me Be a Woman" by Elisabeth Eliot and ever since reading the quote above in her book, I have taken it to heart as my mantra to live by here in Denmark. It's hard to believe but I have been here in Denmark for three weeks now. It feels like the time has gone by so fast, but at the same time, so much has happened in the past three weeks. I'm almost finished with my beginner level Danish class, I've visited my Danish family and taught them how to play Apples to Apples, I've fallen off my bike numerous times and just shouted "Sorry I'm American!" , I've eaten more pastries and have drank more coffee than one can count, I've become a pro at navigating København, I've learned how to play Call of Duty and skateboard, and I've spent lots of quality time laughing and talking in Danish with my host family. However, I still do not feel anchored in København yet; I have not called it my home.

Velkommen til Ribe
For the first few weeks I struggled to find my place within København. I couldn't interact with the Danes very well since I didn't speak Danish but at the same time I had different goals than the international students that I met through Danish class. My goals are defined more in this and this post but in short they are to become fluent in Danish, make deep relationships with both Danish and international people and embrace adulthood. I'd love to maybe come back and do my Ph. D here in Denmark which means I am working really hard to understand, speak, read, and think Danish every day. I want to develop deep relationships with people who I can solve the world's problems with rather than go out partying every night but I have yet to find those people who share the same goal as I do. I also want to figure out how to adult through making my own decisions and not going along with the crowd.

Town of Ribe
I've strived to distance myself from Facebook and what everyone else back home is doing so that I can focus and concentrate on where God has placed me and who He has put in my path to become friends with and spend time with. I want to live to the hilt of where I am! I will admit it has been lonely. Back home I spend a lot of time with my friends whether it be studying with them, laughing at stupid videos, or having deep spiritual conversations. Here however, I don't have a strong friend group yet and I think that is one reason I have yet to call København home. I don't feel anchored. More and more, however, I come closer to calling Denmark my home.

Just today, I got to spend time with some international students in the graveyard where H.C. Andersen is buried; it is actually a beautiful graveyard! As we sat in a circle talking about the Danish language course and how we are all struggling but enjoying the language at the same time, I looked around and realized how different yet similar we all were. Within our circle there were five different countries represented: Israel, Germany, Hong-Kong, Turkey and America. We all grew up with different backgrounds and worldviews, yet we could all speak English together and we realized that chocolate is literally almost the exact same word in all of our languages. It was so wonderful to be surrounded by the beauty of the graveyard and be able to talk about our cultures and what life is like for us in our country. It truly was a picture of what I hope my time in København will be like.

Church in Ribe
That is living to the hilt of where I am. It is throwing away all of my pre-conceived notions about what I think my time here will look like and my plans and my need to know the schedule and need to be in control and giving it to God to use for his glory and his will. It is talking with strangers on the train who help me figure out where to go, it is taking last minute trips to see my family, it is going out of my way to meet others and build relationships with them even if it is in a graveyard! It has not been easy at all and it has been a lonely path thus far, but every day God is giving me more and more grace and I am so excited to see what the rest of the semester has in store!


The Humanities Campus on Amager
Denmark is truly a wonderful place. I have loved living in the country of Denmark where a beautiful, lush forest is five minutes away but also being twenty minutes from Copenhagen and the charm it holds. Coming over, I knew that not knowing the Danish language would be an obstacle to getting adjusted, but it's been different than I've expected. Most Danes have English skills that far surpass people whose mother tongue is English, but there are a fair amount of challenges that come about from not knowing a country's language.

I am a person who prides myself on knowing a lot. This is one of my downfalls in life because it can lead to me looking down on others who maybe don't know as much about a topic I do, or it can set me up for failure because I have very high expectations of myself. Not knowing a language is a sure way to humble yourself. My host family speaks Danish amongst themselves and many times I have no idea what they are saying or a joke is said and everyone starts laughing and I laugh too, but I have no idea what I'm laughing about. They teach me Danish as they speak it which is so helpful but it takes time to learn enough of a language to understand colloquial conversation. When I meet Danish people who speak no English, or young Danish children there is no way I can communicate; it is like a wall goes up between us that can not be knocked down. In those situations I feel dumb and stupid even though there is nothing that can be done about it. Not understanding a language doesn't just mean I can't communicate, rather it means that my pride is knocked down a few levels, which is a good thing.

My Danish classroom
Today, the Danish language course began. I have been so excited for it because I have a strong desire to learn the language. Just today, my host family and I were all learning languages on the DuoLingo app and a total of four languages were being spoken at the same time: Danish, English, German and Spanish. It was quite the sight. This language course actually counts as an actual class, which means that there are exams - oh joy. By the end of the three weeks though, I should be an intermediate speaker of Danish which would be great to build the rest of my studies off of.

One thing that is really awesome about living in a culture with a different language is the way that God can still be worshipped no matter what language you speak. Every evening, my host family reads the Bible to their kids, though it is in Danish. I don't understand a word, but it is powerful to hear God's Word nevertheless. The other day we had to pick up the kids from a church camp and they sang some songs to finish up the camp and this is one of the songs they sang and it nearly brought me to tears. God is present through every tribe, nation and tongue.

Hvor God er god mod mig
Aldrig kan jeg glemme
Hvad han gjorde for mig. 

How God is good to me
I can never forget
What he did for me


Hej København! I have been recovering from jetlag for the past few days, but this morning I woke up from a full 8 hours rest, finally ready to write about my time in København thus far. I'm trying to focus more on enjoying the city and what it has to offer instead of trying to take photos of it all the time so there may be fewer pictures and blog updates, but the ones that I write will be full with thoughts and musings.

I am not living right inside København but in a little town about 20 minutes train ride away called Albertslund. A wonderful family has taken me in as one of their own; they've been very gracious in helping me navigate the craziness that is the København S-train but also in welcoming me into their home and giving me a beautiful room to stay in while I'm here.

I have only gone into the city three times so far, but already I am falling in love with the cobblestone streets (which are not fun to ride a bike on FYI...), amazing coffee and pastries and rich history that is København. Yesterday, I spent some time trying not to get lost while biking around the city and I stumbled across a coffee shop within a little plaza which was next to a church and what is called the Rundetaarn (Round Tower). I attempted to read while sipping on strong Danish coffee, but my eyes were constantly drawn to the hustle and bustle of the plaza and the comings and goings of many Danes.

Danes are normally characterized as a coconut in that it takes time to get to know them and crack open their shell as opposed to Americans who are characterized as peaches as we are open and friendly on the outside but harder to crack on the inside. All the Danes I have met so far, have been absolutely wonderful and welcoming. I spent some time with the daughters of my Mum's Danish classmate from 25 years ago and we laughed and talked and made Oreo Balls. Yesterday I got to see my Danish family who I have not seen in 10 years and we spent time together seeing the Little Mermaid statue and drinking coffee. Even at the coffee shop in the plaza, the guy preparing my coffee made an effort to ask me about myself and what I'm doing here and told me that I was pretty ;)

Danish pastries and coffee are no joke. So many of our American pastries consist of dense dough and super sweet frosting/icing. Here pastries are made of a delicate, papery dough and topped with a just-sweet-enough icing which leaves you pleasantly satisfied, instead of overwhelmed with sickly sweetness. The coffee is very similar. There is just enough sugar to hide the bitterness of the coffee, because Danes like their coffee strong,  but you don't feel like you're drinking straight sugar. 

I knew that København was the biking city but I don't know if I really knew the extent of the biking culture here. Bikers have their own bridges, lanes, and even cars on the S-train. I've only almost fallen off my bike while trying to get on about 20 times, but I feel like the real deal now that I have joined this biker culture with Madame Blueberry!  

Next week begins the Danish language course. I am excited to at least try to speak some competent Danish, but in the afternoons we go on cultural excursions around the city where I know I will learn more about the rich Danish history, alongside a group of internationals who I'm sure I will become fast friends with. Hej Hej!  
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