As I write my first post from my bedroom, I am staring at the many piles of clothing, toiletries, and other “necessities” that cover my floor. I can’t believe that in just seven short days I will be departing for my semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. From mid-January through mid-May I will be studying with the Danish Institute of Study Abroad (DIS). I am a third year at the University of Virginia, studying economics and media studies, so I have chosen to participate in the communication program at DIS. In addition to my core course (Strategic Communication), I will be taking four other classes: Danish Language and Culture, Development Economics, Digital Media in Marketing, and Glued to the Set: TV Shows, Norms, and Culture. I am beyond excited for our program’s core-course week in Western Denmark and Copenhagen and our week-long study tour in London. I have also already signed up for one of the DIScovery trips (Explore the Norway Fjords), which includes five days of adventure in Flåm and Bergen. I am also looking forward to independent travel in Europe! I recently found out that I have been placed with a host family! My host family consists of Palle and Pia, my host parents, and their three children, Peter, Louise, and Christopher. Chris just turned 18 and lives at home with Palle and Pia. I was thrilled to receive a detailed email from Palle in December, introducing me to each member of the family and welcoming me to Denmark. We share many interests including cooking, playing sports, and learning about, understanding, and communicating with people from different cultures. Palle and I have continued to communicate over the winter holiday, and he has given me a lot of advice about the cold, cold, cold weather in Copenhagen. My host family lives in Hareskovby, a suburb of Copenhagen, and my commute to DIS will be easy and fairly short each day using public transportation.
Since receiving the letter from my host family, I have begun to pack, and have started checking things off of my to-do list, including saying goodbye to my “little sibling” Lanyah. At UVA I am a program director for Big Siblings, a program through Madison House, the University’s student volunteer organization. For the past two years, I have spent around 2-3 hours per week with Lanyah. We do a ton of activities together ranging from ice skating and playing soccer to building gingerbread houses and decorating cupcakes. Each year, we attend a UVA Women’s Basketball game together along with her mother and younger sister. Yesterday, I made a trip down to Charlottesville to go to the game and to say my last goodbye. I am so glad I was able to make the trip down. Although my schedule is packed and I am frantically trying to prepare to depart, Lanyah and her family mean a lot to me, and I was thrilled to see their smiling faces as we spent one last evening together (until next year!). The game was exciting, with UVA winning in the last few seconds. The best part of the evening was when Lanyah was asked to go on the court during a time-out for a high-stakes basketball shooting competition. The announcers were shocked as Lanyah flawlessly made three shots in a row, and won all three prizes (tickets to Wintergreen Resort, a UVA scarf, and a hat). We must have looked like we were having a great time (and we were) because Lanyah’s mom and little sister made the front page of the Daily Progress! While saying our last goodbyes in the parking lot was gut wrenching, I am happy that I am able to leave on such a positive note. For Christmas, I sent Lanyah stationary, envelopes, international stamps, and pens, so we will be in touch! Ask me questions before I jet off!