Core course week: Copenhagen, Aalborg & beyond
Hej fra København, where I just got back from the greatest field trip that ever was!! (sorry Museum of Science and Industry, but you were a close second) and its name is…
CORE COURSE WEEK
*rap air horn*
Core Course week is basically a week long field trip that happens twice a semester at DIS. The first week is a short tour where classes spend a few days in Copenhagen then travel to different locations all across Scandinavia for three days, and the second is a week long tour in another country. My Positive Psychology class traveled to Aalborg, DK and had the BEST time. Here is a quick look into what we were up to this past week!
We started off our week on Monday morning at the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Centre in Frederiksberg to study mindfulness and meditation and its relationship to positive psychology. I frantically hopped off my bike, still sweating after getting lost twice on my way (surprise surprise) and the anxiously spinning hamster wheel of my brain was instantly calmed by the warmth and calm of the center. I was invited to take off my shoes and leave my phone at the door as I entered a beautiful white meditation room. We spent the morning learning about the four categories of our thoughts – positive, negative, necessary, and unnecessary – and how they impact our psychological wellbeing throughout the day. We talked about the power of mindfulness and the benefits of meditating at least once a day before practicing some guided meditations as a group.
Y’all – the meditations were SO cool. I am usually the captain of the struggle bus when it comes to mindfulness and anything that requires sitting still for more than five minutes, but I felt completely at peace listening to the calming voice of our mediation teacher. Two of my favorite meditations were focused on imagining ourselves without any fear or anxiety, and directing only positive thoughts to ourselves for two whole minutes. (something I think we could all benefit from…) After the session, we all shared some tea and biscuits and I felt more at peace than I have in a long while. I am definitely learning how to slow down and live in the moment more here in Cope, and it’s been super helpful for my well-being abroad. Since our visit, I have been meditating every morning, and I already feel like I am showing up to the world in a more loving, peaceful, and present way.
In the afternoon, we went to an art psychology session at the Creative Time Studio where we looked at our time perspectives through some hands-on activities. We were all given ten minutes to create four different collages representing our self, our past, our present and out future. After a whirlwind of cutting and gluing, drawing and painting, we talked about how our view of time can affect our happiness.
On Tuesday, we took a tour of Copenhagen’s built environment with DIS Professor, Josh Morrison. We walked from the city center to the neighborhood of Nørrebro and visited public parks, schools and community living spaces to explore the benefits of community and green space to a city’s well-being. I keep falling more and more in love with this city, and if all my people weren’t back home in America, I would move here in a heartbeat. Maybe someday…
In the afternoon we headed to a community sports center - Game - whose mission is to engage kids and adults alike in street sports that foster teamwork and belonging to reduce dangerous street violence and gangs. We toured the facility and got to hear about their mission before playing a few games ourselves. My personal favorite was knock-out; an instant flashback to the days of grade school P.E. - WHAT a time to be alive.
Tuesday night we got dinner as a class at Atlas Bar (thanks DIS!) The food was amazing, but my favorite part was getting to know all the awesome people I would be spending so much of my semester with. I am a firm believer that communities are formed around the table, and I could really see our class starting to connect as a group.
On Wednesday morning, we visited a drug consumption room – our last stop in Copenhagen before leaving Thursday morning for Aalborg. This visit was so interesting. Drug consumption rooms are basically places where hard drug users can safely take their drugs in a clean and monitored environment to foster safe drug consumption and reduce overdose. Although this may seem like a counterintuitive approach to drug safety, it is a widely-used system in many countries. It has been proven to reduce deaths due to overdose, and dramatically decrease the amount of drug related garbage and drug consumption in the streets. Our class agreed that this approach would be an extremely beneficial program to introduce in the United States in defense against our Opioid Epidemic, and we learned that some states are already in the process of opening drug consumption rooms.
After the DCR, I headed to Skt. Peders to get my weekly cinnamon roll, and spent the rest of the day hanging with friends, and packing up for our class study tour to Northern Denmark.
On Thursday morning my alarm went off BRIGHT and early – an ambitious 4:30 am – to ensure I made the bus to Aalborg on time. After a sleepy bus ride and a gorgeous ferry ride, our class arrived just in time for lunch. We walked around the town and explored for a bit before heading to FunCenter for some class bonding.
Living up to its name, FunCenter did not disappoint. We broke into teams and went head to head in games such as bubble soccer, bull riding, toilet races, and human foosball, laughing and making fools out of ourselves along the way.
Afterwards, we hopped back on the bus and headed to a co-habitation community. Where we toured community homes, learned about the benefits of doing life with others, and spoke about the concept of Hygge – a Danish construct most closely translated as “cozy.” One of the men in the community said that although his neighbors weren’t his family, they were all “life witnesses” for one another. I really loved that concept; I think we would all benefit from having people who can witness to the lives we live, checking in on us and holding us accountable to becoming the people we want to be.
The night ended in another amazing dinner courtesy of DIS, and a fun night out with my classmates.
On Friday, we visited an open prison an hour outside of Aalborg. Guys, it was SO cool to see. There were no phones allowed, so I couldn’t take any pictures, but the prison looked more like a farm community than a typical correctional center – prisoners were housed in cheery yellow buildings and their classrooms, library, and family centers were situated in big red houses.
The prison system in Denmark is designed with an emphasis on rehabilitation over retribution – something the U.S. could really learn from. While serving their sentence, prisoners had the opportunity to go to school and are required work jobs around the prison. With the wages from their jobs, prisoners purchase their own food from a store on the prison and cook for themselves; a key aspect in preserving their dignity and independence while in prison. In addition, they can wear their own clothes and are given free time to play sports, go to the library, and have visitors with very little regulation.
Although there is no perfect society or prison system, I was shocked at the autonomy granted and the success produced from this prison model. The rate of second offenders in the Danish correctional system is much lower than in the U.S, because they succeed in producing citizens who are able contribute to the societies they are released into after their sentence has been fulfilled.
We ended the day in Skagen where we traveled to the northern point of Denmark and got to see where the Baltic and North Sea meet. (!!!) It was incredible – you could see the difference in the colors of the tide where the two bodies of water met, and I spotted a seal playing in the sloshing wall of waves where the two seas merged. Our professor encouraged us to take some time on our own and foster mindfulness as we walked on the beach. I thought about how thankful I was for this semester, and all the adventures it has brought me so far.
On Saturday, our last stop before heading back to Copenhagen was to a refugee camp; a temporary home for people seeking asylum while awaiting their acceptance into Danish society. It was a rare cloudless day, and the sun shone on us as the asylum seekers invited us into their homes and shared stories with us. They cooked us a feast for lunch with incredible dishes from their home countries: curries and salads, rice, and incredible cakes. We talked with them for about an hour over lunch, listening to life’s ups and downs, and talking about the things we all share.
I was overwhelmed with their hospitality, perseverance, and especially their hope. They broke every stereotype I had in my head of what a “refugee” is. They were educated and kind, insightful and caring. These people had been through such hardships, but their hearts had not been hardened. They had every reason to be angry at the world, but they were so full of love and peace. We said goodbye with heavy hearts when it was time to climb back on our bus to Copenhagen, and we all agreed that our time spent with them was the perfect ending to our weeklong adventure.
Another bus and ferry ride later, I was back in my little apartment in Nørrebro. It was my first time returning from a trip and I was surprised by how much Copenhagen felt like home. I fell asleep that night grateful for the week I had, and thankful for the people and the places that were starting to make Denmark the place to be.
Some bus and ferry views from the week… #thankful