First day as a student

Yesterday was my first day of classes, and it could not have gone better. Because all of my classes meet on Thursdays, I met all my teachers and classmates in one day. Although it was seven long hours of sitting through class, it went by pretty fast.

First I had positive psychology, and I am so happy I chose that as my core course. It is so interesting to have the opportunity to study a positive subject manner in a city that’s known to be one of the happiest in the world. We learned about the history of positive psychology, and that its focus is emphasizing what already works amongst the human population, instead of highlighting the diseases and disasters people face in their lives. Positive psychology is, of course, positive.

Next I had Danish language and culture, and I was surprised at how much of the curriculum is focused on talking about our new experiences with the Danish lifestyle. My teacher asked us to share something we have learned within our first week and compare it to what happens at home. She said that Danish people have a mindset that is probably more laid back than what we are accustomed to. She gave the example of when she and her husband were traveling in California, and people kept wishing them “safe travels.” Of course, as an American, I have heard this phrase dozens of time. She said that each time this occurred, they wondered why people said ‘safe’ instead of “happy travels” or “good travels” like the Danes typically do. People here are not as worried about the dangers of travel. They are also more trusting in strangers; Danes leave their babies outside with no supervision when they run into stores! It is an interesting sight to see baby carriages lined up along with bikes—no adults in sight. We also learned a few Danish sentences, and I learned how to say “My name is Amanda” (Jeg hedder Amanda) and “I’m from the United States” (Jeg kommer fra USA). I’m looking forward to learning more phrases and sentences, and I’m excited about the chapter where we learn how to order food and drinks in Danish.

My third class was Sociology of the Family, which was an interesting topic as well. The first activity included discussing similarities and differences amongst our families. Then, we challenged labels that we tend to use such as “half-siblings.” For example, how did society agree that the word “sibling” by itself means blood-related? Is a blood-related sibling worth more in some way than another type of sibling? Something I noticed in all my classes yesterday (but especially this one) was how willing people are to share about their personal lives here. I think it may have something to do with the fact that everyone in my classes is studying abroad, and that means they must have a somewhat extroverted attitude when it comes to meeting new people. Even the professors started each class with powerpoint slides about themselves and their families, and they encouraged us to ask them personal questions.

I headed to the Psychology of Peak Performance, where we discussed many different disciplines such as athletics, performing arts, and taking exams. My teacher emphasized that the class was for us to learn what we want to learn about, so we shouldn’t wait for him to discuss an area of interest. He encouraged us to raise our hands, even if we want to confirm that he will eventually talk about something, and I feel like this is a different mentality than my classes at Cornell. While professors certainly always encourage me to be curious no matter where I am, those at Cornell typically would prefer that I wait until the end of a class or discussion to bring a matter to the table. Throughout the entire day yesterday, in fact, I felt especially excited to learn without the prospect of tests looming. I think I will get so much out of my classes, not only about the subject matter but also about myself, as our interactions with Danish culture seems to serve a prevalent role in all the topics.

My last class of the day was Travel Writing, and I feel like I have a better sense of what exactly this is. For starters, it’s a genre with which I have zero experience, and I am so excited to start my first story. Travel writing is a non-fiction story based upon experiences relating to travel—but not just the glamorous parts. It can center on waiting in an airport, having a culture-shock experience in a random day-to-day moment, or observing tendencies in a new city. It also focuses on other people rather than yourself. My teacher suggested that we explore Copenhagen on our own to get inspiration for our stories, and I think that is a good idea.

Today was essentially the start of my weekend because I have no classes on Friday! Last night I went to a friend’s Kollegium in another area of the city, and a bunch of us made dinner together. This morning I explored the neighborhood on my bike, and then I stumbled upon the supermarket with a gluten free section, so I ended up browsing the food in there. After I dropped the groceries at home, I went for a run; it’s beautiful out today. I ended up running along the canal, and the path is directly next to the water’s edge. I stopped to take many pictures. I’m sitting in a cafe for lunch with Adina and Goldie, and we will do more exploration later today. We are also going to a Shabbat Dinner tonight.

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