“You have to be displaced from what’s comfortable and routine, and then you get to see things with fresh eyes, with new eyes.”
I have always been a creature of routine habits. Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at certain times. Running in the morning. Drinking green tea in the morning. Reading the New York Times while eating breakfast. And the list could go on. But part of moving to a new place, and not just a new apartment or a new US city but a European city, is letting go of the old routine and discovering a routine that fits your changed livelihood much better and, as Ms. Tan says, “see things with fresh eyes”.
It has now been just about three months since I arrived in the land of the Danes, started a new job, made plenty of wonderful new friends, and established a new and exciting and always evolving routine. I must say that the routine is still subject to change – and this is something I am learning how accept (oh, spontaneity!) – but all in all, life is starting to settle down and Copenhagen has really started to feel like home.
Since I have been an abysmal blogger (it has obviously not been part of this new routine which I have established) of late, let me first catch you up on a few essential details of life in CPH:
1. I finally received my Residence Letter from the Immigration Services and was able to register with the Copenhagen municipality. You may ask why this is so essential as we don’t have this issue in the US, but registering with the municipality and getting your CPR number and ‘yellow card’ opens up many many many opportunities and benefits. The most important of which is healthcare – with this yellow card, I am eligible to go to the doctor if anything should happen. I can also get an official cell phone plan, get a gym membership, enroll in Danish classes…and the list goes on.
2. I moved! The first month of my time in Copenhagen was spent in a darling apartment in the northern portion of Nørrebro, one of the neighborhood communicates in Copenhagen. I knew going into it however that it would only be temporary as I had already come to an agreement to move into a room that a previous DIS intern had been renting. This (also darling) living situation is located in Østerbro, another Copenhagen neighborhood known for being quieter, family friendly, and sometimes a little ‘uppity’. Nonetheless, the proximity of my new home to the center of the city is fantastic and I am actually living with another DIS intern who is renting a room in the same apartment. The couple who owns the apartment (which is quite large for being in the city) still lives in the apartment, but our schedules are different most of the time and they keep to themselves and Ashley and I keep to ourselves. We share the main kitchen and bathroom with the couple, but Ashley and I have our own ‘area’ with a ½ bathroom and a kitchenette area. Overall I thoroughly enjoy it :)
3. I got a BICYCLE!!! Yes, I have become a true Dane – even to the point where I ring my bicycle bell to get people to move out of the way and use hand signals appropriately. After spending my entire first month either taking (and paying for) public transportation or walking, my appreciation for the speed at which I can get places is insurmountable. Bike lanes are everywhere and they are, let me tell you, some pretty awesome bike lanes, so getting from point A to point B on a bicycle is très facile. What I have found most exciting is seeing just how much I can carry on a bicycle. I have so far managed a suitcase, a backpack, tote and a grocery bag or two all at once and I found it still quite easy to ride through the busy streets of the city.
4. I have planned and led study tours. While it may sound like life is fun and games here, I have actually been working. Five days a week. And loving it. Part of my job is to plan and lead study tours. DIS is quite unique in that it uses “Copenhagen as your home and Europe as your classroom”. Each student, when they enroll at DIS, chooses a program whether it be Medical Practice & Policy, European Politics, European Humanities, Migration & Identity…and the list goes on. In addition to their core program, they are able to take electives that may or may not be related to their core program course. Either way, as part of their core course, they go on academic study tours to various cities in Europe, depending on what cities can best accommodate the theme of their course’s curriculum. In my case with Medical Practice & Policy, we plan academic study tours to Berlin & Poznan (Poland), Vienna & Budapest, Bratislava & Vienna, and Stockholm & Tallinn. The cities are based on the fact that one is in a country with a well-developed healthcare system and the other is in a post-Communist country with a healthcare system that is just getting ‘back up on it’s feet’, so to speak. So to make this potentially long story short, I have been on the phone with people in Vienna, Stockholm, Tallinn, and Budapest in the attempt to schedule tours and visits of various healthcare settings in each of the cities. Sometimes the success is not so apparent, but when a visit is made – it is so very exciting.
In addition to planning, I get to also lead the study tours. Earlier in September I led one of the Medical Practice & Policy (MPP) tours to Western Denmark where we were looking at how healthcare is provided in different cities and towns outside of Copenhagen. It helps the students to see the Danish healthcare system firsthand.
Most recently, I co-led a study tour to Stockholm and Tallinn with 29 students in tow. We visited a maternity ward, the Swedish Red Cross, an orthopaedic surgery clinic, a family practice and one of the largest hospitals in Estonia. In addition to the academic portion, we also try to make sure the students learn about the culture of each location – so we hiked through the Tyresta National Forest outside of Stockholm, did a Swedish spirits (liquor) tasting, and took a guided walking tour through the Old Town in Tallinn. I must mention that we were in Tallinn to experience their first snowfall, but it really was more of a blizzard, of the year. It was quite picturesque, until it was providing difficulty in us getting to the airport on time for our plane’s departure – it all worked out in the end though. Although it was a lot of work, I thoroughly enjoyed it in its entirety; the whole group felt like a family by the end of the week.
Overall, the hard work is worth it and I am so appreciative of all of these experiences.
5. I am finding time to submit medical school applications. Yes, this is one of the most difficult things I have had to do: try to balance my new lifestyle with sitting and writing essays and various short answer responses. Nonetheless, I am doing my best to get it all figured out and taking it one day at a time.
While those are some of the main aspects of my life here in Copenhagen, there has been so much more and it is nearly impossible to recount every little bit of it as much as I would like to. Every morning, I wake up and fall in love with this city I am living in all over again. I know that I have started to feel this city is my home as upon returning to my cozy room in Østerbro, I realized that I appreciate all that Copenhagen is and was oh-so happy to crawl into my own bed and get back to my Copenhagen routine.
From this point on, I am going to vow to blog more to keep all of you in the loop a bit more. I apologize for this dry-spell, but if you ever want to get in touch – feel free to e-mail me or send me some snail mail! I love receiving both!
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