Homestay Happiness

Our first picture together after arriving at CPH airport

What is it like being in a homestay you ask? It is only the BEST thing ever! I want to tell you all about what it was like to truly have a home away from home. This is what stepping out on faith looks like and how something I was skeptical of, ended up being one of the best decisions I have ever made. To my family met in Greve, this is for you!

As I previously mentioned, I was skeptical of living in a homestay, and because of that, I chose to put it near the bottom of my list of choices in the options for housing. There were plenty of valid reasons why I did not necessarily want a host family. For starters, I have definitely heard the horror stories of people not getting along with their host families and have also been a part of one! My family hosted international students growing up, and while I loved and had great relationships with almost all of them…there was that ONE that just did not work out and did not end in a great experience. Even though that was just one bad apple out of a bunch, I did not want to take my chances and happen to get a family that was the lone rotten apple. Another reason I was not quite sold on the host family idea was because I happened to be the only person from my college in the DIS Scandinavia program this semester. Most of my fellow classmates chose other places in Europe, Africa, or South America and because of that, I knew that I wanted to be in a dorm-like situation where I could be around other students. I thought that being in an LLC or Kollegium would make it easier to get to know people in my program, but I quickly realized that you can absolutely do both. One reason that eased my thoughts about being in a homestay was my father telling me about his host family when he moved to the states from Ghana, and how they are still such close family to this day. I can attest to that statement because I’ve met them and call them grandma, grandpa, and uncle just like my biological family!

Fast forward a few weeks to when the day had finally come to receive my housing placement and guess what I got…a homestay. I was very confused because I definitely did not label it as my first choice and being in a homestay is usually the most sought after option. I emailed DIS back and asked if they could please place me in my first choice (a kollegium) instead. The housing directors basically replied, “of course we COULD do that, but just know that we really think we have the perfect family, roommate, and living situation for you, but if this is not what you want, then we will switch you..and by the way, they have a dog.” Well when you put it like that it sounds like an opportunity that I would be crazy to turn down…and they definitely knew what they were doing throwing the dog incentive in there, sneaky move my friends. I followed up with a few questions, spoke to my parents about it, watched a bunch of youtube videos, and finally made the decision to go with my gut to stay in a homestay and needless to say, they were right, it was perfect.

I was able to FaceTime with my host parents prior to my departure to Denmark so that my parents and I could feel more at ease with who I would be living with, and I was so happy with the conversation. I arrived to Copenhagen at a later time than I originally anticipated so I was a little fearful that I was not off to a good start with my host family. However, when I saw them with arms open and ready to genuinely embrace me at the arrivals area, I sighed a breathe of relief. I said goodbye to my dad who conveniently had a business trip in Europe so he just tagged along with me, and from then on, it was history. We continued on our journey back to Greve, which is about a twenty-five minute drive from the city, and guess what dinner was waiting on me when I got home…TACOS! That is when the Texas girl in me KNEW I was going to be just fine where I was! I have never had an easier conversation with a bunch of strangers I just met, like our first night at the dinner table, and that ease never went away. My roommate and I had the entire basement to ourselves which included our own bathroom, washer/dryer, closet, and fridge, so we were living pretty comfortably! However, even though we had so much space to ourselves, most of the time we were upstairs with our family because that is where all of the fun took place!

I believe staying in a homestay is the ultimate way to get the most culturally immersive experience while abroad. The fact that I was able to be in a Danish family, constantly hear the Danish language, eat Danish food and more, provided me with key moments to really appreciate all that is Scandinavia. For example, one of the house rules in my homestay was that my roommate and I each had to cook dinner once a week. When we first heard this, we were terrified, but it in turn came to be one of my favorite parts of the week. I learned that pig skin was actually not bad and that I won’t eat any other pizza but potato pizza now. However, I also learned that I hate rye bread and that the Danish version of LICORICE is a horrific taste buds trap. Do not. Try. The. Licorice. I REPEAT, DO NOT TRY IT! It was also fun to bring our cultures into the home as well with this rule! My roommate was Mexican-American and often made Mexican dishes, and I come from a Ghanaian-American background so I was able to make some African and Southern Black dishes. Although, we DID end up getting nicknamed the “pasta girls” of the household for our fondness of all things Italian food. In hindsight, I think we need to check our ancestry again to see if we missed something. Cooking once a week also often caused us to bike to the local grocery store and do our best to shop like a local, which was an experience in itself. Let me give you a quick tip on that, do not even try to put on your best Danish tongue at Netto…they already know you are a foreigner as soon as you walk in. Another moment that I recall in my immersion to Danish culture was one of my favorites, and that is VERSUS NIGHTS! Versus was a game show on the DR (Danish Radio) channel, which is the most famous station for the Danes. The weekly broadcast set up a number of unusual challenges and asked the studio audience and any viewer with the Versus app to decide who will win. There was also money involved because with every decision you get right, your name is entered in a raffle done at the end of the night with a decent amount of kroner as a reward! My roommate was teamed with my host mom, and I was with my host dad, we did not take competition lightly! They would translate the gist of the challenges and then it was game on to see which of us would get the most correct. My host dad and I won the first time of course, but the next time my host mom and roommate won, so I am still waiting for the final rematch so we can determine who the TRUE Versus winners are! Just like with the food, we were also able to bring our culture into the home within the entertainment world. I remember when we suggested to watch a classic American comedy “White Chicks” for a movie night and had so many laughs! One final culturally immersive moment that I remember is when we attended a Danish church service with my host mom. My host mom works at the church and was so excited to bring us along for “Beatles-Sing-Along” night. Though the message was in Danish, the songs were not so we were able to have a great time singing along and meeting such nice people from the congregation.

Other great aspects of being in a homestay occur if you are fortunate enough to have the best host siblings, roommate and homestay network like I did. I had a fourteen-year old host brother who I truly got close to in the time that I was there. He reminded me of my own little brother and from rating his sneaker choices, to singing our favorite rap songs, to teasing him with a “RELAX DUDE,” having a bond with your host sibling is so important for both of you. I miss him dearly and I love getting to watch him grow up and be the coolest kid on social media. When it comes to roommates, I literally hit the jackpot! Just like the host family idea, I did not originally want a roommate. I thought I would be better off by myself enjoying my own space. Boy, was I completely wrong! My roommate and I not only became friends, we became sisters. Having someone who is in the exact same situation as you, experiencing this new territory together, is really a blessing and I encourage taking the chance when choosing whether or not you want a roommate. We still communicate to this day and have long hours on FaceTime as if we were back in the basement in Greve. Lastly, your homestay network is super important to your homestay experience. A homestay network is basically all of the other DIS students in your homestay village. When we had our first gathering, I was not so sure we would be the most gelled group, but once again, I was wrong! We got along so well and had a lot of fun with each other. We even had two kickbacks while we were there, one of which was hosted by our homestay house!

There are just not enough words and spaces on this page to fully tell you about how much I loved every moment of my homestay experience and homestay family. From biking to the beach, to getting tricked into eating FIFTEEN IKEA Swedish meatballs! From Hugh Hefner inside jokes, to Danish X-Factor nights. From conversations about race, gender, and politics, to learning new Danish words that I shall not say (inside joke)! From playing Uno, to purchasing whole cases of Faxe Kondi because we loved it so much! From discovering the Wii again at a homestay network kickback, to binging “Love is Blind” and indulging in too much chocolate on a roomie basement date. From repeatedly singing “Down Below,” to getting a surprise scare from my host brother on a night walk. From laughs at a homestay network breakfast, to immense cries when it came time to finally say goodbye. I could go on and on about the significant memories that I have from my time in my homestay but I will stop here. I cannot imagine being stubborn and sticking to my choice of a kollegium, because look at all that I would have missed out on. Though I did not get my full four months with my host family, I know we will all someday meet again and get those moments that were planned but did not happen. In the two months that we did have together, true bonds were created and I can still so easily recall some of our greatest memories. I encourage anyone to stay in a homestay if given the chance, you might gain a second family around the world destined just for you.

To my Danish mor, far, bror, and hund, I love you guys and thank you for letting me be your temporary daughter. You have a forever place in my heart. Let us continue to FaceTime and remember that Texas is only two long flights away!

My Hardest Blog Yet…

A little over a week ago, I woke up in Greve, made my eggs, biked to the train station, and arrived in the city to participate in my field studies for the day. That was pretty routine. I got home during dinner and joined my host family for burger night. I planned on packing when I got home because I was scheduled to go to Ireland for my long study tour with DIS. I had no idea that with a quick and crazy turn of events I would actually be packing to go home to Houston that night…

Yes, it is true. All DIS programs and activities were suspended and students were sent home as a result of the COVID-19 virus. In my last blog, I discussed how stressful it was trying to get out of Italy. THIS evacuation out of the entire CONTINENT was 10x worse.

On March 11th, 2020, at around 9:30pm the Prime Minister of Denmark announced that the country would be going on lockdown after then having a total of 527 confirmed cases of coronavirus. This meant that they were closing down all schools and universities, asking everyone to work from home, and prohibiting public gatherings. My host parents met with my roommate and me to give us a heads up that we could possibly be going home because of this. I teared up and hugged my roommate but still was optimistic in believing that maybe they would just have us learn remotely from where we were staying and then continue in-person classes soon after. Unfortunately, that was not the case. A few hours later we received an email from DIS stating that due to this new ruling, they were obligated to close and we had until March 19th to get home. My entire world stopped. I was on the phone with my parents while I was reading the email and I went completely silent. My parent’s first reaction was to urgently start looking for flights to get home as soon as possible. All they were saying was, “how fast can you pack?” “what’s your passport information?” “she needs to leave this weekend.” I drowned it all out and my whole body just went numb. I softly told them I would call them back and hung up the phone. As soon as that call ended, I let everything out. I bawled and bawled and bawled my eyes out to the point where I was actually struggling to breathe. In one of the moments where I was trying to get a hold of myself, I heard the same thing coming from my roommate upstairs. Her parents were on the phone trying to frantically find flights too. I called her down and invited her to come and share a pint of ice cream with me. I knew it wouldn’t make the pain go away, but at least for just that moment we had each other and we could pause and bask in the fact that we were still here for now. Well, shortly after, thirty minutes to an hour had gone by and we both were scheduled to leave that Saturday the 14th. We were watching Netflix and still enjoying each other’s company when we checked Twitter and started receiving a bunch of concerned text messages because President Trump also decided to put his nation on lockdown and imposed a travel ban restricting all entry from Europe. The moment quickly stopped and we both hurried to get in touch with our parents to change the already changed flight because now we had no choice but to leave the NEXT day before the ban went into effect. Every other American in Europe was doing the same so my parents were on hold with one airline, I was on hold with another, flights were selling out in seconds, and prices were going up just as fast. It was chaotic and stressful and I still had not been given the time to process the fact that my abroad experience was getting cut short. I did not want to think about packing, or saying goodbyes, or checking in for flights. I was not ready yet, but I had to be. Just so that you’re following this timeline and how quickly everything happened, we got the news of Denmark’s lockdown at around 10pm, DIS’s suspension at 12am, and it was now 2am and we were frantically packing. My new flight was scheduled to leave at 12:05pm and my roommates’ was scheduled to leave at 3:00pm THAT SAME DAY. We reluctantly woke up our host parents to tell them we were leaving tomorrow and they were in utter shock. We couldn’t even tell them that with dry eyes. They just hugged us and said, “you don’t deserve this and no one is to blame.” We put on some music and in disbelief was up packing through the night… until 6am.

We slept for a few hours and when I woke up I got a phone call from my parents saying after six hours on hold with the airline, they were able to change my flight to leave Friday morning instead of in a few hours that same day. I was relieved to know I would have another full day but saddened that it would not be with my roommate. Those next few hours were hard, we were all pretty sulked and still just in disbelief. My roommate started taking pictures of everything she could just to hold onto as many memories as possible. We both just hugged each other tightly in our room for as long as we could before it was time to take her to the airport. Once we arrived at the airport, the tears were flowing again. It was like we could not let go, but eventually, we had to and it was one of the hardest things I had to do. When I originally filled out my housing application, I asked to be in a dorm and to have my own room…I got neither and I am so glad my wishes were not granted. My roommate and I became sisters in such a short period of time and most of this study abroad journey would not have been as enjoyable if not for her. That was a tough goodbye, however, we plan on meeting up in the states once all of this is over. We are forever connected.

The rest of the day was pretty was fun but still quite somber. I tried to go on and do all of my normal routines and spend as much time with my host family as possible because I knew that soon I was next to leave. We played games, watched tv, had an indoor photoshoot, made “TikToks” and I made dinner for them since it was my last night. It was hard but I was happy and wanted to enjoy every last moment that I could with them and in Copenhagen before it was time to go. I could barely sleep that night and it was probably because I was anxious hoping the night wouldn’t end. The next morning we all had breakfast and just talked about some of our favorite memories together, Danish words and the fact that we will see each other again. I sat in my bed in Greve one last time to cry. Alas, it was time to go, and on my way out, my host brother handed me my favorite Danish drink which he customized by drawing hearts around it and told me that out of all of the thirteen students they have hosted, I was the one he’s been the closest to. At the airport, I kept running into fellow DIS classmates and that would bring back the tears all over again. We were all a mess and when it was time to say goodbye one final time to my host mom, I did not want to let go. The people in the airport and on the planes probably thought I was absolutely crazy because of how much I was crying.

The past two months have been me at my happiest. There are not enough words to describe the value that this experience has brought to me. I have laughed more, loved more, learned more, grown more, seen more, traveled more, experienced more, and so MUCH more. I didn’t choose Denmark for any particular reason. I actually just followed my advisor’s critique on where I should go based on my major and which program would be best for me. I chose my core course late based upon what was left. I even thought I applied to the wrong program when they accepted me into DIS Scandinavia because I thought Scandinavia was a different country! I had absolutely no prior knowledge or intent for coming to Denmark. Now, I can’t believe how much this hidden gem of a country means to me. My core course and I still talk in our group chat every day and even Snapchat each other because we’re so close. I facetime with my host family about once a week. I WhatsApp with my Danish friends that I’ve met at my favorite cafes, stores, burger shops, etc. Everything I do now is impacted somehow by my time in Copenhagen and even though the classes will continue from my bed now and then soon end, the relationships and memories I have from this place are forever. I will still continue to blog about my journey here and some insights that I have not shared yet. I owe you at least two more months if not longer Danmark. I will definitely see you soon. Hej Hej Københvn! Tak! Tak! Tak!

Travel Week and Turmoil

Park Güell

Let me start by apologizing for the delay in bloggage, but in my defense, ya girl was on vacation and it was quite a crazy one at that! I am back though and ready to tell you all about my first independent travel week while abroad! The DIS Scandinavia program is really awesome when it comes to opportunities for traveling. Not only do you get to do so at least twice with your class, but they also allot good amounts of breaks and free time to explore and travel all around Europe on your own! I had the first travel week free and while it was one of the best and most beautiful trips I have ever taken, it definitely was NOT the most conventional one…and I will tell you more about why.


My girlfriends and I started planning this trip about a month in advance and our first destination was to Barcelona, Spain. I have been waiting to go here just so I could fulfill my lifelong dream of being a Cheetah Girl! Though I did not get serenaded by a Spanish guitarist and sing through the streets of Gothic Quarter, this still made for an amazing trip! For starters, our Airbnb was a sailing yacht! Yes, we stayed on a boat in Spain, and yes it was as fun as it sounds. However, though a great experience, it was definitely a wet one and the lack of shower space and wi-fi had me begging to live on dry land again! I will admit that the boat did make for some great pictures, beautiful scenery and it was within walking distance from the beach. Our first full day in Barcelona had a lot compacted in it. Apart from walking around and eating tapas and paella, we also visited the Big Fun Museum where we got to put ourselves in so many different crazy rooms! It was quite wild seeing Guinness World Records come to life, riding candy unicorns, doing donut pull-ups and reading books upside down! Our final event of the day was my favorite. We hiked up Bunkers Del Carmel, where you can oversee all of Barcelona in all of its glory. We soaked every bit of it in until sundown.


As you can see from these photos, I was a very happy girl on day two of our Barcelona adventures. One of the main reasons for my joy was because it was so warm! We chose places that would be a break from cold and gloomy Copenhagen weather and the Texas in me was very pleased! We started off the day with brunch on the beach and it was a go from there. We walked to the historical Arc De Triomphe and got there just in time to see multiple street performers display all of their difficult talents! Our next stop was to the infamous La Sagrada Familia cathedral. I cannot even describe the magnificence of this place, it was absolutely awestriking. I do not even know how long I stood there gazing at it just trying to catch every intimate piece of detail. The Sagrada Familia was definitely a work of art and you can even attend mass inside on Sundays! Our final trek of the day was to Park Güell, which is also the most beautiful sight and quite similar to Bunker Del Carmel. There is a part of the park you can pay for to see all of the beautiful mosaics, but the free trail option was just as perfect to me. We once again sat atop of Barcelona and overlooked the most incredible view. I just sat for as long as I could singing in awe of creation from this perspective. Of course, we could not leave Spain without getting some authentic tacos and churros, so we went on a hunt for the best taqueria and street desserts in Spain and that made for the conclusion to our Barcelona travels. There was a lot of walking and hiking on this trip that I definitely was not prepared for (as you can see by my outfits) but nevertheless, it was a trip I will never forget!


The next stop was to Florence, Italy and this is where things started getting a little frantic…but I dare not start with that. We landed in Italy at around eight in the morning where we were checked for fever as soon as we got off the plane. We did not think anything of it and we were just so excited to be there. We hopped in the taxi and headed to the greatest Airbnb I have ever stayed in. It was in the perfect location, had great accommodations for the four of us, and a REAL shower! We did not necessarily have an agenda for the day other than to eat, sleep, and recover from our long days and early flight in Barcelona. We explored the local shops like Apple, Zara, Sephora, etc. until it was time to eat. Italian is my favorite category of food so I was very much so in heaven getting to eat nothing but ravioli, pasta, pizza, lasagna, tiramisu, etc. We concluded our day just by chilling and binge-watching Netflix shows for the rest of the night!


This was definitely one of my favorite days of the entire trip. We just spent the day eating and walking around beautiful Florence which then led us to the top of Tuscany. We walked to Ponte Vecchio and it was one of the most beautiful sights. I definitely want to come back there with my hubby someday and just have breakfast on the balcony along the Arno river. We did not think we would be there beyond 30 minutes, and it turns out we were there for at LEAST an hour just in awe! Then we went and hiked up Piazzale Michelangelo and it was a workout but soooo worth it. It was like being on top of Barcelona except it was the Italian version. It was quite interesting to see the differences in architecture, history, layout, and view between the two. We stayed there past sundown and I once again just sat singing and hardly believing what I was looking at. We ended the day with a great dinner where all of my Italian cuisine needs were once again fulfilled!


You will notice that the pictures are starting to decrease and that is because this is the day that heaped up the turmoil. We noticed that there was an abnormal amount of masks being worn around the city and the number of people walking the streets had gone down. We were getting worried text and calls from our peers and parents telling us to please stay safe, stay inside, and get out of Italy as soon as we can. We kept getting news updates and emails from DIS telling us about how bad the Coronavirus was getting. The number of people dying and contacting the virus in Italy was growing rapidly as we were there. We still had a flight and three more days planned in Rome! We did not know what to do and frankly, we could not really enjoy ourselves because we were more trying to be cautious of our every move. We decided that it would be best if we go so we started looking for flights. Apparently, everyone else was doing the same thing because flights were selling out, prices were rising, and layover times were increasing by the second! We got the cheapest flight we could for the next day and decided to come to terms with the fact that our Italian adventure was heading towards a close.


Our final day in Italy was rough. The sky was gloomy, the streets were deserted, fear and panic were in the air. Pharmacies were sold out of masks, tourist attractions started to shut down, and train travel was being stopped. I have never felt so stressed out in my life! Italy has been number one of my dream places to go since I was seven years old, so I could have never imagined I would be saying “PLEASE GET ME OUT OF ITALY!” We still wanted to enjoy our last day here since we were no longer going to Rome, so we switched things up and ate Subway instead of Italian food for lunch which gave us a little taste of home, and to make EVERYTHING right, we treated ourselves to authentic gelato and cannoli’s before heading to the airport. We found a flight that could take us to Germany with a layover and then back to Denmark. The airport was a mess! The frenzy was at an all-time high and people were not joking around. Because one of the girls in my group had become sick, we decided to get masks because we were in close proximity to her a lot. On my flight, I sat next to students who were studying abroad in Italy that had just been told their program was being shut down and they had forty-eight hours to go home. I felt so bad for them, but I realized how grateful I was to be getting out on time and my situation could have definitely been worse.

THAT is the story of how my travel week turned into turmoil. Even though my ten-day trip was cut to seven, I would still put it in my top traveling experiences. I ate TONS of great food, pastries, candy, etc. I viewed some of the most gorgeous sights I have ever seen. I became close with five new girls. I met and engaged with new people from different cultures. I also learned a lot about myself over the course of that week. I learned that I could handle stress and difficult situations like that on my own. I learned that you have to take life as it comes. I learned to live in, enjoy and appreciate the moments that are right in front of me. I learned that I can hike over 500ft mountain in a dress and some air maxes. I learned not to be stuck in fear. But, one of the biggest and most heartfelt things that I learned, was that Denmark has officially become “home” for me. I kept thinking about the relief I would have when I touchdown in Copenhagen and it was just that, a sigh of relief and a sense of comfort. My host mom was more than ready to bring me home safely and had been texting me all week to check up on my current status. She was the first car in line at the airport. I was telling her all about my crazy week as we were riding home and we were just laughing and conversing. We got home and I was greeted by my host dog, and given a big “I’m glad you’re safe” hug from my host brother and dinner was soon to be ready. It felt like I had never left. No matter how much traveling I do, this will now always be a place I get to call home.

People of Copenhagen: Black History Month Edition

Happy Black History Month! For this edition of my ‘People of Copenhagen’ series, I wanted to highlight a local Dane from the black community and also talk a little about my experience living as an African-American woman here in Copenhagen. I hope this is an informative blog and also challenges you to broaden your thinking and ways of meeting and interacting with others!

Meet Bru! Yes, that is actually his name and it is actually spelled like that! I was coming outside of a café and I saw him and absolutely loved his look. He walked by me and I was so hesitant in stopping his hurried stride to whatever destination he was headed to. Nevertheless, I took courage and ran after him. I yelled “excuse me sir!” He turned around and looked to see if I was talking to him but kept walking. I yelled again and said “yes, you!” He stopped and I ran up to him and said “hi, I’m doing a photojournalism project and I REALLY love your style, can I take a picture of you?” He paused, smiling nervously and asked, “right now?” then looked at his phone clearly in a rush. I begged and had him stand right where he was at in the midst of all the beautiful colors and I took about six shots of him as he posed. CLEARLY this was not his first time taking a picture! I asked if he wanted to see the pictures as my intro into a conversation with him. I showed him and then introduced myself and he did as well. He told me about himself and that he is actually from Paris, but he owns a store here in Copenhagen! The store is called, “Axel Arigato” and he told me they sell shoes and high end streetwear which also makes sense as to why he was dressed so fashionable! We talked for about five to ten minutes and I wished him well and told him I would visit the shop sometime. The shop is AMAZING and I encourage you to visit as well, in support of Bru and cool fashion! These photos with no preparation and random intervention have probably become some of my favorites in my catalog of pictures. I really wanted to capture minorities and the diverse aspect of Denmark, so I am glad I got to do that and meet a genuinely nice person.

I’m not going to lie, upon coming to Denmark, I was a little fearful of how I would be perceived as a black woman in a new country, with a predominantly white population. I didn’t know what I would encounter, endure, or enjoy entering into this completely new space. However, I can happily and truthfully say that my experience thus far has been pretty positive. I won’t sugarcoat it and act like everything has been super easy and utopian. There have been a few struggles. For example, the main one being, the STARES! Now, Danes in general are pretty big starers, but you definitely get a heck of a lot more being a minority. I don’t take it personal as much as I just take it as the fact that they probably don’t see that many people that look like me, and sometimes…I just stare back and smile! That usually stops the awkward interaction lol! Another struggle about being black in Copenhagen, is the nightmare of WHERE DO I GET MY HAIR DONE/PRODUCTS? African-American hair is a little different…ok a lot different actually…and there are a lack of shops/salons that cater to our needs of haircare. But don’t worry, I’ll give you some resources at the end of this blog to help with that! In addition to this hair crisis, don’t be surprised if people ask the infamous “can I touch your hair?” question or… if they just decide to do it, it’s quite intriguing to them. I try not to take offense to most things because I know that there is just a lack of cultural knowledge for some of the locals here, but that doesn’t mean you can’t express how you feel. I have encountered one racist incident, done to my friend, and I immediately spoke up and told him off. Nevertheless, the purpose of me writing this is not supposed to discourage you, because I will tell you, the good people very much so outweigh the bad here. I can’t speak for all minorities in saying this, but as for me, I most times feel safer and more free to be myself here than I do some places in America. I have met some of the sweetest, most endearing and accepting Danes that treated me just like everyone else and sometimes nicer. Some of those people being my host family, who I am truly grateful for and who really act as if I was their daughter. There are definitely many types of people here, and difficulties are inevitable, but try to find the good in everything and you’ll see how great people can be! I challenge you to meet someone that doesn’t look like you. Remember that everyone has a story.

Below are some resources that I’ve accessed and used since coming to Copenhagen that truly help and enhance others and me to have an exceptional experience here.


  • Diverse Identities Social Club: This community has been absolutely amazing and it welcomes all! It is for ALL people of color, LGBTQIA+ community, First-Gen students etc. I have met some of the greatest people in this group and we have a lot of fun together! DIS does a great job at inclusion and all of the staff are incredible!
  • DIS POC What’s App: This was actually started by me! I started this group as a forum for whatever we as students of color want to talk about, go to, engage in, etc. It is pretty useful, and I hope it is a group that continues to thrive even past this semester.

Facebook Groups:

  • Black Womxn and Black Non-Binary People in Copenhagen: I just joined this group but I have already felt such a strong community with these women. I have even been able to grab lunch with some and hear their stories and encouragements living here. They also provide a lot of events/information to go to for community.
  • The Melanin Corner: I actually know the creator of this group and it’s awesome! If you are looking for makeup products for darker skin, hair care, salons, or anything else, this is the place to go ask! There are plenty of MUA’s, Braiders, Stylist, etc. in this group that are there to help!


Inside Core Course Week

The Helsingborg Ferry

WOW! I have to start off with that because it is truly the one word I kept repeating the entire week during our Core Course Excursions! To say that this past week was one of the most incredible weeks of my life is an understatement! Core Course Week is where you and your core class go on a “short” study tour and engage in different places related to the topics you’re learning in class. My core course is New Media and Changing Communities and I can’t wait to guide you through my last week and what it looked like!

This is day one, and as you can see by the big smiles on my face, I was already having a great time. The first visit we went to was Khora Virtual Reality, which is in Dybbølsbro, only a couple of stops away from Copenhagen Central station, so I definitely recommend visiting there. The visit consisted of many different stations of virtual worlds, games, and earths you could literally be a part of just by putting on these glasses. For example, you could be in a shooting game, an astronaut in space, walking a plank on a high skyscraper, or in an underwater mission where a shark attacks you…that one…not as fun. My favorite one by far was the google earth station. In this virtual reality, you could go anywhere in the world from India to Antartica and be there in live time. Being a homebody, I chose to go to my hometown and even got to walk by my house and down my street! The visit concluded with a lecture about Virtual Reality, where it is headed, and what impact it has on us today. The next visit was to Danish Radio (DR) headquarters. This was probably top three of my favorite visits of the week! The DR is a huge deal in Denmark and it is where most Danes watch their news, game shows, and even drama tv. We had the opportunity to meet and hear from one of their head broadcast journalist Sophie Bremer, and take a tour of all of the studios and sets they have. It was cool to see the differences between American and Danish journalism and television! My host family was stoked that I was actually at the tv shows they watch!


The picture speaks for itself in telling you what day two consisted of. We started the day off going to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and got to hear from their Digital Editor on what online diplomacy looks like which was pretty cool and new for me to learn about. We then went to Microsoft’s Development Center in Lyngby, Denmark, which I would also put in my top three favorite visits of the week. We got to meet senior managing director Charlotte Marks, as she spoke to us about Microsoft’s efforts and future in industry platforms, quantum research, and collaborative workspaces. We ended the visit with a tour of the huge building/office space. It was an awesome time!

We got a day break on Wednesday, and then we were off to Sweden! We arrived in Malmö and went straight to our first visit of the day which was Media Evolution City! Media Evolution is a co-working and collaborative workspace where many different businesses can share office spaces. We heard from one of the main owners and business developers Pernilla Lavesson, about how the building is set up and why chance encounters matter a lot to them. We then went to Malmö University and got to hear two lectures in an online classroom where we were the live audience being recorded. The topics surrounded humanitarian paradoxes and what online resilience is. They were two very intriguing lectures and it was pretty cool to see a Swedish University!

Day four was absolutely INCREDIBLE! We left Malmö and headed to Helsingborg, Sweden to visit the first ever IKEA which they turned into a museum! I grew up going to IKEA’s on Saturdays as fun days while my parents were furniture shopping, so this was totally a dream for little Gabby. We took a tour and learned about the history of IKEA, their strives towards diversity and inclusion, got to see some of their first furniture sets and even had a cool competitive workshop about creativity and collaborating. This definitely takes the last spot in my top three favorite visits of the week. The exhibits were amazing and they have a photo booth where you can place yourself on the cover of the next IKEA magazine! Right beside the museum is the largest IKEA in the world where some of the people in my class even got lost! They also have an IKEA restaurant where you can get their famous meatballs and lingonberries in cuisine taste. This is a MUST visit, if you have the opportunity to. We then did the one thing I was dreading doing the whole trip, and that was curling! While I still don’t understand how or why curling is a sport, I have to admit, it was pretty fun, and I am very competitive so I had to win! I will also say that I was the first one to eat it on the ice, humiliating, but still a great day!

The final day was my favorite day and it was very bittersweet. This was mainly our cultural excursion day. First, we went to a lighthouse in Sweden, and saw the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. It was quite amazing to view creation from this standpoint. I could have stayed there all day! Next, we hopped on the Helsingborg Ferry back to Denmark to visit the Louisiana Museum, which was also incredible. I am a big museum fanatic and this is probably one of my favorites that I have been to thus far. I won’t spoil the exhibits that they have but I definitely encourage visiting this museum if given the chance. I have been searching and trying to see an infinity room (pictured on the right) for a while now, and I had to go all the way to Denmark to do so, but I’m ok with that!

Well, that about sums up my week! I didn’t even include all the amazing dinners and other outings that took place outside of what was on our schedule or that we did on our free nights. This was a great time to connect with my core class and I have really built some strong bonds with them! I learned so much in one week and if this is just the short study tour, I cannot WAIT to see what our long study tour in Ireland has to bring…stay tuned!

People of Copenhagen

Let me tell you about the people of Copenhagen. Now, I would like to disclaim that I am from Houston, Texas, so this is also coming from a southern perspective. However, I think that I have traveled enough to not be too bias in my view and some of my DIS peers have agreed with me on these points too.

Before coming to Denmark, you do what you would do any other new place that you’re traveling to, and that is…research everything about the country! I researched Denmark, and before I left to go, I even had to write a paper for my school, on the similarities and differences between it and the USA. One of the main facts and pieces of information you find about Denmark is that it is one of the happiest countries in the world! Of course, this means that everyone is happy-go-lucky and smiling all the time right? FALSE! Happiness and friendliness do not equate, but what I have learned is that you have to step out of your comfort zone and you will discover the many gems who are both!

One of the classes that I am privileged to be taking here at DIS is a photojournalism class. Our very first assignment was to go up to strangers and take pictures of them. That was a super intimidating task to be given for my first week of school and only the second week in a new country. Nevertheless, I put on what my professor calls a “brave cape” and went out on the streets of Copenhagen to find people. I got some rejections, weird looks, and some people even thought I was trying to sell something lol. However, I also got some great pictures, stories, and unforgettable conversations and moments! Copenhagen is quite reserved. Everyone minds their business and usually keeps to themselves. I have learned that cheesing hard on the streets as you walk by someone is more of a threat than it is an invitation! I have also learned to not let that image of the people here discourage you. Talk to the workers at your local bakery or Netto! Ask for help getting somewhere instead of just being set on google maps. Everyone has a story, and I would love to share as many as I can while I am here. Therefore, I decided this is something that I want to do beyond just my class assignment, but throughout my semester here as well! Stay tuned for more updates on my series “People of Copenhagen.”

Living Like a Dane

Wow. One week in a new country truly feels like one month! I cannot believe it was just last Saturday that around thirteen hundred students from across the world all landed in Denmark to call it their home for the next four months. I am lucky to be one of those thirteen hundred! The nerves started to rush as I was in the CPH Airport waiting for my baggage and thinking about how grand of a situation that I was stepping into. I walk to the arrivals area to find my host family and roommate front and center anxiously and excitedly waiting to greet me! I was welcomed with the biggest hugs and smiles even after a few flight changes and delays… and in that moment I was so at ease. It was a twenty-minute drive back to the house in Greve and dinner was already on the table. What was on the menu you say? TACOS! I was definitely at ease then! We all ate together, laughed, connected and had a great first night in Denmark.

My first reaction to Denmark was not really a reaction at all. Being in Copenhagen did not feel like such a culture shock from America…AT FIRST! That perspective quickly changed when we actually got the chance to visit the city the next day. Our host parents biked with us to the station and showed us how to use the DSB metro system to get to the actual city of Copenhagen. After arriving and walking around the city, I discovered so many dichotomous features and ways about Copenhagen. It was a big city but also a very small one. It was a friendly city but also a very reserved one. It was a wild city but also a very calm one! The dynamics all worked together perfectly and made the city very easy to love. I definitely felt like a tourist, admiring all of the great architecture with my camera and looking stunned to hear all of the historic facts about the country. I quickly learned many things within my first week and I am about to share a few of them. First of all, biking is NOT for the weak and apparently I have been doing it wrong all my life. Upon coming to Copenhagen, I thought I was going to be this big city biking girl, but I could barely even make it to the local train station! Secondly, cold and rainy weather is also not for the weak and it is probably my biggest con about living in Denmark. Although I am told the dark and gloomy skies will go away soon, this hot and bright Texas girl is WAY out of her element with this climate! Thirdly, “hygge” is a BIG deal and it is everywhere! Hygge is a Danish state of being cozy and with people you love. At my homestay, eating a candlelit dinner together is very prominent and is a daily occurrence, but it also is in most shops and restaurants you go into as well. Next, living in Denmark is quite expensive BUT it has its perks. Because Denmark is a little pricey, sustainability is amazing and also helps the environment. There is recycling everywhere, barely the use of air conditioning, and it’s why most people use bikes instead of cars. In addition to that, the high taxes on everything go to good causes; it enables free healthcare, subsidized childcare, AND you get PAID to go to college! Lastly, I LOVE DIS! The DIS program is probably the most organized and structured study abroad program that I have seen thus far and they offer some amazing once in a lifetime classes, taught by some amazing once in a lifetime professors, giving you amazing once in a lifetime experiences and opportunities. I am already a pretty big nerd, but after attending my first DIS classes, I have never been more excited to go to school! I am so glad that I chose DIS Scandinavia and I am very eager to see how the rest of the semester goes. That was a bit of a sum up and it was just a glimpse! I have met so many new and great people, gotten lost going home, eaten so many new things, gotten the typical tourist stares, had family game nights, some conversations with strangers, and so much more in just ONE week! As for the remaining categories like food, friends, going out, etc. you’ll just have to stay tuned for more…

DIScovering Denmark

Meeting after meeting, advising after advising, orientation after orientation…until the day has finally come! Copenhagen, Denmark is calling my name and I could not be happier. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Gabrielle Darko and I attend Spelman College, the number one Historically Black College in the United States, located in Atlanta, Georgia. I am an International Studies and Economics major, with a minor in Spanish. Being that I am an international studies major, I am required to spend a semester abroad. While in the process of choosing where to go, my advisor and I (almost simultaneously) had our eyes set on DIS Scandinavia. I started to read the different programs and courses available, and I could not take my eyes off the book. What takes people months of a process to figure out, took me an hour. It was even hard for me to only choose five courses! After I was accepted into the program, I met with a DIS representative and she told me that I was the only person from my school embarking on this journey in the Spring. I would be lying if I said I was not nervous and even a little hesitant about coming to Denmark after hearing that. However, I knew it would be another opportunity to stretch myself and grow in my independence and self-exploration. I began doing tons of research and networking with anyone who had already been through the DIS program or had lived in Denmark. I found a church that I would like to attend, learned how to “hygge,” saved some great restaurants, searched up local activities and more. The more I learned and heard about Copenhagen, the more I fell in love. I even became proud to say I was going solo to Denmark in my school’s pre-departure study abroad orientations. Next step…housing. I found out I was in a homestay and was quite shocked! Surprisingly, it did not take long for me to adore my new family as I wrote emails and had the opportunity to FaceTime with them. We quickly bonded, and I definitely knew I was placed in the correct space. Then I met my roommate and it was QUITE scary to find out how much alike we were. We texted everyday and I always felt like I was texting myself. We also FaceTimed and stayed on the phone for at LEAST three hours. Let’s just say, the housing department does an excellent job with placement! Those two connections alone put me much more at ease about the adventure that was about to begin. I started hanging out a lot with my family and friends and of course answered all the generic questions about Denmark and whether or not I was excited. Then, it finally hit me. The moment that I have been praying about is now here. The emails are starting to come in more frequently and the next steps are now present. As someone who has been blessed to travel internationally a lot, I am even more excited to add another country to my list. As a photographer, I am EXTREMELY ready to expand my photojournalism and have such new art, life and culture to capture. Lastly as a writer, I am elated to journal my interesting and thrilling journey as a Christian, African-American, female, living abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark and with a Danish family at that. I hope that DIS will grant me the opportunity to share those moments with the world also. Stay tuned for more…