Real Talk: I Spent a Semester in Copenhagen

By Shannon Manley, originally posted on the LaunchSquad Tumblr

cope1As most of us are adjusting to life after Labor Day weekend, realizing short days and cold winter nights are fast approaching, I am flying home from Miami after a much needed reunion. With who you ask? My Copenhagen friends of course — some of my closest and most cherished confidants.

cope2When I returned from my four month long semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, my family and friends asked me to sum up my experience because no one had time for hours of stories. To assign a few words to a life changing event is a daunting task. Nevertheless, I somehow fell on the Danish mantra “hygge.” In essence, this word means a good time. Outside the dictionary definition, though, “hygge” translates to creating a warm, unforgettable atmosphere surrounded by loving people who desire to enjoy the good things in life no matter how big or small. “Hygge” is a 4-hour-long dinner to a bike ride cope3around the city to even late-night dancing with no cares or worries. “Hygge” is everything.

If I could, I would repeat my semester abroad over and over, again, in a heartbeat. I have never been filled with so much wanderlust, love, and peace. As unrealistic as it sounds, I did not experience one bad day in the country that is celebrated as the happiest place in the world. I mean I was not always jumping up and down and smiling from ear to ear — in fact, I had a few times where I felt lost and confused. What I mean about happiness is having the time to experience the essence of being human. And, that I had plenty of in Copenhagen.

cope4My daily routine consisted of getting up at 9am, walking down stairs to my favorite cafe where I always got a slice of fresh French bread with swiss cheese, and then, I biked to class. From there, I would take an hour break in between school at the Glass Market and sit alone and just look, processing life’s simple pleasures. I once had a conversation with a Danish dad where I learned how I have an adventurous spirit and the power and fear of loving someone so much more than yourself that you no longer know yourself without him or her by your side.

I felt open and unrestrained in Copenhagen. Danes are all about honesty. In fact, on the train, you are on the honor code to buy a ticket. And, shockingly, most do! I addressed my teachers by their first name and when I cope5did not feel like smiling to a passerby on my bike ride home, I did not have to. Danes feel that life is too short to have to react properly to situations because society expects you to do so. You are pushed to do what you want — no questions asked.

This is the reason why I managed to see my travels as more than just a trip. I was able to process what I was seeing, hearing, and smelling because I had the time to think, a luxury now in my life. I visited Tivoli — the amusement park that inspired Disneyland — and rode a roller coaster, which was something that I thought I would never do again after riding the Tower of Terror. I sat and listened to live music on a daily basis in cope6Christinia, a very interesting place. In this village, you are not allowed to take pictures or really be on your phone. Christiania is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood governed by its own laws. So, you definitely feel as if you are transported back to the 60s and 70s when life was just about being. This is one town people need to visit because there is nothing like it — I promise.

In addition, I was forced to reevaluate my style philosophy. I grew up in a very creative family. I explored 60s multi-color dresses to big furry coats all cope7by the time I graduated to college. I liked to challenge the status quo. And, in Copenhagen, I learned how to disrupt but with a slight edge and functionality. Danish men and women are chic and cool in so many ways. They have mastered the art of the “rolling out of bed” look. Most spend minimal time on their outfit, but since they have invested in such staples, their look always radiates elegance and authenticity. I am now an avid believer in investment pieces. I wear a lot of neutrals with always one statement  whether a necklace or a great pair of shoes. And, I also reinforce that fashion should be an extension of me. I should be able to live in my clothes, which is what Danes have perfected. cope8Their style ensures that they are able to zip around on their bikes and easily walk into a bar after a long day at work.

I attended Oktoberfest on its opening weekend in a dirndl and celebrated the first barrel being uncorked. I watched the sun rise from a local cafe in Barcelona. I danced the night away in Berlin. I walked up hundreds of stairs to see one of the most beautiful castles in Prague. I pretended that I was an Italian model in Milan. I tried to solve the mystery behind Stonehenge.

And, I enjoyed a glass of champagne as I watched the closing lights of the Eiffel Tower.

cope9However, most importantly, I laughed, learned, and loved — a reality further affirmed this weekend in Miami. I not only created lifelong memories but also lifelong friends. So, “mange tak” Copenhagen. You will always be my home away from home.

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