Syddanmark

Well this post has been a long time coming (exactly 2 weeks), it’s been a crazy past couple of days, made even more crazy with my entire host family being on holiday and there being up to 8 people living in our house at any point in time. Excuses aside I’m finally going to catch you up on what’s been happening in Danmark.

At DIS all students are enrolled in a specific ‘core course’, though they’re free to take almost any class they want, each student must declare their primary focus area and complete the core class which includes 2 study tours, a short 3 day one around Denmark, and a longer week long trip abroad. 2 weeks ago my core course (Public Health) toured around ‘western’ Denmark for a couple of days and got a closer look at the national healthcare organization. In addition, we had some fun and sampled a bit of the local culture. I’ll try to give you enough of a taste that you can feel like you actually went along with us! I know, super exciting.

Thursday

My alarm went off at 4:45am. As we were instructed to be at the buses (yes, in a nation of trains we still took buses) at 7:45 that necessitated my leaving the house at 5:56 prompt. A bus, a train, and a short walk later I was in Frue Plads [like it’s spelled] on a bus with 17 other PH kids (14 girls and 3 guys).

Our first stop was the University Hospital in Odense [Onsa] on the island of Fyn [Fuun] to visit their HIV clinic, which is one of 5 in the Danish system. It was quite interesting to experience HIV treatment in a first world country. Most of my limited experience and education has been with 3rd world cases and emerging problems in Africa and other impoverished area, but in Denmark at least, thing are very different. One of the things they mentioned was that HIV is no longer considered a deadly disease by the government. It’s been relegated to the same level as chronic conditions such as Diabetes and Rheumatoid Arthritis, in Denmark the life expectancy of an HIV patient is roughly comparable to a non-infected person, thus HIV is not of the highest priority anymore. Even though HIV has taken a more ‘pedestrian’ route, care is still provided solely through the University hospitals, no GPs actually prescribe HIV drugs or develop treatment protocols, that is the responsibility of the specialty centers. While this is, at times, inconvenient for the patients it provides tremendous continuity of care and allows them to work directly with specialists from the beginning, not merely if their condition warrants it.  As most of the students in my class have a global health interest this seemed to be the most interesting stop for them, and one they mentioned over and over again.

After the clinic we made our way to Kolding [Kulling] on Jutland [Yuland]. We stopped off for coffee and cake at this little cafe´ where they served the cake with sour cream, which is apparently a very Danish thing to do. I ate it, it wasn’t actually that bad.

After lunch we walked over to Koldinghus one of the old royal residences that has since been converted into museum. One of the really interesting things is that the entire historical collection (which is quite large) is privately owned by multiple parties, nothing is contributed by the state. In addition, the castle has seen many renovations and changes over its long history and when the museum was created the architects chose to fuse the original features with new modern design, which created a really cool blend of old and new. Unfortunately as I my Nikon still wasn’t charged I only had my phone and didn’t really take any photos (the few I did are in the Flickr gallery at the end of the post). I did shoot this panorama from the roof (that was actually closed but since the sign was in Danish we couldn’t read it and thus ignored it).

Panorama from the roof of KoldinghusFor me, the coolest part of the castle was this collection of lamps by the Danish designer Poul Henningsen. Someday, I hope to have one of my very own.

After Kolding we drove (notice a pattern?) to Velje [Veyla] where we met up with a couple of other DIS groups and spent the night in a local hostel. Since the hostel was in the middle of nowhere (Velje is the 4th largest city in Denmark, but I think we were on the outskirts) we spent the entire evening with the other DIS groups and played a large game of apples to apples. I know, it really was that exciting. On the positive side, since there are only 4 guys in my class we got our own room and a much needed break from the rest of our team, the guys are pretty cool and I’m looking forward to our week long trip and spending more time with them.

Friday

Friday morning dawned bright and sunny (but not particularly warm) and after a delicious breakfast (which was WAY better then any hostel food I’ve ever eaten) we drove to the Region Syddanmark [Sudanmark] (now you can actually pronounce the title of this post) offices which house the regional health board and department. The nation is broken into 5 major regions which are responsible for running the hospitals and administering health policy to the 96 local municipalities, the region we were in (Southern Denmark) is also home to the most boring presenter in the history of mankind (actually, not an exaggeration). He made a long presentation about how the region is reducing their hospital from 12 to 5, talked about their funding structure (summary: The national level wants all the power), presented some OECD data showing how the US is terrible at healthcare (I’ll save my comments for another post), and effectively put everyone to sleep. Trust me, if you’d been there…. After his talk he gave us a tour of the building (something we didn’t get at the HIV clinic) which involved us walking down a hallway and seeing how part of the building is getting renovated, and how part of it has already been renovated. On a side note, a lot of people use standing desks here, in fact, employers are mandated to provide their employees with desks that elevate. And if you’re thinking they’d never check to see if employers comply, you’d be wrong, they check, frequently.

After the region we drove to Fredericia [Fredericha], stopping on the way for a delicious lunch (If DIS does one thing right, it’s food) at a local Best Western, for a visit with a General Practitioner. Here in Daneland the GPs form a crucial role in health care as they are the definitive gatekeepers to the entire healthcare system. You can only go to the ER, see a specialist, or get a prescription through your GP, everything works through them and every citizen, either at birth or when they get their CPR number, is assigned a GP that they stay with their entire life. It’s a pretty cool system and it really works to keep costs down, but it’s not the most interesting thing to get a 2 hour lecture on, especially when the GP assumes we’ve never heard of any of this before and covers almost identical material as our classes and previous academic visits. Towards the end of the lecture the GP gave us a tour of his office (which, surprise, looks identical to a GP office in the states, but with less staff) and when the group returned to the conference room I hung back and chatted with another GP for about 15 minutes about their electronic medical system (which I’ll save for another post), that was probably the most interesting and valuable thing I’ve done since arriving here.

After the GP we drove back to Odense where we checked into our hostel for the night (which was really small and the lobby smelled like poop) and headed out to find whatever food we could. We ended up at a classic European restaurant, the kebab shop. It was just as good as I’d remembered it from the summer when my friend and I ate kebabs for lunch 6 days in a row. After dinner we headed to a local jazz club to hear Ibrahim Electric rock one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time, these guys are phenomenal, check them out on iTunes.

Saturday

Saturday was not like Friday. While the day before was bright, clear, semi-warm, and full of indoor activities, Saturday was the complete opposite, cold, cloudy, and semi-frozen. We spent the morning hoofing around Odense seeing all the places his greatness Hans Christian Anderson frequented. We saw the house he was born, the Church where he was baptized, the Church where we was confirmed, the theater he worked at, the Jewish day school he attended, the reason why he was single his entire life (his bear), and the museum that commemorates all of those places, but in an indoor setting, which we did not partake in because it costs money. On the bright side, the Churches were really old and beautiful and what really struck me was the fact that many of the pulpits were placed in the middle of the sanctuary to symbolize the fact that the pastor was one of the congregation, not above it.

After the tour we made our way to Brandts, the local art museum for a little culture and class. Normally I have a love-hate relationship with Art houses, as I’ve detailed in previous posts; however, this one was pretty cool. My favorite part was actually the section designed for kids, it’s basically all the cool places we dreamed of as children, recreated with lots of soft, bouncy surfaces. The rest of the museum was pretty cool as well, some of the displays I really enjoyed, some of them I wasn’t all the impressed with, but that seems to be standard fare.

Overall I thought the trip was a mixed bag, the kids in my class are pretty cool and while enjoy spending time with them most of them are 2-3 years younger then me (even our program coordinator is 7 months my junior), which means they have different opinions on what constitutes a ‘good time’ (hint: clubs don’t count, in my opinion). That aside, the academic portion of the trip was of less value then I’d hoped, most of the visits covered the same material, and most assumed we had no concept of the basic systems of health so we weren’t able to dig into anything with much substance.

In two weeks my class heads to Finland and Estonia for a week, I’m really looking forward to that, it should be an entertaining and educational experience, and I’ll be sure to tell you all about it when I get back.

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Book Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

I picked up this book after seeing a trailer for the new movie that’s been out in the states but just now opened in Denmark. It looked intriguing and the Allen County libraries had a copy I could borrow for the Kindle (which I, in turn, borrowed from my Mom and may never return) and so I thought I’d give it a shot.

 

Book CoverWhenever you pick up a book based off a movie trailer it’s pretty much hit or miss. In this case it’s unfortunately a miss. The major premise revolves around George Smiley as he recruited back into ‘The Circus’ to help flush out a Russian mole at the height of the cold war. I’m assuming ‘The Circus’ is MI-6 as the book is set primarily in London, and the surrounding areas, if not I’m totally lost. In some ways the book works backwards, most of the ‘action’ is in the form of personal recounting or reading old files and as the story progresses you and Smiley, together, are gathering the clues and slowly discovering what the circus is and who the mole might be.

That is, however, part of the problem. You’re never given enough background to really understand why it’s so important that they find the mole, why is the circus so great? Why is it worth saving? Why should be interested in these characters? Why is everyone so misshapen? (If you read the book you’ll discover the validity of the last question) While Le Carre´ does an admirable job building a story through non-traditional plots devices he struggles to put together a well paced and compelling tale. Many of the sections of the book felt disjointed and thrown-together and the end result left many loose ends and a sense of waste with the reader, as if the ending wasn’t worth having.

While I’m normally a huge fan of the spy novels and international thrillers (hello Tom Clancy) in this case I was really glad I got the book from the library instead of buying it. To me, it just wasn’t worth it. If you’re looking for some great spy literature, look no further then anything by Tom Clancy like ‘Patriot Games’ or ‘Red Storm Rising’, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Verdict: Pass

Being Healthy

For those of you who enjoy the healthier side of foods (I do not count myself among you) my good friend Anna Busenburg is quickly becoming a Lafayette area expert and overnight sensation. If you don’t believe me, watch this video and you’ll agree. I can testify that anything she tells you to cook is amazing. If she didn’t cook healthy foods, I’d probably weigh like 200 pounds.

 

U-Dub

This morning (or yesterday depending on where you are in the world) I received an email from The University of Washington informing me that I’d been accepted into the 2012 training cohort for the Biomedical and Health Informatics PhD program. In addition, I was awarded 1 of 4 National Library of Medicine per-doctoral training fellowships, which is a huge honor and provides tuition, health insurance, and a monthly stipend for the first 3 years.

I’ve wanted to go to UW ever since my family first went to Seattle after my sophomore year at Purdue. It’s a fantastic school and home to the number 1 medical school (for clinical medicine) in the US. As a state school it’s primarily focused towards students who live in the NW area (Montana, Oregon, Alaska, etc) but apparently I made the cut. It’s slightly humerous that UC San Diego (also an NLM grant school) didn’t even read my application, they just rejected me after the first round. I don’t know if that says more about them, me, or UW. Hopefully them.

So, unless something drastically changes or Michigan offers me a sweet deal, in August I’ll be moving to the Northwest. To all of you who’ve prayed for me and supported me over the years, thank you. This is a huge step forward and tremendous answer to prayer.

Go Huskies!

University of Washington LogoAlso, just to prove to you how awesome this school really is, I present to you a video of the world’s only stand-up economist, who teaches at UW. Enjoy.

Book Review: The Cellist of Sarajevo

Since I spend about 2.5 hours on the train each day (not counting the time waiting in the station) I’ve had the chance to do quite a bit of reading. For a change of pace I’ve been reading a lot of fiction and catching up on some popular series and recommendations from people in the past. As part of this blog is to improve my writing skills (which are quite lacking at times) I’ve decided to write reviews of each book that I finish, it may be that you find my writings so compelling that you dash out immediately to pick up a copy or ban the book from your person entirely. Indeed, the pen (or appropriate digital substitute) may be mightier then the sword.

The Cellist of Sarajevo Book Cover

The first book in my reading series is The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, I found this one based on a recommendation from Paul Randal’s blog. Paul is a legend in the SQL Server community, being the guy who wrote most of the storage engine including the infammous CHECKDB. He also travels more then anyone else I know of and is an extremely avid reader. He mentioned this book and I found it on Amazon (click the image for a direct link) for around $1 so I grabbed it.

That description may in fact be longer then the book itself, which is set in the later parts of the siege of Sarajevo and is a fictional telling of the story of Vedran Smailovic˙ who played his cello everyday at 4pm at the stop where a mortar round killed 22 people in front of a bakery. The book itself only lightly treats on the musician and instead focuses on 3 other people loosely entwined by his actions. The sniper who is assigned to protect him, an old man who works at another bakery, and a young father on his journey to find clean water for his family. Through each of their stories the reader is given a glimpse into a world in which normalcy and safety have been wrenched away. Each character is forced to wrestle with the fact that the world they once knew is no more, and each much come to terms with that meaning individually. A common thread between the characters is the conscious decision to deny the war the chance to take from them their humanity and dignity, whether that means performing in the same square for 22 days, or crossing the same bridge on the way to work in spite of the danger, each character must choose to live inspite of the world around them and no only honor the past, but hope for the future.

While I really enjoyed this book and recommend to most anyone as it’s a quite read and quite engaging, I had a few reservations. It’s important to keep in mind that all characters are fictional and though there really was a cellist whom the book is named after, Galloway’s character is entirely fictional. What this means, in practicality, is that there exists a level at which the thoughts of the characters feel contrived and unnatural. For example, when one character looks across a road the author launches into a 3-4 page description of the vast significance of this action, to him, everything is fraught with meaning, To paraphrase The Postal Service ‘there’s life in everyword, to the extent that it’s absurd,’ While I applaud the author for attempting to bring a dynamic and thought provoking portrait to a piece of history often overlooked in the world of literature, I can’t helping feeling disappointed, perhaps in myself, because honestly, I’m not that deep and thus it feels fake to place deep, insightful, realizations on traumatized characters in a war-zone. Especially when one continues to harp on the exhaustion of all involved. But then again, maybe that’s just me.

That last quibble aside, if you’re looking for an engrossing story that presents a world foreign to many people look no further then Galloway’s latest creation.

Verdict: Read, at some point

Roskilde

Yesterday I met up with a group of kids from DIS who live with host families within a small radius of me, a few of them I’d met before but most were new faces and as none of them were in my core program it was nice to branch out a bit.

We met in downtown Roskilde [Ross-killa], the main city in our area, and walked through the city center by the Cathedral (the oldest in Denmark) which sits on a pedestrian only street (which seem to be all the rage in Europe) and serves as a central meeting point.

I think it’s important to point how unbelievably cold it was yesterday. The amount of time we spent walking around meant I didn’t regain feeling in my toes until after I’d gotten home around 5pm (and I was wearing wool socks, albeit not very good ones). This temperature extreme meant we became well acquainted with a home goods store (with a very Cindy Harvey feel), a toy store, a cafe´ and an old shoppe at the Roskilde museum that resembled something out of the 1840s.

Finally our guide (a student at the University of Roskilde) remembered that the Roskilde Museum of Modern Art was featuring a new exhibit called Never Odd or Even (so 0?) that had free admission for students.

I have a mixed relationship with modern art, for the most part I enjoy it, but I often struggle to identify with the major themes of the artist. Often I feel there’s a sort of pretension that comes from the artist knowing that you’re not a part of their art conversation, and enjoying that. But I digress, what was really fascinating to me was the fact that all the artwork was in English but the explanations about the pieces were in Danish. Maybe that’s the point? I really don’t know anymore.

I snapped a couple of pictures with my phone (as my D40 still hasn’t been charged) and uploaded them for you viewing pleasure, I think some of the pieces were really cool, especially the Helvetica ones.

 

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Avis

I’m famous!

On friday the local newspaper here in Holbæk ran an article on Søren and the show he booked for the weekend, in the article, he mentioned a certain American exchange student who was staying with them for the semester and would be attending the concert as well. Needless to say, I’m pretty much a local celebrity now. Good thing I always commute in the dark else, it might be an ordeal.

 

Newspaper clipping from Holbæk
That obscure refernce is indeed me. In Danish.

Koncert

Last night my host parents took me to see Tim Christensen and the Damn Crystals at one of the local clubs here in Holbæk. Apparently these Danish guys are a big deal, they’ve been around for a long time both as this band and previously as Dizzy Miss Lizzy. 

The show itself was awesome, they were preceded by Freja Loeb and her band, they’re really strange but their music is pretty good and the mix was solid. It’s a little sad that both shows I’ve been to in Europe have sounded better then 90% of the shows I see in the States. Anyways, Tim and his band were amazing, it’s really odd to hear him talk to the crowd in Danish and then sing in English.

 

I shot a short video on my phone:

 

Men

Taking a short break from the Denmark posts (more to come soon) as I had to post a couple of pictures from my best friend Chas’ wedding from 2 weeks ago (congrats guys). They had a phenomenal photographer who setup a really awesome fun booth during the reception. As some of you may know, I lived a house off-campus last year with 3 awesome dudes, needless to say, we took advantage of the fun booth opportunities.

A photo of a photo of bros
Bros

 

The Bros with they mustachios
Bros with Mustaches

And of course, me and Chas.

Move aside Anna, he's mine
Style is never far from us

 

Until next time,

Nick

Yes ladies, I'm single

Danmark

Greetings,

I am sitting in the back student lounge of the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) at Vestergade 5-7, 1456 Copenhagen (And on the train between København and Holbæk (this has been a multi-day post) and in my room at the Modin house). It’s been a long past couple of days and I’ve finally gotten a chance to collect my thoughts and chronicle part of my journeys. This post is really long and rambling, I’m hoping future posts will be much shorter and focused around a single event or issue. Until then enjoy this chronological journey through my arrival week:

 

Saturday:

I left at 12pm with my mom and Grandparents to drive to Indy to catch my flight to Chicago, then to Copenhagen. We left with plenty of time and I immediately remembered that I left my hat and gloves on the dryer back home, but it’s not like I’m going to the frozen north so I should be fine, right? Upon arriving at the airport we discovered that United would not accept my paper work from the Danish government to allow me to enter the country. The way it works is US citizens can enter Denmark for up to 90 days without a residence permit and don’t actually have to submit their visa application until after arrival as long as their enrolled in an accredited work or education institution. To whit, we were given a letter from immigration services that stated we were allowed to enter the country and submit papers upon arrival (since our program is 4 months). Unfortunately for me (and solely me, based on my conversations with other students) my airline decided the letter was not enough and denied by boarding until I changed my return flight to within the 90 day window, of course, they wouldn’t wave the change fee or the fee to return my flight to its originally scheduled time once my visa cleared. $658 later I was booked on a flight home on April 19th with the obvious necessity to change it once I arrived. While all of this was going on the boarding window for my flight closed and as this was Saturday night was the final flight of the day, of course, there was an American flight leaving an hour later but to take it would require an additional change fee and I would forfeit my earned miles (for whatever that’s worth). Finally, right as the agent was about to book the American ticket she realized my original flight hadn’t even arrived yet and thus I was able to check-in and take my original flight. God is indeed good.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, although on my flight from Chicago I sat next to this girl who had never flown before in her life, but after I showed her how to work the seat belt she did fine. I slept most of the way.

 

Sunday:

We arrived in Copenhagen at 1pm local time (7am EST) and passed through customs without even a cursory scan of our arrival letters (much to my surprise). Once through we met the rest of the DIS group and those of us who were staying with host families got bused to a nearby Quality Inn (‘merica) where we waited for our families to come pick us up.

 

My family lives in Holbæk [Hull-bik], small town of 30.000 people about an hour outside the city center. I have to say, I think I won the host family jackpot, they’re pretty awesome. They’re a pretty typical family, the kids do sports, dance, and homework. They’re also pretty health conscious to the point that they pretty much only eat sugar (like sodas and candy) on the weekend and they even have a ‘candy cupboard’ that they lock with a padlock on the week days. Hmm… this seems familiar. They’re also quite frugal, Søren buys items like shampoo and butter in bulk whenever it’s on sale so parts of their house look like something off ‘Extreme Couponing’.

 

A lovely picure of my Danish host family
The Modin Family

Søren [Ser-in] – Works for the sanitation department as a video operator, his job is to maneuver a camera through the sewer pipes and check for blockages and cracks. I didn’t even know that was a real thing, but he’s been doing it for 25 years and seems to be pretty good at it. In his off time he works as a booking agent for a local music venue and this weekend we’re going to see Tim Christensen and the Damn Crystals, which he brought into town. He has a very sarcastic sense of humor, and though his English is excellent it’s sometimes hard to figure out if he’s being funny or if it’s a real comment that’s not translating correctly. I’ve decided to take the ‘bull’ approach and assume it’s pretty much all a joke and charge ahead with what I’m saying or doing; hopefully that doesn’t get me into trouble. I’m sure it will. I haven’t quite figured out how to pronounce his name yet, so I mostly just slur it out and hope no one notices.

Dorthe [Dory] – She is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, she’s extremely friendly and really, really loves her family. She’s also pretty much adopted me as one of her own and makes my breakfast in the morning and does my laundry. This is all on her initiative, I offered to handle my own chores but she insisted that she does it for all her kids, but I’m not complaining. She works part time for an insurance company in downtown Copenhagen not far from DIS, at some point she’s planning on bringing me to the office so I can see how a Danish company works and meet their risk management team, I probably shouldn’t be excited for that, but I am. She’s also an excellent cook and makes a wide variety of dishes.

Oliver [Oliver] – The oldest boy, a strapping young man of 14, his one true love is video games, mostly World of Warcraft. He’s fairly reserved but really friendly and loves American music, but mostly it’s a lot of Bruno Mars and techno. Looks like I have some proselytizing to do. As next year is his final year of mandatory schooling before he beings specialized classes we’ve talked a bit about what he wants to do in the future. He’s thinking something in astronomy, I don’t think I’ve ever head a kid say they want to be an astronomer, that’s a new one for me. Next week I’m going into his school to talk about American education and see how a Danish school functions, apparently it’ll be a big day because the kids all bring money and buy their lunches at the grocery store (everyone here packs lunches, even the adults), Oliver said it’s mostly frozen pizzas and such, that’ll be a nice nostalgic moment for me.

Signe [Seena] – Also 14, her goal is to be a fashion model in New York. I’ve tried to dissuade her but she seems determined. She also loves making movies and has a couple short clips on Youtube. She also does Hip-Hop dancing but so far as refused to show me any of her moves, probably a good thing because I would then be compelled to join her, and no one wants that. The first day I arrived she and Lucas (see below) sat on my bed and looked at pictures on my computer (at their bequest) while I unpacked. It was mostly random pictures from my cellphone so I think it opened more questions then it answered. For her school she’s doing a geography report on Indiana and asked me to come in for ‘show-and-tell’, I’m looking forward to that and plan on teaching the kids Hail Purdue, it’s only appropriate.

Lucas [Lucas] – By the far the most outgoing and mischievous of the kids, he’s only 11 and doesn’t really speak English but as he’s attached himself to me both of us are trying to make a concerned effort to build a relationship in spite of the language barrier. He’s the athlete of the family and he runs, plays football, swims, and is a member of the circus where he does the rope and ball thing (I forget what it’s called, I’ll try and post a video of him doing it some time). He is a huge Justin Bieber fan and randomly starts singing lyrics from ‘Baby’, which is about the only English he knows. I’m pretty sure that in itself is what’s wrong with this generation. The other night he and Signe were prank calling the neighbors, I tried to teach them some American classics (Is your refrigerator running?), but they didn’t translate.

Søren also has another daughter (Saskia), but she’s off at University on a volleyball scholarship, I don’t know when/if I’ll get to meet her.

The remainder of Sunday was pretty low key, although the kids took the opportunity to introduce me to some Danish candies and sodas, as a thinly veiled attempt to score some more sugar.

 

Monday:

My first DIS orientation started at 11:00am so Dorthe took the morning off to guide me from the house to downtown (as I said, she’s a gem). Our opening session was in the Glyptotek (I don’t really remember how to pronounce that, I think it’s Glyploteket) which is this really interesting sculpture museum/cultural center built by the founder of the Carlsburg brewery. As soon as I walked in I knew this program would not be what I imaged. Here are a few stats that I found interesting.

– This semester there are 864 students, all from the US and Canada (mostly the US, with one stray French girl, I’ve heard)

– 70% are girls (a strong positive)

– 80% are from private liberal arts colleges (and most have between 6-30 students enrolled)

– The program has been around since the 1950s

 

At Purdue this program isn’t really advocated or well understood so I had no idea what to expect, thus far, except for my times with my host family, it’s been all Americans, all the time. As we went to go get our books, find the classrooms, and get antiquated with the area, it became glaringly apparent that the Danes steer well clear of the massive clumps of loud, disoriented American tourists. It’s like talking in a Deer blind, it scares away the wildlife. That’ll be a big adjustment for me, I wasn’t expecting so many people or such a staggered immersion program. It’s a good thing I’m staying with a host family, otherwise I don’t even know if I’d see a Danish person.

The rest of the day involved really repetitive info sessions about how not to be an American (which based on the atmosphere in the street, was completely ignored), while excited to be in a new city I was really disappointed to be in a DIS bubble.

That night the kids took me to Netto, the local grocery chain, to get a SIM card for my phone and some more Paprika rice cakes that are quite amazing. They also bought a banana flavored marshmallow treat called Scum Bananar, those little sneaks capitalized on my presence to bypass the parental sugar ban. I knew I liked them.

I also went on a short run with Lucas, it’s nice to have activities that we can do that don’t require talking.

We also watched some Danish TV, specifically this show about this American woman who married a Dane and then got sick of the cold (an understandable problem) and fled back to Florida with the kid. It was funny because the parts shot in the US were in English with Danish subtitles but the parts in Denmark and the narration were in Danish with no subtitles, so I caught about half the show and Dorthe translated the major interludes. The next morning about 5 other people in my info session watched the same program with their host families, apparently there are only a couple of popular channels over here.

Tuesday:

My day started at 9:30 which meant the alarm went off at 6, or midnight eastern time. After I peeled myself out of bed I biked to the train station (about 3km) with Lucas and Oliver and made my way to DIS solo. It’s not really that impressive, it’s a pretty straight shot and the central train station has a lot of English.

If I thought Monday was tedious and boring, Tuesday was even worse, the programs were long and reminded me of those awful Freshman classes we all had to take.

That evening the kids had me take practice tests for the national english proficiency exams, I’m proud to say I scored 100% on level 8. Then they had me stumble through the level 2 Danish test and laughed as I butchered just about every pronunciation. Just so you know, written Danish has almost no correlation with the spoken language, they randomly drop syllables and certain letters make different sounds between 2 adjacent words, most of the time I’m pretty lost in how to speak, but it’s also very linear in its format and many words have a passing similarity to English to its possible to follow the meaning of a sentence without being able to pronounce it.

Wednesday:

Most of Wednesday was spent on an ‘Amazing Race’ style event through Downtown Copenhagen, this was the first time we really got a chance explore the city and the first time we were in a group of less then 25 people. My group of 4 visited the parliament building, the national cathedral, the queen’s palace, and this little square nestled in between these apartments and cafes that used to house a monastery. The city itself is really cool and it was nice to be able to wander around and go at our own pace. It gave me much more hope for this program.

That evening Søren’s mother came over for dinner (as she does every week) and made a traditional Danish meal of potatoes, meet and cooked onions (I don’t know how they’re cooked, but they’re delicious). Denmark was playing Sweden in the European Handball Championships and Søren’s mother is a big fan so I got to watch my first match. I’m kind of surprised it’s not a more popular sport in the US, it’s really fast paced, the players are really athletic and good looking, and it’s really physical. Anyways, Denmark won so they’ll play Friday in the semi-finals against Spain.

Thursday:

That brings us to the present. Today was the first day of classes and I had one at 8:30, originally I only had class on Tuesdays and Fridays, but recently they changed my schedule to give me an extra 2 days of classes, but since there’s only one class scheduled it means I have a 3 hour commute for 80 class minutes. Not my favorite arrangement.

My first class was Healthcare Delivery and Prioritization in Northern Europe it’s taught by Morten Eiersted a researcher at HIV-Danmark, the class itself is focused around field studies and out-of-classroom experiences and should be quite interesting, thus far it’s been pretty rote.

After class I went for coffee with 2 of the girls in my class from Brandeis, they both thought I was Jewish after first meeting me, I think that’s a complement, I’m not sure. It was nice to meet some older students as most of my classmates are 2-3 years younger then me, and many have never been out of the country before which creates a disconnect in our overall goals.

As I had the afternoon off I took the opportunity for a quick nap, I’ve been under the weather for the past couple of days, I assumed since I now have a regular sleep schedule, am eating healthy food, biking 6km a day, running a couple of times a week, and walking a comparable amount, that I would be super health and fit; however, I think the busy schedule, time zone adjustment, and long stretches of darkness have done a number on me and my body it not quite ready to roll yet. Hopefully it passes before the weekend.

For dinner Oliver and I made fried fish patties which came out of this paste like substance that I’m sure hasn’t been real fish in quite a long time. I haven’t seen anything like it in the states but Dorthe promises it’s healthy and it was quite tasty so I’m taking it for lunch tomorrow.

This evening I had a phone interview with the University of Washington’s Division of Biomedical and Health Informatics. Of the 4 potential research faculty I listed on my application, 3 were on the call ,including the graduate program director. I think it went quite well, one of the professors remarked that there are several faculty who would be quite excited to work with me on my projects. Fingers crossed that they accept me, Seattle is a great city and UW is a fantastic school. I should hear back by the middle of February.

 

So that’s life up to this point (22:20 CST Thursday), I have class from 8:30 to 16:30 tomorrow and a public health social immediately following (nobody parties like like PH kids party ’cause a PH party don’t stop!)

I’m going to try and keep a semi-regular schedule of posting to try and process what I’m experiencing and let others live vicariously through me!

 

Until next time,

Nick