Make-Up Post #3: Lapland

Hi, everyone! I’m enjoying the snowy weather we’re having here in Lyngby, especially because nothing will ever be quite as cold as life in Lapland. Tonight, I’m baking The New York Times chocolate chip cookies, which use dark chocolate instead of chocolate chips (which are an import here!). I’m also excited about having accepted an internship at IBM in Zurich, Switzerland for the summer. For those of you who haven’t seen it, here’s the website for my group:

I wasn’t really expecting to get the internship, because the opportunity was only sent out to graduate students. My boss (Dr. Douglas Dykeman) has been great about moving the application process along for a Swiss work permit, and I’m looking forward to working with such a friendly and intelligent person. I was also accepted into a research position at TU Munich, but IBM is paying for travel and housing on top of the standard salary. That’s hard to beat! Let the adventures in Europe continue!


Immediately after the Danish trip, I took a week-long trip around Lapland, a cultural region (home to the Sami people) which lies mostly above the Arctic Circle and spans Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia. Here’s a map:


On the first day, I flew from Copenhagen to Helsinki, and then met up with our group of international students to take a 15-hour bus ride up to Saariselka, where we lived for the week. Eventually we would even take a day-trip even farther north to the Arctic Sea!

Here’s my flight via Finnair:


And Helsinki in the snow:



My companions and I took shelter from the cold in a cafe downtown and slept on the bus. When we woke up, it looked like this:


…and we made our first stop at the Snow Castle! Like the Ice Palace, this building was carved entirely out of snow.




This Snow Castle even had an ice-slide. Afterwards, we made another stop at “Santa’s” house, where you can take a picture with Santa Claus and see reindeer. To Santa’s credit, he really did speak a few words of every language spoken by our international students.. even Catalan and Japanese! However, some of the gift shops at Santa’s house were a little creepy. This was an entire room filled with animal furs… my friend Shawn convinced me to wear one.


Even Santa’s reindeer weren’t spared:


Finally, we arrived at our beautiful mountain villas. There were eight of us in our cabin, and we had great views of the mountains and our own sauna. The Finnish tradition is to stay in the sauna until you can’t take the heat any longer and then jump in the snow three times, so you can be sure that we did it nearly every night.



Every day was a new adventure! The first day after our arrival were dog-sledding and snowmobiling activities. Even though I chose to pay to try snowmobiling instead of dog-sledding (which I’ve technically already done), I jumped on the bus for the husky-farm anyways and got to play with the husky puppies while the other students went dog-sledding! Not much of a loss, is it?


Afterwards, we all got suited up to go snowmobiling. Here’s me driving:


And here’s the total wilderness around us on the excursion:


Thumbs up!


As soon as I got home, I went straight back outside into the cold to climb up the little mountain behind our villas. Check out the view:


Here’s the ski resort, too. While I never went skiing up there, we did take Europe’s longest tobogganing run down the same mountain! (Mom- this is where your donut postcard came from.)


The next day was the most exciting of all. We jumped back on the bus to go to the Arctic Ocean, where I went swimming, of course.

Take me to the river:


I apologize for the window-shots, but I couldn’t pass up on these awesome mountains:


Bugoynes, where I stayed in the ice-water longer than anyone else (the worst part was popsicle-feet, and trying to get your boots back on after walking through the snow to get them):



In this town, we listened to a local Sami woman explain to us why it is our responsibility to prevent global warming. They also served us the most amazing salmon soup I’ve ever had in my life! I went to ask Else for the recipe, but the soup is apparently only made by one man in the village and even SHE can’t get the secret recipe out of him! All she knows is that it’s made entirely from scratch- even the salmon bones go into making the stock. So, if you want the soup, you have to go to Bugoynes yourself!

Even the cats there were bundled-up and friendly:


The reindeer are so numerous that they are allowed to roam freely in herds, branded with the mark of their farm. Once a year, the farmers come out to brand the newly-born baby reindeer. However, reindeer are not allowed to cross country borders (here, between Finland and Norway).


Tobogganing with some Finns:


Of course, we all went straight into the sauna as soon as we were home. And then the snow. And then the sauna. And so on! We were also checking the night sky for the Northern Lights, but to no avail… every night would be either snowy or cloudy until the last night.

We visited a reindeer farm on the last day. Reindeer sleighs are much slower than husky sleds:


Afterwards, everyone except the vegetarians cooked reindeer-sausages over a fire and listened to the Sami reindeer farmer sing a traditional Sami song. The singing style is called “yoiking”, and here’s an example:

This is my Polish friend Tomek enjoying his reindeer and being goofy:


That night we saw the Northern Lights. What an amazing sight! The Lights appear much whiter than they do in photographs. My friend Jas took a truly incredible picture of them as “Santa” went by:


At last, we were back in Helsinki for a day before our flights back to Copenhagen. This time, we had more opportunity to go sightseeing. My group went to four churches, but the most interesting by far was the “Rock Church” at the end.



“The Chapel of Silence”:



And, finally, the Rock Church:


I know that was a lot of pictures again, but it was quite the eventful week! I hope you’re all doing well in the U.S. and eating plenty of bagels for me. More updates are sure to come when I get back from visiting Sandra in Germany! Tschuss for now!


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Make-Up Post #2: The Danish Trip

From March 1-3, the student group ESN organized a trip for the international students to the major cities of Denmark. First, we travelled all the way to the northernmost tip of Denmark to Grenen (near Skagen), and then worked our way down to Aalborg, Aarhus and Odense, visiting the sights and meeting local students along the way. We left Copenhagen at 4:30 in the morning on Friday and slept during the 8-hour bus ride to Grenen. Good thing I make chocolate croissants for the road. This town was my favorite part of the trip! Here on the beach, you can stand with one foot in the Baltic Sea and the other in the North Sea (Atlantic). You can also see the turbulent waters as the two tides meet. Not the best (or warmest) place for swimming! Still, years of cold Connecticut-water training enabled me to get some good pictures.

Halle and the guys at the beach in Grenen:



Spoiler! Halle would be my roommate and best friend on the Lapland trip. She’s from Michigan, and the other guys here are all Americans, too.

The beach had old bunkers to explore:




So beautiful, but so cold. Here’s a seal sunbathing:


And finally, standing in both seas!




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Afterwards, we went to visit the Rabjerg Mile, the largest moving dune in Northern Europe! Who would have guessed that I would visit a desert in Scandinavia?






For the rest of the trip, we were back in civilization. Here’s Aalborg:





Did you see that last monastery? There’s a legend that a nun was buried alive in its walls!

On to Aarhus (my second favorite destination after the beach):


The museum (more pictures from the inside later):


The music academy:


The whale-helicopter sculpture outside the museum!




Bike locks on the railing:


Some nice, old Danish houses and our student tour guide:




Even the churches have Viking ships in them!



Me and my new Danish boyfriend (he’s kind of skinny):


Here’s the inside of the Aros Museum of Modern Art! The top of the museum has a walkway surrounded by colored glass, so that the city seems to give you different feelings as you view it through the various colors. It is very cool, and certain colors really do make you feel uneasy.

Me, Michael, and Jake in various places:




Some more modern art: The giant boy, which is supposed to look nervous or happy, depending on the angle from which he is viewed:


A live exhibition; a guy shooting red wax at the wall every half-hour with a giant cannon (Jake thought they were beets):


I liked this room, too:


Finally, we left for Odense, the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen (author of The Little Mermaid). He’s such a hero in Odense, that even the people in the traffic lights are modelled after him:


Here’s his house:


And a statue from his story “The Emporer’s New Clothes”:


Even the birdhouses in Odense are artsy. This would be an excellent city to visit in the spring, because it has many beautiful parks and gardens. I’m looking forward to coming back!






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Make-Up Post #1: Roskilde

So! As expected, I’ve fallen weeks behind schedule in posting to the blog. In fact, I’ve been on three fantastic trips since my last update! I’ll split them up into three separate “make-up posts”. In other news, I’ve been enjoying my classes, which are almost entirely based on group-work here. I also joined the climbing gym recently, as I had to wait for the assistance of my Danish friend Christian, because paying for a gym membership requires a Danish bank account. I’ve been baking or cooking in every spare second; in fact, I just finished my last round of bagels (blueberry this time). Rengo was right to prepare me for a bagel deficit in Europe! Here’s the link to the bagel recipe I used:

Awesome! Finally, my Danish course has begun, and our class is going on a field trip into downtown Lyngby this evening to practice speaking with the natives and to explore the speaking-center. Now, onto Roskilde…..


The Viking town! This was just a day-trip (which seems short when compared to the week of adventure which followed), but Roskilde is home to the largest church in Denmark and also the Viking Ship Museum! All of the Danish kings for centuries back are buried in this Domkirke. We also learned that all Danish kings are named Fredericks or Christian in alternation. Here are some pictures of the church:

Outside the church (you can see some traditional Danish architecture in the background):











Here’s me, climbing into the wall of the church where some Vikings had been laid to rest. I had “Viking tomb dust” on me!


Afterwards, we went to visit the Viking Ship museum! There were many reconstruction projects outside the museum itself, which really interested the engineers in our group. One smaller ships looked like it had been sewn together with iron! However, most of the artifacts which are found from old Viking ships are small fragments of the ruins. You can see how little they have reconstructed from some ships below:




Here’s my Aussie friend Clara dressing up like a Viking with me:


We also learned how to write our names in runes (though they didn’t have a “ch”-noise for LaChance). On the way back, we found John the Baptist’s holy spring… in Denmark! Go figure. This water is supposed to heal the drinker of her ailments. No wonder the Vikings were so successful!


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Getting Into the Swing of Things

I’m getting ready to start my second week of classes tomorrow. The first week went pretty well, but it was difficult doing group work without a voice! Denmark is all about group work.. they think that almost everyone will have to work in groups in their professional careers, so every class involves two hours of lectures plus two hours of exercises, to be done with your peers. Still, this makes for long Thursdays, when I have eight hours of class!

Here’s something that I found really strange: On Wednesday, I had to go into downtown Lyngby (DTU town) to get a CPR number, which allows me to get free Danish health insurance during my stay. While there, I spotted this new fad which is sweeping Denmark:


Fish spas! You sit with your feet in tubs of water with little fish which eat the dead skin off of your feet. I almost tried it just for the experience, but was just a little too grossed out! I can only imagine a feeding frenzy when you put your feet in, if that’s all the poor fish get to eat!

Here’s more of what Lyngby looks like:




Flowers everywhere! And if you want to see what Scandinavian style looks like:


I’m already busy with homework, but at least I’m not sick anymore! I have plans to make American-style pancakes for dinner tomorrow with another RPI student, so I finally get the chance to break out the maple syrup. Differential Geometry, here I come!

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Well, if my mom’s been keeping everyone informed, I’m sick. I lost my voice yesterday and it’s only improved a little today. This bug is so bad that even the Danish kids are getting it! I’m all stocked up on Danish throat drops (intense!), “appelsinjuice”, and fruit, and I’m watching video lectures for my classes tomorrow in bed.

This weekend, my orientation group leader organized an ice skating trip in Fredericksberg. The rink was outdoors, and you only had to pay to rent skates. Near the ice skating rink was a park which must be really beautiful in the spring. We went exploring and found a tree decorated with pacifiers! How weird is this?


One of my RPI friends and I eventually bailed on the skating and went to hunt for a warmer cafe. The barista behind the counter was very proud of her 25-degree establishment! We both had hot chocolate, the preparation of which naturally involves melting solid chocolate into hot milk and then adding extra chocolate just for good measure. Eventually we ended up at a Shawarma place for dinner where I discovered that not even Danish pizza lives up to pizza in CT.


I can’t forget to mention our trip to Christiania. This is a “freetown”- a kind of island attached to the city of Copenhagen which is regulated by its own special law. So basically, it’s a commune of approximately 850 inhabitants. You’re not allowed to take pictures beyond a certain point, but here’s one of Elody near the entrance:


I was really surprised by how well the buildings were kept up- the freetown had a complete hardware store, and most of the homes sported nice, new wood siding. The town even had a school on the beach.

Some more Copenhagen pics:

IMG_1486 IMG_1487

An amber museum! I know where someone’s going when she visits…:


And just one more thing that made me laugh. Looks like I didn’t need to bring maple syrup after all, when they import it straight from “Vertmont”!


Goodnight, from “the happiest country in the world”!

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Exploring Copenhagen

My trip to the city ended up being yesterday after all! On Tuesday, our orientation week began, which involved breaking into groups of around eight people. My group is fantastic and quite the international mix! Our group leader is Italian, and we also have one student each from Germany, Poland, France, South Korea, and Mexico. We’ve basically spent the last two days straight together, so here’s a pic of Emma, Elody, Michael, Daniele, and Angel, standing in front of an amusement park in downtown Copenhagen.


But, first things first. Uncle Jack! You asked about Danish people eating Oreos. Danish people actually do seem to love Oreos, based on the huge billboards for them in the metro! They also love Snickers bars, but they sell them frozen in vending machines, so they taste very different.

Here’s the outside of my dorm:


70’s architecture at its finest! The showers are probably the strangest part of our dorms. Rather than having knobs to adjust the water in the shower, you actually have to turn the water on in the sink and re-direct it to the shower! The chilly Danish mornings definitely will take some getting used to =)

Here are a few more pictures from our trip yesterday.

In the metro station:


Our group in front of a fashion show that was going on in downtown Copenhagen:


A man feeding pigeons:


Elody again:








In the National Museum: Image

Amber for my mom:


And a few more:




Daniele liked taking pictures of us behind horse statues, so this is payback:Image

The stock exchange:


And a hip little student cafe, too:


The school payed for us all to go out to a restaurant in the city last night (called RizRaz, which turned out to be a vegetarian place, go figure!). Afterwards they also sponsored a trip to a very famous nightclub, so I had the opportunity to break out all my Zumba moves from this winter break! I’m getting ready for another action-packed, exhausting day, so I’ll post a picture of my breakfast and get moving. More details will come when we have a second to spare!


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Arriving in Lyngby

Here’s my very first blog post! I’ve had quite the journey here- my flight left from JFK in New York City at 4:30 on Sunday, and I caught a transfer in Amsterdam at 7:45 a.m. (Amsterdam time) this morning. The flight overseas was great- the plane was mostly empty in the off-season, so I had two seats by the window in which to curl up. For a long time, it didn’t really feel like I was going abroad, probably because I’m always packing and unpacking for little trips to school, Monterey, or friends’ houses in New York and New England. The excitement REALLY started to hit me when (1) I was sitting alone on the plane, with most of the other passengers sleeping (“where’s Rengo?”), and (2) when we flew directly over London. The view of the city at night was unbelievably beautiful- the streetlights turn London into a glowing golden network which is so unlike the dim white lights of American cities at night. I only managed to sleep a little on the plane and spent the rest of the time reading.

Eventually I arrived in Copenhagen! I took the metro and then a bus to DTU (“Danmarks Tekniske Universitet”), but really had no idea where I was supposed to go from there. I ended up getting off the bus way too early, and having to lug my suitcase all the way across campus. This ended up being okay, because I got to stop all the “locals” to ask for directions, and eventually met two other exchange students in the process.

Here are some pictures of my dorm:


That’s right, my own bathroom and everything. The last girl to live here was nice enough to leave some basic household items, like handsoap and dish detergent. The kitchen is fully stocked- plates, cups, pots, pans, utensils, you name it- and the laundry is included in our rent. The Accommodations Office also provided bedding for us.

After a catnap, I went to the grocery store attached to the building. What awesome food!  I wanted to try eating like the Danes, so of course I picked up some Muesli and milk for breakfast, bread (amazing) and cheese (also amazing, but I still smell like it, hours later), fresh fruit (apples from Italy, pears, and bananas), and other little things that looked healthy and appealing.


I spent the rest of my day hanging out with the other students from RPI who are studying at DTU this semester. Most of them arrived on Friday, or even went exploring in Europe before coming to DTU. Tomorrow begins our orientation week, so I’ll be venturing back to Copenhagen to see the sights. Now let’s see if I can manage to keep this blog going!

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