DIS Orientation and My First Impressions of Copenhagen

tia near the famous nyhavn for the amazing race
TIA HERE and I can't believe it. This is only my fourth day in Denmark and I already feel completely at home. You think things moved fast freshman year? Try studying abroad and you'll feel as if a century has passed in the span of an hour--that you've known the people around you for weeks and that you're ready to move in to the city you're now afraid to leave. But it's only been four days--and I'm four months from leaving.

What I'm hoping to do here is offer some insight for future/potential DIS students about how orientation goes down, as well as bring up some of my first impressions of Copenhagen so far. Don't worry! There are lots of DIS and Copenhagen-related posts to come, including a review of my housing (and let me tell you, it is apparently the best, at least in all of the LLCs--I'll tell you more about that soon). But before I get to carried away with future posts, let's jump right into this one.

an ad spotted at the copenhagen airport
I arrived at the Copenhagen Airport from JFK with a ton of other DIS students who were on my flight, and together we walked from the gate down to customs, and then over to baggage claim. I was one of the first people with my bags (I suggest you get one of the luggage carts--and press down on the handle as you walk to let off the brake, or it'll be very difficult), so I went off on my own. DIS stations people wearing DIS shirts (read: employees) around the airport to show you the way to the hotel, which is where we were all supposed to meet. There, they have some phone options (PicCell and Lebara) as well as a place to drop off and label your luggage depending on which bus you're on--which in turn depends on which area you live in. I was on bus one, headed to the city center, where I would be staying for the next four months.

It was around noon on the first day, Sunday, which had no activities. After lugging my suitcases up a staircase that felt impossibly long, I met my roommates and we immediately collapsed and took a nap in our amazing new room. It was 4 p.m. when I woke up and, after a red eye flight with no sleeping (although I did watch Divergent, Oculus, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier), it was exactly what I needed. If I remember correctly, we met with the people on the floor above us (a different LLC) and all went around the room getting to know each other. Dinner was provided! Because the next day meant going somewhere at 8:45 a.m., I went to bed early. And that's when the crazy number of activities started.

approaching amalienborg for the amazing race


Starting with a breakfast provided by our SRA (Social and Residential Advisor), Monday had three events: the opening ceremony, book pick up, and a student affairs session. Like most orientations go, it was a pretty typical day. The opening ceremony was in a concert hall and was composed mainly of people talking, powerpoints, and a musical performance, which, to be completely honest, I did not really "get" (electronic music is not my thing). If you have ever been to an orientation ever in your life, then you know it means getting bombarded with tons of information that you will immediately forget and/or disregard as the months go by. Still, getting everyone together definitely made me aware of the scope of the program--there are over 1000 students in DIS this Fall--and helped me meet some people who later I learned were in my classes, as well as hang out with my LLC a little more.

Book pickup was interesting, mostly because of the "compendiums," which I wish was a thing we did more often it the U.S., or at least at Cornell. Compendiums are basically hardcover notebooks with all of the random pages and PDFs we would be using in class, in addition to textbook readings. It's kind of like having someone else print everything off of Blackboard and throw it together in a nice quality notebook. I got one for every single class except for one, and also picked up a few textbooks--most of them from my KU (Københavns Universitet or the University of Copenhagen) class, Kierkegaard's Authorship. Expect a review of all my classes when the semester is up!

The Student Affairs session was, in a bizarre twist of events, held in a movie theater and, like the Opening Ceremony, was another excuse for powerpoints. We watched a bizarre video about poop (I could not make this up if I tried) and listened to some live testimonials on how to make the most of the whole study abroad experience. I'd like to counter their advice to "see everything and meet lots of danes because you aren't here for as long as you think" with "actually you are here for a very long time so don't pressure yourself to try to do everything in existence because it'll just make the whole trip a very stressful time." It's a balancing act, but they really threw the pressure on us! I guess they had too many experiences with kids who didn't do much and felt bad about it when they went home, but I know for a fact that I'm not going to be one of those. On study abroad in general: don't do it with people you already know. Study abroad is about you throwing yourself out of your comfort zone, making new friends from strangers, and seeing the world for yourself and to help with your own perspectives. If you bring every friend you ever had with you, you'll be limiting your experience by half. I think that's what the Student Affairs people were concerned about.

amalienborg, an amazing race stop
Tuesday was a little more relaxing with a housing session and I think a tour of the DIS facilities and trip to the nearest grocery store, Netto (I can't quite remember when those two things happened, but I think they were on Tuesday!). If you are debating whether or not to go on the optional facilities tour, do it. You will be so lost if you don't. The classes are hidden like crazy, so if you don't take the tour or know someone in all of your classes for the first day, you'll be stuck in the maze that is DIS. There was also a free market that day, giving away stuff that previous DIS students left behind, but I was not around in time for it, but heard it had little more than tupperware after the swarm of people entered the space at 2 p.m. sharp

central station copenhagen

Now Wednesday, on the other hand, was packed with activities. At 10 a.m. there was an optional culture talk, which spanned across anything from music to fashion to LGBT+ life in Copenhagen. I picked the fashion one, as Danish fashion is very sleek, sophisticated, and sharp and I wanted to know more. The guy who did the talk was hilarious and interesting, telling the few of us who had bothered to get up early all about the different sections of Copenhagen and how he could guess which part someone was from, based solely on their style.

After the talk, everyone headed over to the "amazing race," which was basically a self-guided tour with designated destinations. None of us were looking forward to it, since everyone was still feeling grumpy and tired, and the note of "bring your camera" on the sheet made us groan with the concern that we would have to be taking photos. Little did we know, the amazing race would live up to its name, bringing us to some of the most beautiful and historically important sights in Copenhagen. The note to bring a camera just meant that we would be seeing some really beautiful buildings and areas, and that we may want to take pictures (which I did want to do, but unfortunately I only brought my phone out of spite!). Although the walking was exhausting, navigating the city and seeing all of the cool stops was completely worth it, and made us realize how small the city truly is by the time we found our way home to Vestergade--also where DIS is located.

nyhavn, which we walked past for the amazing race
After the amazing race was academic orientation, which meant that me and all the other students in Cross-Cultural, Strategic, and New Media Communication came together for some introductions into our core classes. Nothing terribly exciting, but it was good to meet other comm kids. That evening, on a DIS-provided bus service, my LLC went together to the Activities and Immersion fair, which was an overwhelming event with free juice and hot dogs for dinner. After browsing all of the activities, which spanned across a larger breadth than I would have imagined, I ended up with two main things: I got some info about the CBS International Choir, based out of Copenhagen Business School, and officially signed up for my Buddy Network. We walked back home together as the event came to a close.

That was the last activity for the night, which was a relief, although thinking about going to class the next day was overwhelming. It had only been a few days and we already felt like, as an LLC in total, we were pretty cohesive, but imagining studies and homework and readings in this fun, foreign land was like a kick to the face. A kick to the face that we all endured.

street performers seen during the amazing race

So far, I've enjoyed my classes. My KU class met up beforehand to be guided to our classroom by a TA, since KU was not on the DIS facilities tour, for obvious reasons, but half of us got lost from the original group, and another half of us split up again. Moral of the story: it's easy to get lost in a new city, especially Copenhagen with its tiny street signs, plastered to the sides of buildings. Other moral: getting lost with people is a good way to get to know them.

All in all, orientation week was a blur of constant activity, but I feel like I was well prepared by it for my semester at DIS, even if I sometimes felt that the talking ran on for too long. I hope that if you're going to DIS, you'll take my advice, dispersed throughout this post, and feel a little more prepared for your experience. In case you haven't noticed, I am not an official DIS blogger, mostly because I was too lazy to apply/do the interview, but also because I was the teensiest bit afraid that they wouldn't like my constant critique. Hopefully, being separate from DIS will serve to proof to you, as a reader, that my posts are entirely unbiased. Although, for what it's worth, I don't think DIS would ever censor their bloggers, or that their bloggers would ever censor themselves. 

Anyway, expect a new post next week, if not sooner. I hope you'll keep reading about Copenhagen!


Much love,

T.