Study Abroad Blogger Michael Boss: Post #4
Hola everyone! I’m back (sadly for the last time) to update you all on my Study Abroad experience, or extravaganza, as I would call it. I have to say, this was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and although I assume you would expect to hear that from anyone, I want to share some reasons why. But first, let me update you on the last of my travels. Most recently a friend and I traveled to Stockholm and Copenhagen, the capitals of Sweden and Denmark respectively. I must admit, we had some very high expectations for both of these cities and I will tell you that both cities somehow managed to surpass them.
Stockholm was fantastic and would go as far to say that it MAY have been my favorite city out of all of my abroad travels. It is a city that is made up of thousands of islands and archipelagos. Every way you turn, there is another body of water present. It is different from Amsterdam or Venice in the sense that it basically is a city in the middle of the Baltic Sea (along with a few other bodies of water) rather than little canals just running throughout everywhere. It was a tad bit expensive but one would expect that for a country’s capital city. Honestly, I’m not quite sure how to put it into words, except for the fact that it truly in unique and must be experienced firsthand for one to know what I am talking about. While it does contain the classic European city feel with a plethora of history, it has a variety of architecture as opposed to one main style, and you can see the clash of all these different styles from the continental European influence to the multitude of Viking-influenced buildings and ships.
Lastly, I must comment on the fact that all of the people are drop-dead gorgeous. I am pretty confident that everyone has modeled at some point in his or her life. There are loads of trendy, fair-skinned, Scandinavian women and men (did I mention it is the city containing the most singles in the world?). Enough about the looks though, the city truly is marvelous, and we were able to see it all thanks to the help from a boat tour that we took that traveled through the various waterways showing us the entire city. The only thing that I would mention is that Stockholm probably peaks, in regards to beauty, in the summertime or wintertime. In the winter, the snow makes everything look like typical Scandinavia and there is ice skating everywhere. In the summer, there is said to be up to 15 hours of sunlight in a single day because if its global location.
Now, on to Copenhagen, where I may contradict myself just a little because while I did say that Stockholm was unique, we went on to learn that we think Copenhagen might top it. Denmark is an enormous port and has been throughout its history, which may make one think that it is similar to Stockholm’s layout, yet one finds that the city itself is very concentrated on one of the islands as opposed to a horde of them like Stockholm. Don’t get me wrong though, the water, harbors/ports, and coasts play a huge role and are present everywhere.
The next few facts may be surprising to some but I assure you, they are completely factual. Copenhagen has three main levels of income tax, 38%, 47%, and 77%, surprising right? The wealthiest people pay 77% of their income to the government (granted they have plenty of benefits including healthcare, 7 years of childcare, and payment for one to attend a university)!! And here is the shocker, it is constantly rated as the happiest nation in the world. Astounding. The Danish live by a concept called Huga, which places value of the community and country as a whole over the value of an individual. It talks about giving back to the country/homeland that has provided you with so much. Too many people we met made remarks as to how they were looking at a map on the corner and, instantly, someone from the city came up to ask them if they needed help.
The most famous billionaires have all made their contributions to the country as well, including an international airport from the creator of Legos, the most technologically-advanced opera house in the world from the founder of Maersk, and the infamous statue of the Little Mermaid (Copenhagen’s most visited attraction) by the inventor of Carlsberg Brewing. The people in Copenhagen and Stockholm were an absolute delight and I loved every second in both of these cities. My experience has sparked a personal interest to explore the rest of these countries, especially because in my opinion, they aren’t at the top of the average person’s list of places to visit. They contain history, wonderful people, and are two of the “greenest,” or environmentally friendly, cities on Earth.
Phew, that was a lot, now to quickly try and share with you all why Study Abroad has been such an unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. First and foremost, I have to say the culture. Now many of you may think that is a typical answer but doesn’t have much significance, but I felt completely immersed in a completely foreign part of the world, where it’s custom to take a nap/rest in the middle of the day, to shut down practically an entire capital city on Sunday, and to place an enormous value on family. The people work to live, instead of living to work, which is said about many Americans. These are only a few of the tangible familiarities that I express but I assure you, there were more.
Next comes the people. I can say that I have met a great deal of individuals that I will call friends for quite a while, some foreign and even more Americans, all trying something they have never done before. I cannot forget to talk about the traveling, which most of you have been present for thanks to my wild updates about all of the crazy places I have made it to. I have seen more cities while here than many can hope to see in a lifetime. I have garnered tons of history about fun places all over the world (probably looking like a tourist every time) but haven’t regretted one trip that I’ve made (even the outrageously expensive Switzerland where its about $15 for a Big Mac).
Lastly, I want to briefly mention the individual experience and growth one participates in. Like I said, I met quite a few new people, but I think my personal growth has been one of the most crucial and rewarding results. Not only did I go into a foreign country with no friends or family with me (okay I knew 2 boys before I went, that’s it), but also, I went to one where they spoke a completely different language and had a whole different outlook on life. I gained the confidence that I can go into any situation, no matter how foreign or familiar, and succeed. That’s not to say I lacked this before I left, but that with an experience such as mine in Madrid under my belt, I believe I can do just about anything and gained a sense of individuality that I believe only comes brought upon with a little force (like being across an ocean from friends and family).
I want to thank everyone who took the time to appreciate my adventures. Whether there were hundreds of you reading (I highly doubt it) or only one or two dedicated follower, I hope you enjoyed reliving these experiences with me as much as I did actually partaking in the events. I had a blast keeping you all informed and if any one of you has even the smallest question regarding study abroad, please do don’t hesitate to email me (mboss-at-umich-dot-edu) because I’d love to give advice, repress any doubts, or just talk about the study abroad experience in general.