• Belgium!

    Last weekend, I slept on a short flight from Copenhagen to Brussels. By the way, Copenhagen is an expensive place to fly out of. Airline tickets to the rest of Europe–barring the UK and Scotland–are so inflated here for some reason. Eh, I digress. So I landed in Brussels and was unconscious until the kind woman beside me woke me up. The first thing I feel? Extreme cold. Brussels is as cold as Copenhagen in February. No difference. I exit the airport, and…the city looks like an older (by five years) Copenhagen. I feel right at home.

    A little bit less clean than Copenhagen too.

    Okay, I will not tell you what I did in Belgium: okay, fine, I will quickly. I had a lot of Belgian chocolate and waffles, walked a lot, and stood under this lovely bridge:

    Now to the more exciting part. As many of you don’t know, I am doing a research project comparing the Danish and American healthcare systems. You see, the American healthcare system comprises a pluralistic insurance landsca—HA got you; I won’t bore you with the details, but I wanted to point out quickly that when I talked to Belgians about their healthcare system, they, like the Danes, were delighted with it. Both nations, unlike America, have a certain sense of collective social initiative that mandates the moral assistance of those less fortunate. That, my friends, was a fancy way of saying that they like to help people. Although, I noticed that the system in Belgium was a little less social (in that it has more copayments for inpatient care, etc) than in Denmark. Looking at broader Europe, a trend develops. As you approach Denmark the more social the healthcare system is and the further you get the less social it is. Think of the U.K. (with the highly social NHS) versus Russia (with the god-knows-what). Okay, back to Belgium. Anyway, Belgium was beautiful, definitely more chaotic (relax, I meant it in the good way) than Copenhagen. I saw a lot, and I mean a lot of wind turbines and I saw cute little building that reminded me on Copenhagen’s Nyhavn (have you noticed that I love Nyhavn yet?). 

    Okay, they don’t look exactly like Nyhavn, but you see what I mean.

    I also saw a statue and had to take a picture with it. To be honest I don’t know what the statue represents, but it is of a woman who is holding a mini-man like a puppet so I thought it was really cool.

    At last I was on the airplace again ready to go back to Copenahgen. I took this picture and I sletp immediately. I woke up feeling cold again, telling me I was at home. 

    Right above Brussels.
  • Aarhus

    I have been in Copenhagen for around a month and have developed an attachment to the Danish experience. It’s pretty neat! After a thousand cups of coffee and many pastries for lunch, I have to say I thought I had Denmark figured out. While staying in the Capitol, it was hard to remember that Denmark is more than just Copenhagen; it is a whole country. So when I went to Aarhus (Denmark’s northern, beautiful second-largest city), I was unprepared for what I was about to experience. 

    I’m sorry that my nose was red, I was cold.

    GOT YOU! It was not different at all! To me, the wide-eyed tourist, Aarhus looked and felt exactly like a little Copenhagen. Honestly, I thought it would be like the difference between New York and L.A.–immense–, but it was not. And that’s when it hit me: Denmark was much more uniform than America. Of course, there are still differences between the regions (especially the Capital Region, Hovedstaden, and Syddanmark, the Southern Region). Still, I wanted to discuss why I was surprised at my perceived uniformity. 

    This is perhaps one of the most beautiful sights I have seen in all of Denmark

    So what did I feel was the same in Copenhagen and Aarhus? The architecture, the city vibe (although I must say that Aarhus was a little more relaxed than Copenhagen), and the availability of public services (by which I mean the trains I got on in Aarhus were as reliable as the ones in Copenhagen–very). I did feel like I stood out a little more in Aarhus, but I expected that because I did not see as many people of color in northern Denmark as I did in the Capital region. It hit me after being in Aarhus that Denmark was much smaller in size and population than America, so duh it was going to be a lot more uniform. Then, I thought to myself that many of the problems (especially the political ones) in America are impacted by the immense differences in geography and environment people experience. And suddenly, I was theorizing why Americans couldn’t coperate as easily as the Danes. Then I realized that I am not a genius because Tocqueville touched on this idea in Democracy in America. Annnnnnnywho, on to the differences: 

    My first dinner in Aarhus!

    What was different? Awesome question. For starters the people were a lot calmer in Aarhus (surprising because I thought everything was already calm in Copenhagen). There were a lot more people walking than biking and I think I saw a lot more people smoking cigarettes in Aarhus than in Copenhagen, though I could be wrong. Something else I thought I noticed was that people in Aarhus think people in Copenhagen are ‘too big for their britches,’ you know like how some one from suburban New Jersey looks at someone from New York City. Not with disdain, but more of a “you think you’re better than me?” attitude. I thought it was pretty funny because to an outsider Danes are supposed to be above all this petty bickering, so I’m surprised I noticed it.

    See, Aarhus looks like Copenhagen…

    Overall, traveling across Denmark has enabled me, for the first time in my life, to actually compare a country to the United States and go “Hmm, I see why America is not the norm across the world.” In fact, I am a person that takes a lot of pride in being an American adn being here definitely humbled me a little. 

  • Frederick the Fifth

    I’d like to start this blog off by saying I have had a LOT of coffee since being in Denmark. I’m not normally a person who drinks coffee, but with a caffe on every street and an Esspresso House on every corner, I just could not help it. By the way, I really recommend going to smaller, the more local coffee houses that can be found all over the city than an Espresso House or even a Starbucks. I think the coffee is so much better (plus, come on you’re in Denmark). Anywho, today’s blog is about a guy I saw sitting on a horse in Amalienborg Square: Frederick the Fifth. Before we get started, take a sip of coffee with me:

    So King Frederick the fifth was not only the king of Denmark. Back when he ruled Denmark was actually a big empire encompassing modern day Norway. Yes, our sweet modern day Denmark has a glorious past, being a great power in its own right with territories stretching from main land Europe to modern day Sweden. He ruled from 1746 to 1766 and established Denmark’s first lottery: the Royal Copenhagen Lottery. As a person who did not know that kings established lotteries, I think that’s pretty cool. Definitely worth it to put him on a giant Horse:

    But for a great king worthy of a horse statue, his reign was questionable. From what I know, the guy was a hedonist who was afflicted by alcoholism for most of his life (so much for personal influence). But while he was no Lious the Fourteenth, it was the work of his ministers that really made his reign remarkable. They progressed commerce and pioneered the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment by sparing Denmark of European wars during his reign. (For context, this was the period of the Seven Years war between Great Britian and France, sometimes dubbed ‘World War Zero’). So he gets a statue. Yay. But I think there is more to hsi story than meets the eye. I genuinely think that the roots of the reason we think of Denmark as so progressive today can be found in the policies of impressive ministers, not kings. I mean, when I think of France in the 18th and 19th centuries I think of people like Luois the Sixteenth or Napolean (great failures or conquers, depending on your historical reference), but when I think about Denmark I think of people like N.F.S. Grundtvig, the pioneer folk education focused on the person. Ultimately, the parts of Denmark that most Danes today are very proud of did not come from great monarchs, but their histroy of looking inward to try to make their lives better. So while statues and castles of past glorious monarchs decorate the city, I think its clear to many that modern day Denmark is the work of a collective, rather than one great man. Now here is a picture of me looking at the biggest mermaid I’ve ever seen.

  • My First Days

    I’ll admit it, I am one of those people who insist on sitting in a window seat. No, not just to be annoying, but I enjoy being, or at least the illusion of being, the first to see the ground again. And I always take a picture on those rare occasions when I have a morning flight and catch a glimpse of the sun rising at 37,000 feet. That said, I’d like to share with you the first Danish sun I ever saw. She was magnificent. 

    Yes, I also really like looking at the engines.
    Hidden Question: What type of clouds are these?

    B-e-a-you-tiful. Don’t get used to her; I learned after landing that I won’t see her again for a couple of months. (By the way, I would see the real sun {you know, the one that carries heat} again in Denmark in March.) I’d be remiss, though, if I did not point out that for what it lacks in sun in January, Copenhagen makes up for in spectacle. The sparkle of the old city is hard to exaggerate. Everything here is noticeably calmer and more refined than what I am used to in America, from the architecture to the atmosphere to the people. The second you step foot in Denmark, you understand why the people here are the happiest in the world. Okay, the real reasons may have to do more with Danish culture, their collective sense of societal responsibility, and the history of Denmark, but those are topics for another blog. For now, I just want to stress the extreme excitement I experienced when I saw this scene for the first time:

    A picture in Nyhavn. I mean, just look at our guy over there standing, enjoying the view. Not a care in the world.

    Before coming to Copenhagen, this was the only place I knew about in the whole city. Nyhavn is, by my estimates (by which I mean I wrote ‘Copenhagen’ in four different search engines–yes, including Bing–and pictures of Nyhavn came up), the most internationally recognized place in the city. Lined with cute little cafes, restaurants, bars, and those colorfully loved townhouses, Nyhavn has been a hub of entertainment as far back as 1670. Just standing there, I couldn’t help but feel the history. Accuse me of having an overactive imagination, but looking out at the port, I couldn’t help but imagine the thousands of ships that stopped here over the years.

    Quick Side Note: You know how in movies, sometimes the main character is just standing there frozen while everything around them is moving fast? Ya. That’s the best way I could describe being in Nyhavn, trying to imagine its incredible history for the first time. 

    You know when you look at a picture and wish you’d been able to contain your smile just a little bit? That’s exactly what I feel when I look at this picture. I am smiling so hard I felt my jaw hurting when I looked at it later.

    All that to say, during the first couple of days in Denmark, I couldn’t help but feel like a tourist. I was walking around like a toddler mesmerized by everything they saw. Now, I walk past Nyhavn without stopping to see all the boats for fifteen minutes. Just like a real Dane would.

  • Pre-departure Blog Post

    SO you are probably wondering why am I so excited to study abroad in Copenhagen this Spring. Why did I even pick Copenhagen, I mean the world is so big and there are a lot to explore. There are a lot of reasons why I chose Copenhagen, but one of the most important is the history.Those who know me know I love history and Copenhagen is certainly one of the most historically and culturally rich places on Earth. I mean look at that beautiful, magnificent port; that port was so important to global commerce that in the 19th century when Britain wanted to disturb the whole of Europe’s trade in retaliation to Napoleon’s ‘Continental System’ they targeted this port (I promise I am not supporting any historical side here, I am simply making a point). And it’s not just commerce that Copenhagen excelled at, but other fields propelling human science and ingenuity like physics and philosophy were nurtured and developed here. Ever heard of a Søren Kierkegaard? A Niels Bohr? Okay, I may be going a little off topic, but I really want to stress that the wonders of the city are multifaceted and there are a lot of sites of historical and cultural significants that I hope to visit there.

    The idea of living in Copenhagen reminds me very much so of when I was a child in Egypt thinking about how life will be in the United States. I think, in many ways, I was not necessarily prepared for all culture shock that I was about to experience. Thus, this time I sought to be a lot more well educated on the culture of Denmark. I know it is a little cliche, but I did buy one of those well-to-do travel books and asked around a lot about places I should visit. I think, though, that in totality my plans in Copenhagen will come down to talking to locals and figuring out what ‘under-the-ground’ trendy spots I can visit while I am there. I love talking to people, so I think I will be just fine. Going off that, I am even more excited to start learning Danish. The danish language is, in my respectful and not at all bias opinions, one of the most beautiful languages. I have spent a lot of time learning Arabic, English, and Italian (actually, my Italian is not that good yet. Maybe because I’ve never been to Italy) and I am very excited to start learning a language in a new language family. Plus, in my experience (speaking directly from my experience learning English) the best way to pick up a language is to immerse myself in its culture, people, and literature.

    Overall, I am very excited to entreat upon the wonders Denmark has to offer. I plan to be writing a lot about my experiences in Denmark and — as I get used to using this blogging platform — I hope you are excited to come a long for the ride!

  • About Me

    Karem Katary (He/Him)

    Hey everyone!

    My name is Karem (it’s pronounced Kar-eem, despite the way it’s spelled). I am a college student currently studying Global Health at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. I was born in the rather small, but lively city of El-Mallah El-Kubra in Egypt and was raised in Brooklyn, New York. I have four brothers, of which I am the second oldest, and two loving parents. I love to read, play soccer, and go on long — I’ll admit sometimes too long — walks that have me explore my surroundings, but most of all I love to write. This spring I will be in the one of Europe’s greatest historical cities: Copenhagen with the DIS program studying everything from European history to the Danish health system. Join me as I explore what Copenhagen has to offer!

    (Me in Texas. It was a little windy that day, but I managed 🙂