Every major at my host university, DTU, has its own set of events each year. For example, some of my kitchen mates went on a school-operated, weekend trip to the countryside with the rest of the students in their semester and major as a “class-wide” bonding activity.
My major is no exception: at the end of September, we had an Environmental Engineering Masters Cabin Trip, organized by the major’s student board. Even though it was marketed toward Masters ENVE students, students from any level of the major or from any major could attend. (I was in a slight predicament, because I had planned to meet some friends of mine from Drexel in London. I realized, however, that as much as I missed my friends back home, the only way to give myself the best chance at enjoying my term abroad was to embrace as much of Denmark and DTU as possible. This meant that I couldn’t run back to my friends that I had known for years. Rather, I had to take the chance and go on a trip where I only knew a few other participants.)
The first day, we arrived at a cabin about 2 hours away from campus in the farmlands of Zealand (the east-most island of Denmark, where its capital, Copenhagen, and DTU are located). We immediately staked our claims one the beds in a large room packed tightly with three-layer bunk beds. We then migrated outside, many of us running around yelling in our bathing suits daring each other to take a dip in the crystal clear, light turquoise Baltic Sea that our cabin overlooked. Now, for those of you who don’t know, the weather in Denmark this time of year is around 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit and cloudy or rainy most of the time. The Baltic Sea is some kind of freezing (I forgot to bring my ocean thermometer so the exact temperature has escaped me); so much so, that when we jumped in, most of us screamed or showed our physical pain to the low temperatures of the water in some way.
After we all managed to finagle our ways out of the water and past the slippery ocean floor rocks and seaweed beds, we met for a vegan dinner prepared by the Ph.D. students and were broken up into groups of six. The five teams competed in a series of games that made us all feel some kind of hilariously uncomfortable (from singing Elton John to presenting a goofy team handshake to show our pride), and we were judged on skill by the Masters students and one of our ENVE professors singing and playing a guitar. We gathered around the fire pit out back later on for marshmallow roasting and group singing under the stars.
The next day consisted of more memorably awkward games, interspersed with vegan and sustainable meals prepared by the Ph.D. students, rotating chores for us cabin trip guests to take on, chill time to play card games, sports and explore the white beach, and of course, another dip in the painfully cold Baltic Sea (apparently I didn’t learn my lesson the first time). After dinner, we were all herded on the back porch and placed into two lines by gender, each facing each other. We eventually learned an organized group line dance specific to the cabin trip event, that the student organizers called “Pornopolka” after the song by a Finnish folk band that we danced to. We ended the night with a dance party, where the organizers brought in a DJ from Copenhagen and incorporated epic dance lighting and a fog machine for the dancehall-turned-dining room.
Not only do events such as these create memories that can last a lifetime (because at 22 I definitely know what that feels like), but they also help establish strong bonds with people you may not have met or gotten to know otherwise. When I walked into class on Monday, the day after we returned home, I recognized half of my 40-student lecture, and we all smiled and greeted each other as if we had been friends for much longer than a few days. It was then I knew I had made the right decision that weekend, and that I was headed in the right direction to have an amazing term abroad.