Hygge of My Semester

A major part that made studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark such an enriching experience was my host family. Their home is in Dyssegård, a suburb of Copenhagen and a twenty-minute train ride from the city center. The opportunity to explore beyond the city center, and have a purposeful journey as well as excellent people-watching time was an important part of each day and helped me delve into the everyday lives of a diverse array of people in Copenhagen.

While the two listed as my “family” were Jette and Hans-Erik, the others whom I interacted with because of them — including their kids and grandkids, their neighbor Peter, Hans-Erik’s mother, and other family friends — all added to my love for their home and helped me feel welcome in their environment.

Each evening, we (Jette, Hans-Erik and I) would cook together dancing between their blue SVEG fridge and front entryway to make simple, yet interesting dishes. As someone who mainly baked cakes, cookies, and other sweets growing up, my major cooking challenge prior to going abroad was usually trying not to burn grilled cheese. Under their roof, the importance of experimentation and trying something new both in the manner of tasting as well as overall dish creation was expressed.

The various ways they created dishes out of simple ingredients was new to me, and their manner of cooking fascinating. However, it wasn’t the food that made me never want to miss an evening at home, it was the atmosphere. Beyond just cooking, this time was a chance to discuss current events, try to pronounce Danish words, and often get advice about life in a variety of contexts.

One evening, Hans-Erik came home ecstatic with the deal he got on steaks, showing off the twelve packages he bought to freeze and use. I found this particular event hilarious because it also helped me see my own love of a good deal in Hans-Erik’s excitement over the steak. This event of excitement was not rare, in fact, it was pretty regular for Hans-Erik to come home with groceries bought from a supermarket deal, overjoyed at their total cost. Over the semester, I slowly began to understand the European culture of going to the grocery store multiple times a week, in contrast to the usual, once a week, giant grocery trip typically practiced in the United States.

Beyond the physical aspect of living in their home for four months, being taught Danish pronunciations and to distinguish different red wines, my entire experience was shaped by the love and friendliness of their everyday lives. This experience reaffirmed the importance of not only traveling to see the physical aspects of different cities but having real connections with those from such places, if possible. Those evening moments of bonding, from the quiet ones to the ones filled with thunderous laughter, are what I miss the most about my time in Denmark.


Bailey is a Minnesota native and a coffee addict. You can find her wearing spottie dotties (polka dots, as some call them) or talking numerous jumping pictures in her pink Doc Martens. She loves to explore either through traveling in the physical world or through moving picture films. As a senior at Smith, she is house president of Gardiner House and a gold key tour guide.

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