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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Michael in England

Michael Roy ’18 is a Self-Designed major with a minor in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies who is studying in Sunderland, England.

This past summer one of my best friends married her long time partner (who I also adore) from Denmark. The wedding was held in our hometown, Omaha, Nebraska, and most of her now husband’s family and best man travelled over from Denmark. I’d long heard that people in Denmark were some of the happiest in the world. (They are known for their excellent education system as well as their welfare state.) At the wedding I saw this come to life. The groom’s family and best man all were part of a Danish/Finnish swing dance community and they were happy to show others how. (While Swing dancing is not solely in Denmark I think it safe to say most of the US population does not know how to do it.) During his speech the best man pulled out a video with greetings from the members of the community that couldn’t come. It was beautiful. I was in awe in particular that all of these men were showing more emotion t! han a lot of the men I’ve come across in my life living across the United States and actually participating in dancing. The groom and best man were dancing together, without a care in the world, in a state in which two men dancing is socially unacceptable. I remember sitting in awe and thinking “they are more free than we are.”

One of my friends and fellow LFC student is studying abroad this semester in Copenhagen. When the chance to visit her came up I jumped at the opportunity. I hadn’t planned on going to Denmark during this trip but I grew so happy at the prospect, and the experience turned out to be one of the best of study abroad and most fond memories of recent times.

I had the chance to stay with her host family, and they were the most lovely of people. There was stimulating conversation about social issues, singing around the piano, dogs running around, a sassy bird flying about, and just the feeling of being at home and part of the family. I attended one of my friend’s classes and the professor wanted to celebrate a student’s birthday and had me go grab pastries at the corner bakery down the street with her credit card. She called it Danish trust. Without fail everyone I met in Denmark was just incredibly pleasant, open, and friendly. I was honestly shocked by the absolute kindness of everyone who came into my friend’s host family’s home. Everyone just seemed like the sweetest souls, all doing their own thing but welcoming of others in their lives. Onstage, at the student coffeehouse we went to (think Danish version of Central Perk) guys danced around and had a good time. Specifically the men seemed to not be chained by the tox! ic masculinity we have in the States. They were articulate. They seemed in touch with their emotions and warm and accepting of others. The seemed more free.

I know that Denmark is not perfect. They have issues like everyone else, but I am so grateful I got to visit Denmark. I honestly can’t wait to return and hopefully do some graduate study there. I’m very grateful to the donors of LFC for help making this experience possible and allowing me to see what we can work toward at home.