When I was at Skidmore last fall applying to study abroad, I was a little nervous about coming to Denmark to study. A couple of friends were in Paris during the November 13th attack, and they returned to school quite shaken. One girl even declined going on our annual NYC Honors Forum trip–she was anxious about going to a big, crowded city.
But M&D assured me that going to Denmark was safe. I found this map (below) which eased my worries a bit too. Plus, M&D said, this was an amazing opportunity, I partially chose my college for its study abroad program, and I shouldn’t miss out on experiences because of fearing things that would likely not happen.
I feel completely safe in Copenhagen. It’s a bigger city than I’m used to by a lot (~560,000 people according to 2013 UN data), but it’s clean and friendly. Perhaps it’s the Danish hyggeligt culture–even their biggest city feels cozy and local and more like a big community than a large city with different neighborhoods.
My friend Ruben and I went to Brussels on February 20 for the weekend (you read a bit about it here). We had a wonderful time; we felt mostly safe, but we did notice heightened security. That felt fine–at least if anything happened, their police would be prepared. As I’ve continued traveling around Europe, I’ve felt mostly safe most of the time. It’s been interesting to see the heavily armed guards in Eastern Europe (Latvia and Russia) vs. the lax security in the Nordic countries (when I took that ferry from Denmark to Sweden, they didn’t even ask to check my passport).
When talking with local Danes and discussing the refugee crisis in my Danish class, it’s been clear that Denmark is becoming more conservative. Some people do believe that Denmark should continue to admit refugees, but many Danes disagree. It’s been hard to hear that. Denmark has been basically homogenous from 1167 until about sixty years ago, when it loosened its immigration policies. Danes are very protective of their strong cultural identities, and they’re worried about how the refugees/actually, how any immigrants could threaten it. It’s hard to think that this country that cares so much about the environment and sustainability (and can peacefully merge bike lane culture with their 1100s buildings, haha, shoutout to 9th street corridor haters) is still so insular. One way I’ve “coped” with it, is by understanding it as: Denmark is still new to immigration. They’re like us in the 50s. They’re not a “country founded by immigrants” like we are; they’re a homogenous people with a homogenous culture and they haven’t gotten used to immigration and globalization.
While Danes have strong feelings about the refugee crisis, they (apparently) don’t choose to dirty their city with graffiti on these issues. However, some other cities I’ve visited this semester do have political graffiti. I’ve been collecting images of different views on the refugee crisis:
*note: We also saw some anti-refugee graffiti in Budapest, but I don’t have photos from that trip since I lost my camera. The most striking graffiti from Budapest, Hungary was the word “MIGRANS,” which means migrant, written on all of the trash cans along the street in a tourist area. It’s a pretty creative idea, actually, much more than words just spray painted on the side of a building, but so so cruel. The trash cans were right at eye height for children. ——–updated bc I got my camera back, see photo above.