Ice Ice Baby
By Katharina Poblotzki
After two months in the concrete hell of Düsseldorf University I found myself begging for salvation at its International Office, taking advantage of being a semi-qualified European academic, and sporting two skills that qualified me for ignoring expired deadlines: being really annoying and persistent.
I randomly chose Copenhagen to be my new hometown over a lot of eastern European universities for superficial nightlife reasons, with the belief that my parka would protect me from the cold and other evilness I might encounter on the way.
Denmark was a neighbouring country I’d never set foot in, and I was leaving behind childhood friends, 30m² by the Rhine and the lowest food pricing in Europe to drive over 700km north.
The first thing that changed after moving abroad was that my ever-ringing mobile phone turned silent. I needed some new companions to stand by my side over the next year, and I opted to befriend people who were in the same homeless situation as I. Bravely, I went to the Student House’s International Party on a Wednesday night and found myself catapulted back into teenage hell. And this was not the O.C. version of it, it felt more like the one when you were still wearing braces and clothes in bright colours, and everyone was full of new hormones. Amazingly, for most international students it seemed to work out pretty well. With a little help from their tongues, Lambada, and the only reasonably-priced beer in town, transcultural exchange had never felt this good (well, I assume.)
The European Union closely observes all these activities, and after a couple of months an obligatory questionnaire arrived demanding detailed information about what we had spent our grant on, and whether sexual intercourse had taken place a) with another foreign student or b) with a Danish citizen (rather uncommon, so I’ve heard), and whether we had been more experimental than usual in that field.
Whilst their foreign contemporaries considered icicles falling from rooftops romantic, the Danes seemed hard to impress. My fairytale vision of Copenhagen was painfully disturbed after my second bike accident on frozen streets, and in the meantime, my parka had been replaced by a neat piece of clothing and the (wannabe) attitude of a Danish girl riding through the snow with untied hair, wearing something pretty rather than warm.
“Have you succeeded making the city your new home?” a lecturer asked at the end of the semester. “Have you made any Danish friends?” After a long pause a fellow German asked “Does the son of my guest-family count?!”. Fortunately, the closest I had come to a guest family was a Danish student taking me with her on a family visit to Jutland. I had secretly found a way of bonding with the locals; sharing my monthly ration of imported alcohol.
It took a couple of months, but based on the quantity of homemade æbleskiver and glögg that I shared with Danes during my second winter in Scandinavia, I think I came a long way on my journey from Köln to København.