keeping up with cope (again)

It has been quite a busy week leading up to my first travel week, where half the core courses will go on their long study tours, while I have the week off to go wherever. Today I am headed to Milan, and then I will fly to Barcelona for the week. But those adventures will be included in another post. 🙂

This Wednesday was my first day with two field studies, and it was a lot of activity in one day. I took Josh to the train for the airport, and then I headed back to grab my backpack before going to the concert hall at Tivoli. My morning field study was for my Psychology of Peak Performance class, where we would be participating in a ballet workshop. My teacher told us to wear comfortable clothing because we would be moving around a lot. I was looking forward to a dance class; aside from taking an occasional Zumba class at school, I haven’t taken one since the days of American Theatre Dance in high school. We started out with a warm-up, and I was having a great time with my classmates; the energy in the room was high, and we were doing fun movements. However, the coach quickly flipped a switch in the middle of the class, and she went from nice-Danish-lady to extremely-harsh-and-scary-Danish-lady in a heartbeat. She wanted the class to do almost impossible turns and spins, and she singled people out, telling one boy he was the “worst in the class.” For the rest of the class, my number one goal was to avoid being called out apart from the group and needing to perform by myself. When we debriefed with our teacher and the coach at the end of class, they explained that her behavior was completely intentional: we are learning about how the environment and stress-level can impact people’s “peak performance.” While the concept was interesting, the class was definitely stress-inducing for me.

Luckily, I had eaten a very big breakfast since I knew I’d have no time to spare between my two field studies. I walked quickly to Norreport station to meet my Danish class for the afternoon. We headed to a nearby Danish high school, also called a Gymnasium. I really enjoyed my time there. My teacher divided us into small groups of two students from my class and two Danish high school students so that we could have more intimate conversations. We were allowed to talk about anything we wanted with the students, although we had been told to prepare questions for them. It turns out that in my group, the high schoolers had way more questions for us. We compared our school systems and experiences in high school for a while. One thing that struck me as particularly interesting is that there is less overall pressure to “do well” in high school in Denmark. The students explained to us that while attending a university was an elite experience and something that people strived to do, there were other options that were considered almost equally as valuable, such as taking a gap year or time to travel. I also know that Great Neck is a particularly high strung environment when it comes to applying to college, so it is not representative of the entire United States, by any means. However, between me and my partner, who is from Boston, we at least represented two different experiences of American high school. One of the Danish students asked me what I did in my free time during high school, and I started to list a few of my extra-curricular activities such as Key Club, the school newspaper, and theatre. He was shocked by this answer, and he said, “But when do you have time to eat breakfast and sleep?” I realized that in high school, while obviously I ate and slept, these activities sometimes took a back-burner position in comparison to achieving good grades and participating in a bunch of activities. The other Danish student asked why getting good grades wasn’t “good enough” to go to college, and my partner and I explained that we mostly did outside activities because we enjoyed them, but it was true that they also helped our resumes. I like the idea that here, there is not one “correct” path to achieve success; there are many definitions of what success looks like.

Another interesting thing we discussed is the stereotype that Americans carry guns around, and the students asked us if we often saw our friends carry guns at school. Neither I nor my partner has had this experience, but I explained that that would be unusual on a relatively liberal college campus, and the stereotype that all Americans have guns is definitely not true. It’s scary to think that this is the perspective young Danes have of the United States.

My next activity of the day was a group project meeting with people in my Danish class, as we had a cultural presentation the next day. It was fairly quick, and I was exhausted by that point. Adina and I caught up on another beautiful sunset run, and we spent the evening catching up on work.

Thursday was a happy day of classes, as students and teachers were all excited to begin their week off. Although I was tired when I woke up that morning, I left my first class feeling absolutely amazing about myself, thanks to an uplifting game that we played in Positive Psych. We were split up into groups of four, and we had boxes of cards with various “characteristics” on them, such as kindness, gratitude, humor, honesty, love, and about 25 other ones. There were also cards with prompts to tell stories, such as “an instant connection,” “a film that means something to you,” or “your biggest hero.” Each person in the group had 3-5 minutes to pick one of these prompt cards and use it to tell a personal story. While that person was talking, the three others in the group were collecting the “characteristic” cards that they thought you exhibited in the story. When the speaker was finished, the three listeners explained why they chose each of the characteristics, and you tallied up all the positive virtues you didn’t even know you exhibited. We each got to go twice. For my stories, my most prevalent virtues were apparently gratitude, perspective-taking, social intelligence, leadership, kindness, and fairness. What a great way to feel good. We also had a reflection with the whole class afterward, and Kamilla asked us to try to use this game in real life: there’s no reason we can’t make friends’ days by telling them what positive qualities they demonstrate.

In my Sociology of the Family class, we had an interesting discussion about the cultural differences regarding hook-up culture, which was fascinating. Prior to the class, we were each assigned different countries to read about, and then we compared notes during lecture. My country was Denmark, but my classmates covered information from 10 different places around the world. It’s crazy to think about how different Americans view hook-up culture in comparison to countries in Europe and Asia.

Thursday night I went with my friend Hannah from class to the Jason Mraz concert, which I had been looking forward to for months. He is a phenomenal singer, and seeing him in concert was so cool, especially the songs I’m Yours and Have It All, my favorites. Also, we were so much closer to the stage than we thought we would be, as we got there on time and it was a huge standing-floor. The commute was pretty easy on the train, too.

Today I have been catching up on my blogs, doing laundry, and packing for my trip. I also went to the gym and had lunch at a new place called Plant Power Food, and the menu was so extensive that I probably looked at it for 15 minutes before I decided what to get. My meal was delicious, but I’ll definitely have to go back. Tonight I am going with Adina, Goldie, and Adina’s parents to Shabbat dinner, which should be fun. I can’t wait for my trip!

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