International Connections

Melanie Trepa

Major: Child, Adult, and Family Services

Minor/option/emphasis: Youth Option

Year: Junior
Hometown, State: Bettendorf, IA

Type of experience: Faculty-Led Program
Experience: Happiness and Hygge in Denmark
Experience website:
Destination: Denmark

Overall experience..
My overall experience was immensely beneficial. The program does an excellent job implementing observational research along with lecture-style learning development. I felt this program benefited not only my career, but my personal life as a whole.

I learned...
Dr. Hillman walked into my "Research in Human Sciences" course with Dr. G. She explained the program and immediately caught my interest with the timeframe. Three weeks was long enough to feel the experience was worthwhile, without feeling as though I wouldn't graduate on time if I took on the opportunity.

An impact to my life...
This experience has taught me what it means to be truly happy. It has influenced my political views, and has shaped my overall daily choices to reflect what I learned in Denmark. I now know how to use "hygge" in my life and to incorporate the larger themes we discovered were essential to living a satisfying life.

My most valuable learning experience...
The most valuable learning experience I learned is hard to chose, but if I had to pick just one, it would be when our group observed a baby sitting by him/herself in a stroller in the park near a group of adults. It was far enough away that it appeared as though the caregiver left the child there. We learned that this is a prime example of the cultural sense of trust. Danes do not worry their child will be stolen or harmed, because the society's overall a very communinal people and they often feel it is the job of everyone to look out for one another.

I will never forget...
My most memorable experience from this trip was in Skagen. It was a rainy, cold day and we had just biked to a lighthouse on the way to where the Baltic and North Sea meet. Four of us were huddled under an outdoor table umbrella, with absolutely perfect desserts and blankets wrapped around us. Despite the weather we all felt truly comfortable and content. It was the first time I really understood hygge.

A surprising discovery...
Something I had not anticipated while in Denmark, was the overall sense of unity they had. I feel as Americans we often preach an undivided nation, but our words and actions do not reflect this motto. Danes are people who share a belief of "togetherness" and therefore will always look out for one another, despite the fact that they let people have privacy. I feel if everyone in my life and my career chose to see unity as a personal responsibility, the world would be a better place.

Advice for others...
If you chose to go on an experience like Denmark, LIVE IN THE MOMENT! Although the trip seems to sometimes drag when you hop from train to train, before you know it the trip will be over and all you'll have left is a few pictures and a mushy memory. Every time there is an opportunity to fully embrace the culture and the experience, do it. You will not regret it. (My personal example is swimming in every body of water we were at. I was the only one on my trip willing to get in the water despite how cold it was).

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