Cecilie Joergensen, January '15

Each month, Office of International Students and Scholars introduces one international student/scholar by highlighting their cultural background, personal experience in both home country and U.S. It is our hope that this mini introduction will help Lehigh community to have a better understanding of the international students and scholars on campus. We encourage every student to participate in this activity. If you would like to be featured, send your message to intnl@lehigh.edu.

1) Hi Cecilie, so tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What are you studying here at Lehigh? When will you be done with your studies?
I am from Denmark, which is a small country between Sweden, Norway and Germany. Our population is quite small compared to the states, we are only 5.6 millions. We have lots of islands and a mainland that is connected to Germany. Some misconceptions I would like to share; Danish pastries are not called Danishes in Denmark & Denmark is not the capital of Sweden.  At home, I am studying Human Life Science Engineering, but here I am in Biological Sciences primarily. I finish with the undergraduate degree (only three years in Denmark) next summer, after which I continue on the two-year graduate course. 
2) So far, what do you think about Lehigh? Do you like the campus? The faculty? The people? Your housing?
I like Lehigh a lot. The campus is beautiful and the atmosphere is good. People are very friendly here, which makes everything a lot easier. I am living in Campus Square, which is very nice. I have amazing roommates and the location is perfect even though it is dangerous having the Cup so near by. 
3) What is your daily life like at Lehigh?
I have early classes every day, which is a bit hard sometimes but it is alright since all the classes are so close by. After class I tend to do homework and go running by the river. Otherwise I have fun at different activities around campus or hang out with friends. There is always something fun to do. 
4) So in this short new journey of discovering America in terms of the culture, language, ideals, and traditions, what have you discovered or learned about the American culture?
I have discovered how much Halloween means for Americans. Decorations, costumes, everything is pumpkin flavored and in orange colors. Also, sarcasm is common, which I like a lot since I use a lot of irony myself. So look out for that in my answers. 
5) What is the most obvious difference between American culture and the culture in your home country?
All units are different: miles instead of kilometers, Fahrenheit instead of Celsius. All very different (weird). It makes grocery shopping and going to the gym a bit complicated but buying too many apples or running a bit longer is not too bad. In general Americans are more outgoing than Danish people. Talking to strangers happens rarely at home.  The structure of the society is very different. We have free education, including university degrees. We are paid around $1000 dollars a month while studying at the university. This is all financed by taxes; we pay 50-60% in taxes depending on your income. We have free health care too. 
6) Describe what daily life is like for you in your home country.
The biggest difference is that I live in my own apartment at home and have to take care of everything by myself. Normally I get up even earlier than here. I bike 2.5 miles to the university, which is considered a short ride. I will have a two-hour class, followed by a two-hour exercise part where it is possible to get help, if you cannot solve the problems yourself. If I have a short day, I will continue to my work at noon, where I would take a bus because it is difficult to reach by bike. Around 5pm I would take the bus and bike home, cook dinner and do homework and readings. At longer days I would have an hour lunch break and then have another class until 5pm. Some evenings I would play European Handball. 
7) What are your hobbies? Interests?
I have been playing European Handball since I was five years old. It is an indoor sport, where the field looks like a small soccer field. It is a very physical, technical and fast sport, which makes it very exciting. In general I love sports, so I watch a range of different sports. 
8) What kinds of adventures have you been on here in the US?
I have been to the U.S. Open finals with one of my roommates. We watched the men’s doubles final and the women’s single final. It was a big experience since the Danish player, Caroline Wozniacki, played Serena Williams in the final. I sat next to an extreme Serena fan. It was not funny when Serena won but otherwise it was great. 
9) What kinds of adventures have you been on in your home country?
Several summers in a row, my brother and I have biked around the countryside and camped overnight. It is great way to experience the small communities, the lovely nature and forget about everything else. We bike around with all the gear on our bikes and takes ferries and bridges to go between different parts of the country. I love the Western part of the mainland, called Jylland, where the nature and the sea are rougher. During one of the ice ages, the ice stopped here so the nature is very different in this part of the Country. 
10) What do you miss most about your home country?
I miss my bike, rye bread and our very well functioning public transportation. It is much more difficult to get around here, and biking seem dangerous since there are not special lanes for the bike riders. Rye bread is my usual lunch and goes with most things. The few ones available here are almost inedible. 
11) Would you like to share one tradition that is unique and important in your country with us?
When we graduate from high school we get a special cap, where the color of the band symbolizes whether it is the general, technical or business high school. Every class rents a van, where everybody in the class can stand and look out, while it drives around. We visit all the homes of parents, where each place provides a bit of food and drink. It is a wonderful experience, where everybody is happy. The cap has a lot of traditions. All your friends write you a message inside it and bite the brim to wish you good luck in the future. 
12) If someone was going to visit your home country, what would you tell them to do there and where would you tell them to visit?
First of all, I would recommend visiting during spring or summer, where the weather is nice and warmer. I would tell them to visit our capital, Copenhagen. It is wonderful, and there is a lot to do. Our queen lives inside the city in a palace with royal guards standing outside. The city contains a lot of old buildings and parks so walking around in general is very nice. A lot of people gather in the parks and picnic during the summer. Otherwise, renting a bike and riding around would be a great experience. The biking lanes are very well organized, and it is the most used way to get around. Inside the capital there is an old amusement park with concerts doing the summer. Other very nice, bigger cities are Odense and Aarhus, which are easy to reach by train. If you have the option to rent a car, there are two lovely limestone quarries in Southern Denmark. Further, the beach is never far away, so that is a good option too. We also have several charming old Castles, e.g. Rosenborg and Kronborg.