One of the internal tug-of-wars I’ve been grappling with during my time abroad has been my identity in Copenhagen: am I a tourist or a local? My time is limited, yes, but still long enough that I engage in activities typically reserved for locals, such as grocery shopping or getting my nails done. My unsureness of whether to act like a native Dane or a tourist creates frequent internal debates. For example, when I wake up on a Saturday morning and want to stay in bed: If I sleep in, am I squandering an opportunity to go out and explore, or am I just acknowledging that my semester abroad grants me the ability to engage in self-indulgence? I came to Copenhagen with a laundry list of activities and sites that I wanted to pepper throughout my semester. While I have certainly made a dent, there are still many things I need to check off. Sometimes I feel like I still have time to do everything and I should enjoy the moments of peaceful meandering that the length of my stay affords me, but at other times I feel I need to stuff my days full of back-to-back activities. During the last week of October and early November, I had a weeklong break from school for travel. One of my closest friends from abroad and I decided to fill our schedule up, taking advantage of the train rides, often under $20, that could take us from country to country. Including weekends, we had nine days to travel, and we scheduled four stops: We spent approximately two days each in Budapest, Hungary; Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna and Prague, and in each city we hit the major tourist destinations and spent hours walking around. Although we learned how to say “thank you” in Hungarian (köszönöm), Slovak (Ďakujem), German (danke schoen) and Czech (Děkuji), these phrases were the extent of our integration. Each morning we set off to explore, winding down charming streets and snaking between churches, statues and palaces. It was a beautiful whirlwind, and we loved every visit, but it was distinctly different from the often-lackadaisical life of Copenhagen, and it made me reassess how I interact with the city that I’m fortunate enough to live in for this semester. Am I doing myself a disservice by not spending my weekends setting off for museums and landmarks, or am I engaging in a different type of abroad experience — one that more closely resembles the day-to-day life of a local? Either way, spending nine days exploring cities has refreshed my determination to check items off my Copenhagen bucket list, although maybe not in the harried, scheduled manner that my quick free trip necessitated. Thinking about the interaction between touring and inhabiting has also caused me to reflect upon my experience at Georgetown and in Washington, D.C. College is in many ways similar to studying abroad: Although four years may seem like a long time, it is truly a blip in the span of our lives. It’s baffling to me even now to recognize that I’m more than halfway done with my college experience. Furthermore, it’s almost ironic that acting as a tourist in places where I am so markedly foreign — places where I don’t speak the language and need a passport to enter — has reminded me that I am also somewhat of a tourist in D.C. I have begun to feel that I should be taking advantage of all it has to offer because before I know it, I will graduate and my time living in D.C. may come to an end. After comparing a week of swift travel with my more quotidian life in Copenhagen, I feel I have a better understanding of the importance of striking a balance between visiting classic tourist locations and trying to view different places as an inhabitant. While I don’t think we could’ve visited these cities without visiting certain historical sites — the Shoes on the Danube Bank in Budapest, or Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna, for example — I also felt strolling through residential neighborhoods taught us more about the day-to-day life in each city — a goal arguably as important as hitting every tourist attraction.
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