Each semester, one student from each HECUA program abroad takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. Ramah Aleryan will be HECUA’s student blogger for the Globalization, National Identity, and the Politics of Belonging program in Norway this fall semester. Ramah is a junior at Colorado College, majoring in Sociology and double-minoring in Journalism and Feminist/Gender Studies. Click here to read Ramah’s first post.
On October 31st, we began our trip as a class to Copenhagen. The goal of the trip was to briefly experience the approach that Denmark takes to immigration and the asylum-seeking process in comparison with Norway. However, the trip was a great balance between fun and work. We took our flight at 1:30 pm on Wednesday. We arrived in Copenhagen. We started our time there by taking a walk around the important areas in downtown Copenhagen and ended our day by going to Tivioli, an amusement park that had a special decoration for Halloween. Because of its incomparable Halloween decoration, the people were mostly adults, not children. We rode the roller coaster, drank hot chocolate and strolled the amusement park.
On our next day, we went to Trampoline House, a community center that serves as a space for refugees and asylum seekers to meet, cook and take language classes. We met with Michala Clante Bendixen from Refugees Welcome. Refugees Welcome is one of a few independent organizations that offers legal advice to refugees and asylum seekers. They also advocate for more accessibility for refugees and asylum seekers as Denmark is considered the most strict Scandinavian country. The presentation was very informative as it provided numbers and data that demonstrated the extent of the “refugee crisis.”
Next, we headed to the parliament to meet Yildiz Akdogan, a member of Parliament for the Social Democratic Party. Akdogan is the first Parliament member from a Muslim background. We took a tour of the Parliament building and its art. The most interesting part was the prime ministers’ portraits that reflected their personalities. We go to ask questions about the current political climate in Denmark, Akdogan’s daily schedule, and her experience as a Muslim woman in the Danish parliament. Then, we visited the tower of Christiansborg Palace and took in an amazing panoramic view of Copenhagen. We ended our day with a visit to the Contemporary Art Museum, where we saw an interactive exhibition in the Nikolaj Kunsthal gallery space.
On our third day, we had a free morning, which I used to go to the stunning King’s Park. We also went to a couple of food stands and ate a variety of amazing foods. Afterward, we met as a group to the Danish Refugee Council, the largest organization that is working on the ground in Syria. We had a presentation from the general secretary, Christian Friis Bach. Bach focused on the council activities within Denmark and abroad. We ended our day with a great BBQ meal in one of the restaurants in Copenhagen.
On our final day in Copenhagen, our program coordinator, Alexander Bielicki, took us through a tour through Christiania. Christiania is an intentional community that has its own flag and territory. It is the only place where the cannabis trade exists in Denmark. Christiania is a closed community where they have tensions with the authorities. The state has tried many times to demolish it, but they could not. This was by far was my favorite part of my stay in Copenhagen. I am really interested in self-governing communities in the world. Then, we took the boat back to Oslo.
This trip was a great opportunity to bond with the rest of the group and explore another Scandinavian country’s approach to immigration.