Wonderful Copenhagen!

I’ve always loved Ariel, so I should have known her hometown would be cool and beautiful, just like her. I’m talking about her sea level hometown, of course… I’m not sure the exact location of her birthplace in the sea, and I’m very prone to swimmer’s ear, so I couldn’t go even if I had the address.

Last weekend, I ventured to Copenhagen, Denmark (or as I referred to it all weekend, København – call me if you want the correct pronunciation) to meet a couple of my best friends from Chapel Hill. My friend Rachael was taking a few weeks to travel before starting a job in Chicago, so I picked my favorite stop from her travel itinerary and booked a ticket to meet her. My friend Olivia is spending the semester in London, so Rachael and I convinced her to join us. I haven’t been with anyone from home in about a month, so as you can imagine, I was ecstatic.

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In Nyhavn with Rachael and Olivia!

To be completely honest, I thought Copenhagen was going to be a lot like Amsterdam. And in some ways, it was. There was water and there were people. Oh, and the people rode bikes. But those were all of the similarities. Other than that, Copenhagen was a whole new world. (Frick. That’s Jasmine.)


 

I learned quite a bit on this little getaway, but one of my most important lessons came on day one at the Copenhagen Airport when I wanted to withdraw some cash. I didn’t know Denmark had its own currency – the Danish krone – and I definitely didn’t know the conversion rate. I was also too lazy to look up the conversion rate, so I took a wild guess at the ATM. I wanted $20, but my mom texted me later to ask why I withdrew $400. (Sorry mom.)

Of course, this didn’t turn out to be an issue – it’s easy to use cash when all you buy is ice cream and donuts from street vendors. Next to staring at the colorful buildings and boats in Nyhavn, eating was my favorite activity in Copenhagen. Which brings me to another lesson: don’t eat like Michael Phelps just because you’re in a foreign land with amazing food. Your poor friend will find you passed out on the bathroom floor at 3 a.m. from a fatal food coma. (Sorry Rach.)


 

On our last full day in Copenhagen, Rachael and I walked through The King’s Garden, a gorgeous park outside of Rosenborg Castle. We both got silent for thirty seconds (a long time for us) as we took in our surroundings – children running around even though it was the middle of a school day and adults dressed in work clothes but definitely not at work. I can’t remember who broke the silence, but one of us said it while one of us thought it – “Do you feel like everyone in Copenhagen just kind of… exists?”

It sounds stupid because Copenhagen is obviously a productive city, but hear me out. The shops operated on limited hours and the people walked as if they didn’t have a destination. We noticed many times we were the only people on a street – main streets! I’m talkin’ 5 p.m. and we were the only people at Amalienborg Palace. Not to mention there were barely any cars on the road no matter where we went (Copenhagen is dedicated to having a very small carbon footprint, hence all the bikes – take notes, America). There were TWO times on this trip when I felt like I was in a crowd – in Nyhavn and at The Little Mermaid, who our tour guide referred to as “remarkably underwhelming”. (I bet his ex-girlfriends have high self-esteem.)

As it turns out, none of our observations were incorrect – the Danish people really do live differently. I did some research and learned about janteloven, better known as the Law of Jante, a popular concept in Scandinavia. The actual Law of Jante is a list of 10 harsh rules a society should live by, but over time it has turned into a mindset. Most people in Copenhagen live in a way that can be summed up in one sentence: We are all the same and there’s no need to be competitive.

It sounds strange, especially because our society is extremely competitive. (Remember AR points? Yeah – it’s been ingrained in our heads since we were five years old.) However, there’s something to be said about it – in fact, there’s a lot to be said about it, considering the fact that Denmark is the happiest nation in the world.

This subtle cultural difference made a huge impact on me. I mean, we noticed it before we learned about it. That’s crazy, right? I also want to mention that everyone seemed really happy, which I know is hard to imagine because we often associate happiness with individual success. And I’m not saying there are no successful individuals in Copenhagen – that would be a very false claim. What I am saying is that I don’t think the Danish consider individual success an ultimate goal, but more of a bonus that sometimes comes from working to better the society as a whole.


 

Copenhagen was an incredible place to visit and I hope I can return soon. Catching up with my friends was the icing on the cake (I’ve always had trouble with this expression because it makes me hungry and right now I’m in an airport… dangerous), but the cake itself was discovering this fascinating state of mind. Maybe I’ll use it as an excuse next time I’m late to work in Amsterdam.

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Life between weekends: Not a horror story.

Today was the best day I’ve had in a while.

If you had been with me, you’d probably think I’m being sarcastic. It was an uneventful day – I woke up, hit the gym (DON’T STOP READING… I promise this isn’t a #fitness #blog), put on a grey sweater, got coffee, went to work, and bought a salad (okay, it was the best salad I’ve ever eaten – I probably should leave this detail out since I’m trying to prove a point about how uneventful my day was, but wow. It would be a shame not to mention this gem from Sla). Anyways… it was an ordinary day. But days like today are great because of a feeling, and the way I felt on my way home from work was a way I haven’t felt since I was 18 years old.

I can’t think of a word that does this feeling justice, but it was a happiness that didn’t feel temporary. It had no extra weight and no solid cause, but an effect as solid as my love for Oreos. I’m craving sweets right now.


 

A little about my job:

When I first accepted my internship with The Pelican Studio and Hopes and Fears, I thought it was going to be a fashion PR internship, and this was good because I believed I needed more PR experience in order to get a position with an established PR agency. However, when I got to Amsterdam, I quickly realized it would be more of a retail internship, and this really upset me. It upset me so much that I wanted to quit after my first day, but I stuck with it because I was determined to create a role for myself in my 3 months with this brand. (Also, it’s my excuse to live in Amsterdam.)

Three weeks into my three months, I’m starting to see the potential this internship has to help me grow not only as a PR professional, but in other fields as well. I’m officially fluent in Dutch retail computer software and I handle all of the store’s orders, reorders, preorders and web orders. (The software is actually in Dutch… zeer intimiderend!)

Because my English is so fantastic, (I know… it’s my first and only language so not that cool to brag about), I asked if I could get some copywriting experience by writing the new copy for our website, promotional flyers, email blasts, social media content, and in-store brand features. I also get the opportunity to regularly participate in buying meetings with designers, which is something I’ve always thought I’d be good at doing, but didn’t think I’d ever pursue.

 

Last week, I also had the courage to tell the owners of the company I wanted to do less retail work and more PR work since that’s the kind of experience I wanted out of this internship in the first place. I presented a small PR plan with some basic tasks I want to complete in my time here, and I think the owners were impressed that I took this initiative – so impressed that they gave me permission to create a PR internship. (Pretty scary, but now I absolutely have to live up to my word, and the results are going to be awesome for both parties.)

Since I’m not working with other PR professionals, I’ve had to do a lot of research in order to decide what The Pelican Studio needs from a PR intern. I’ve started reading more PR cases and as a result, I’ve learned more about what kind of agency I want to work for when I return to the U.S. (HUGE win for me… there are a lot of different approaches to PR and it’s good to be educated about this!)


 

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve had frequent moments of doubt about my decision to come to Amsterdam, and certain times are worse than others – the weekend before last being a “worse” time because most of my friends were in Atlanta for the UNC kickoff game against UGA and I was fighting to stay awake in the pitch black underground of an abandoned school house. (De School… Amsterdam’s hottest new club!!). However, I’m having fewer moments of doubt each day, and today I straight up didn’t have one.

Perhaps that’s what made today so amazing. At 6 p.m., (or 18:00 since this post is about how well I’m adapting), I left work feeling weightless and optimistic. I threw my dead iPhone into my purse and smiled all the way to the wrong tram stop.

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One of the best things about living abroad. New friends!

 

 

Accidentally in Amsterdam

Alright, guys – I finally left Bob’s. I mean Chapel Hill. And because of who I am, I did it in the most dramatic way possible – I left the country!

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My last view of the U.S., the NYC skyline.

I’ll admit my decision to come to Amsterdam was an impulsive one – I had some bad luck right after graduation when I lost a digital marketing internship in Atlanta I was really excited about (no one’s fault, just some technicality issues that rendered me unqualified), and I didn’t know where to go from there. It was hard enough to face the fact that my time as a UNC student was over (AKA, my life was over – or that’s how it felt), and the idea of immediately committing to a permanent location was one I couldn’t wrap my head around. Most of my best friends were staying in Chapel Hill for the summer and working in Raleigh, and even though this wasn’t my post-college dream, it was just enough to make me stay in the area much longer than I should have. Of course, my lease at the beloved Green Mile wasn’t infinite, and unless I wanted to move back home (which I didn’t), I had to make moves. Immediately.

I got the okay from my parents to move to Raleigh even though I didn’t have a job yet, but I told myself I could find a job if I really tried. For a few weeks, I looked at jobs online and spoke with some of my career mentors, but nothing seemed right. I realized if I interviewed for a job in Raleigh at this moment, it would be clear to the interviewer that I didn’t truly want to stay in Raleigh. In fact, I did interview at a PR firm I had interned with, and loved, but I found myself talking more about my dreams of travelling and living in a big city than I did about my strengths as a public relations specialist. This was a sign for everyone in the interview room. I wasn’t right for the job, and the job wasn’t right for me. Not right then.


 

Studying abroad was something I always knew I would do when I went to college. I would go to London, Paris, or Italy, and I would go the summer of my sophomore or junior year. I would eat lots of carbs, study as much art and fashion history as I could in my free time, and maybe even decide to move to Europe after graduation. (I would possibly meet Prince Harry and become royalty as well, but that was only if I went to London, obviously.) My parents raised me to value travel more than most things, so I thought of travel as a necessity – a foolproof investment. However, I looooved Chapel Hill. In fact, I looooved Chapel Hill so much I completely forgot to study abroad. Before I knew it, it was time to graduate from UNC, and I had not been to Europe since the summer after I graduated high school. I also hadn’t studied fashion in my spare time the way I promised myself I would, and suddenly it became clear to me that it was now or never. I would go anywhere in Europe, and I would work in the fashion industry while I was there. (Of course, I mean fashion PR – I’ll most likely pursue a career in public relations when I return to the U.S.)

Here’s one oversized sentence explaining why I chose Amsterdam: I wanted to go somewhere with lots of young people who speak English (I was SO good at Spanish 203, so I know it’s a shock to most of you that I’m not bilingual), I’ve always thought Amsterdam was gorgeous (I came when I was 9, so I remember it very clearly), and it is a hub for established and budding fashion designers, therefor making Amsterdam a little slice of fashion heaven (it’s worth mentioning that Vogue entered the Netherlands in 2012).

With all of this in mind, I emailed multiple fashion PR agencies in Amsterdam, found someone who would hire an American who couldn’t speak any Dutch, and booked a flight. I told my closest friends about my decision pretty immediately – they were all happy for me of course, but it was clear that the decision surprised them (and saddened some of them). I know I had discussed the possibility of going abroad with my friends before, but to be fair, I tell my friends a lot of things that are complete nonsense, and even I didn’t know if I was being serious about this.

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My first day in Amsterdam with my mom, exploring the Museumkwartier in Amsterdam Zuid.

 

I’ve been in Amsterdam for almost 2 weeks now and I still have frequent moments of doubt about this decision. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to become friends with three awesome girls living in my apartment complex, but before that, I didn’t know a single person here. Keep in mind that when students study abroad, they normally come in groups and immediately have friends to explore with. I don’t have this, and that has made the transition a weird one. On top of that, the time change from home is just big enough (6 hours) to make it nearly impossible to keep up with my friends the way I thought I would. When I’m at work, they’re sleeping. When I’m off work, they’re at work. When I go to bed, they get off work and are ready to talk. I can’t imagine doing something like this 10 years ago – social media is incredible!!! (Blog post on this to come – it’s my favorite thing to talk about besides myself. JK… kind of.)

Luckily, I haven’t had a ton of time to feel lonely. I’ve been distracted by my full-time work schedule and the fact that I’m in Amsterdam. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some very beautiful places. I discover something new every day – a restaurant, a shop, a bridge, a neighborhood (the Jordaan is my favorite right now, but I plan to acquaint myself with the oh-so-hip De Pijp next).


 

I’ll talk more about my work experiences and my first weekend in the city (it got weird) in my next post, but the main takeaway from this is that I’m here and I’m determined to make the most out of this experience. I know it seems cliché, but I’m not just learning new things about Amsterdam everyday. I’m learning new things about myself, and that’s exactly why I came.

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