Denmark – Expectations of Traveling Abroad – by Michaela Campbell. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

Denmark – Expectations of Traveling Abroad – by Michaela Campbell. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and


[The Seventeenth Century Canal Ring, in Amsterdam, North Holland]

Once I began telling friends and family that I had been accepted to attend a study abroad program in Europe to learn about the ‘Science of Happiness’, I was bombarded with congratulatory remarks, questions about the study program, and a few looks of concern. The looks of concern were fleeting, and only appeared on my father’s face the day I told him I would traveling abroad in mid-May. He was grateful for the opportunity I had been given, but like any concerned father, gave me a quick, useful lecture on being cautious wherever I traveled. My mother on the other hand, was concerned with the lighter tasks such as shopping for necessities, changing my phone plan, etc.

Both of my parents gave me different expectations as to what my encounters would be like in Europe. Due to my father’s lectures, I expected that I would be uptight while walking around in the big cities that we were scheduled to live in and visit (i.e. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Oslo). I also expected that the locals in these neighboring countries would have a somewhat negative and even annoyed attitude toward a group of college students from the US visiting their countries. However, my mother’s preparedness for the trip made me comfortable and relaxed for the nine-hour flight that was ahead of me, and excited for the new memories I was about to create.


[In Nyhavn, Copenhagen (København), Denmark]

After landing in Amsterdam, and gaining a good night’s sleep, we took on the city, and I found myself more calm within the city than I have been at times in my home-city of Duluth. The constant stream of bicyclists and small, European cars gave off a friendly, yet busy vibe. The expectations that had been infringed upon me by my father had been completely demolished within three hours of walking about the city. By the end of our three-night stay in Amsterdam, I didn’t want to leave for the next city. My fellow classmates and I even joked about taking time off to live in the city for year or two.

Our next city, Copenhagen, left my classmates and myself with feelings of joy as we finally had the chance to chat and meet with local Danish students to discuss a variety of topics. We conversed about the upcoming American presidential election, Donald Trump, free education and health care, among many other topics. In these moments I found that these students did not see us in a negative light, and were not annoyed by our presence either. This was another moment where I was glad that my expectations set by my father had been wrong. These students were excited to learn and discuss why our countries run the way they do, and how change can be brought to either side. Even people that we would meet on the street throughout the city always seemed to be smiling as soon as our American accents started flowing. This is what made me excited about traveling to other places; knowing that in every city, there is someone that appreciates you trying to broaden your horizons.

Overall, traveling to Europe far exceeded my expectations. I did not expect to relate with people of another country, but I did. I did not expect to become so happy in a place that was thousands of miles from home, but I did. Lastly, I did not expect to become as attached to a country that prior to this trip I’d only seen on a map, but I did.

[This essay is based on Michaela’s participation in St. Scholastica’s Denmark and Happiness Study Abroad Trip supervised by Professor Karen Petersen.]

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at)

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Filed under Michaela Campbell, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

23 responses to “Denmark – Expectations of Traveling Abroad – by Michaela Campbell. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

    • DyAnna Grondahl


      I appreciate you sharing your travels with us. I find it amusing that your father and mother had polar opposite agendas and perceptions regarding your travels. When I made the decision to study abroad in London, both my parents basically said, “K bye have fun!” and the rest was up to me. I think it is particularly amusing that your dad was so sure people were going to see y’all as an annoyance. When we were prepping for our trip to London, we took lots of precautions to ensure that out American-ness wouldn’t be too obnoxious. We took just about every precaution: don’t talk too loud, make sure you dress well (no words on your shirt, no flip flops, no ripped jeans etc), and the list of tips continues. Thankfully, like you, I had a really good experience in Europe. But, I also had at least 2 dozen people ask me what part of Canada I am from – so who knows if I had a pass.

  1. Michaela,
    For starters, I loved how you made note of the happiness you felt a few days into your study abroad experience. It conveniently bring things full circle as you are ‘expected’ to learn the science behind happiness. One of the things I learned from taking a class with Professor Liang is to ask yourself when encountering someone of a different background, how much are we alike than different? I carried that question with me when I studied abroad in Latin America. It allowed me to practice compassion toward others and the best part about travelling is creating new points of references to break down preconceived biases and paradigms. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your ventures and growth in Denmark!

  2. Abbey DeLisle

    I really enjoyed this article, Michaela. I think your experience speaks to the distance we create emotionally from places and people that are physically distant. Often times we demonize or create false perceptions of different cultures because it is hard to empathize and compare with something/someone we only know differences about. The fact that you noticed a connection and attachment to the people in Denmark in such short of time is incredible and I hope that each person could experience the same thing. The first step in getting past differences, fears, and stereotypes is seeing similarities- and so we must pursue this through communication, traveling, and culture immersion just as you did. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. Megan Gonrowski

    Travelling abroad sounds amazing and I hope to have the same opportunity. I definitely can relate to your father because my parents act the same way all the time and I’m not even leaving the country! I think it is good to be prepared for the worst, but I am glad that your trip was safe and enjoyable. I’m sure there are countries that would rather not have an American presence. It would be interesting to hear a story about an unfriendly encounter. I like that the trip taught you that you can have something in common with people who live completely different lives and in different countries. It is important to remember that human beings are often similar and to not have a preconceived notion of what we think they will be like. I am glad you went in with an open mind and ended up having a safe trip.

  4. Sarah Devine

    Thank you for sharing yo trip, it sounds like you had an amazing experience! Where do you think your father’s concern came from? the Scandinavian countries are regarded as being some of the safest in the world. Do you think it was simply fatherly concern or do you think that news of recent terror attacks in Europe had a part in his concern?

  5. Cassie Mahlberg

    This is such a wonderful read as someone who enjoys travel experiences and often comes face to face with people who try to change her mind. It isn’t to say that people have bad intentions, but often parents are nervous because of their ignorance of places outside the U.S., after all, they still consider us their precious cargo. I think it is so incredible that you went in with family wisdom and came out of it with a totally different experience. I hope to be able to do this when I continue my travels, as text books and wise words only go so far when you actually get to a new place. It’s really cool that you were able to be surrounded by the happiness that you were studying before your trip and that the people were so welcoming (because sometimes they aren’t). Were you able to get a lot out of your time there? If I recall, the trip is less than a month which isn’t much time at all to get to know a country and lifestyle; would you consider going back to further your studies? Beautiful pictures and thank you for your insight.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your journey of becoming comfortable within another culture. This is especially helpful information for me as I rapidly approach my study abroad experience to the Philippines. It is so encouraging to hear that conversations surrounding American politics can be had internationally in an inclusive, intelligent way. That is something that is difficult to achieve even within our own borders. Do you think that those conversations are more challenging to have internationally with nationalist pride, or more difficult within the United States itself with the emotionally charged bipartisan system?

  7. It is good that you are having such positive feelings while studying abroad. What have you discussed so far in learning about “the science of happiness?” I would love to hear more about your experiences and the places you have traveled to within cities. I’m sure too that the people you encountered were so kind to you for broadening your horizons because, by doing so, they were also broadening their own horizons! It would be interesting to hear more about your discussions with the people you met from other countries surrounding the current presidential election/political state of the United States. What were their general feelings or questions for you? Or what questions/comments stood out the most to you?

  8. I can completely relate to how you felt when your parents were giving you advice about what to expect when traveling abroad. When I traveled aboard my family was concerned for my safety but my mom was more excited about my opportunity to even trip out of the country. I could understand why your father in particular felt weary about you traveling because of the dangers that come with traveling. There will always be some sort of caution when traveling but you did not go by yourself, which is more safe than going alone. I think it was intriguing that you were concerned with how the European people perceive Americans. I am not sure rather or not if it’s a myth that other countries hate Americans. I am glad that you had a good experience when interacting with the locals. What class was it that did the study abroad trip? I think I might be interested in taking course. I’ve never been to Europe before but I’ve been aboard to Central America. I think it’s ironic that your class focused on the science of happiness and you experienced an abundance of happiness while aboard. Great article and I would like to hear more about your trip aboard.

  9. Ellery Bruns

    Thank you for sharing your Denmark experience with us! I enjoyed reading all about your travels. Travel is such a wonderful way to learn. The information you provided was incitefull, escepically how you took in your families thouhts and then once in Denmark made your own oppinon. Personally, I have never been outside of the US, but I love learning about different cultures so I hope to be able to travel or study abroad sometimes soon. When you when to Denmark, what were some cultual similarities and differences you noticed? Do you think the US should adopt the free health care and education Demnark has?

  10. Diana Mena

    Thank you for sharing about your amazing trip to Europe. As a person that has traveled many times, I understand the concern and expectations that your parents gave you. My first time traveling without my family, my mom was very concerned as well and really communicated to me about how important it was to not trust people. She did this mostly because I am a very trusting person and I tend to be extremely friendly. Just like you I found out right away that being scared isn’t always good. When we travel sometimes we forget that the people we are interacting with are humans and this is their home. Yes it is wise to be careful but not to the point where you can’t be emerged into the country. Nice job on this post!

  11. Hannah Schaaf

    Wonderful post! I thought it was really interesting to learn about your experiences in Amsterdam and Copenhagen. I’ve always wanted to travel to those cities so it’s fun to hear about how much you enjoy it. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is getting to meet with the locals and talk to them, or go to spots that aren’t super touristy so that I can get a feel for what the city is really like. I give you major props for being able to handle a nine hour plane ride though, the longest flight I’ve been on so far is four and even that is a struggle for me. While reading your article, I was reminded so much of my own parents when you were talking about what that had told you before you left. Was there any parts of the cultures you experienced that shocked you? I hope to see more posts about your trip in the future! Happy trails!

  12. McKenna Holman

    What an incredible opportunity you have had! I’ve always wanted to visit Denmark, as I have heard it is an amazingly beautiful country, and your article just makes me want to visit it that much more! It is very interesting to read that you felt so at home and comfortable in Amsterdam. What aspects made you feel so at home there?
    I myself am very excited to travel abroad this winter and in the future! I also know what it is like to have a very protective dad who really doesn’t ever want you to leave the state! I think its pretty standard for dads to worry about their daughters going off to a foreign land, even if they’re with others!

  13. Thomas Landgren

    Thank you for sharing your experience! This whole study abroad program sounds so interesting. The idea of studying ‘Science of Happiness’ just sounds super interesting. I would love to hear more about what the program was like. It was cool to read about how you could be converse with the locals about what was going on in the US. What fascinated me was that the locals looked at you as an equal and not as lower than them. I have heard of experiences where the locals were very rude to American tourists (even though most of these stories are one sided). Great article!

  14. Taylor Erickson

    This is a beautiful story, thank you for sharing. It’s really powerful to hear that instead of cultural differences being an alienating force, they were a unifying one! So often, we expect the opposite to be true. That you were able to make positive cross-cultural connections through your openness to broadening your horizons is a great reminder of the importance of experiencing new cultures and perspectives. When fear or unease of something different is overshadowed by the appreciation of those differences, its a beautiful thing.

  15. Christopher Killian

    What an exciting journey to visit Europe and visit Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Oslo. My parents would have the same reaction as yours if I was traveling to another country. I liked how the Danish students wanted to discuss the presidential election and how they did not see you being there in a negative way. I’m glad you had a good experience on your trip and a safe one. What other parts of Europe would you like to visit?

  16. I resonate with this article on so many degrees! Being a little nervous, but mostly excited, for my semester abroad in Ireland there were so many things I wasn’t sure about. Especially hearing about how many Europeans, accurately or not, view Americans as ignorant and annoying. During my stay in Ireland I learned that Europeans are equally as interested in our culture as we are in theirs. They treat you as warmly as you treat them, and are as curious as we are! It was a fantastic experience to learn what about America reaches across the Atlantic Ocean, and how our culture impacts the rest of the world. If people heard we were Americans they would discuss politics, and how we should Not vote for Donald Trump, for it would destroy peace in their country as well. Even NFL was growing in Ireland! Traveling abroad is such an eye opening experience, and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

  17. Dominick Gilbert

    Thank you for your post! I’ve often heard of the comforting and pleasant atmosphere in some European Countries – I had a friend who talked up Denmark in particular given the general happiness of its citizens. It is good to hear that they were so welcoming to Americans and willing to discuss politics and economics with you and your friends. Denmark is a fascinating example of a more socialized state, and it is interesting to see what elements may be emulated by others. While the terms “socialism” or “socialized” may raise red flags in the U.S., the situation in Denmark’s case should not go unnoticed, especially with regard to the general happiness of the nation’s populace.

  18. Michaela, Thank you for so accurate putting into words what my similar experience on this trip was like too. If ever given the chance I’d return to Copenhagen in a heartbeat!

  19. Alexandra Erickson

    I really enjoyed your story about your father talking all gloom and doom, because that is so typical of my dad as well. I’m glad you had such a wonderful experience and that it was not in accordance with your dad’s predictions. The “happiness: focus seems really intriguing! So many people think that other countries “hate’ American, and while that is true in some cases, it is not accurate in the big picture. It is also great how prepared your mom was, that is always important when taking any big step in life. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Hannes Stenström


    Thank you for sharing this story about your time studying abroad! I’m glad that you found the places to be warm and welcoming. I’ve been to Amsterdam and Copenhagen too and I agree with you that they are pretty cities with a charming atmosphere. I’m also very happy to hear that the people you met were so open for discussion. This exchange of ideas without anyone claiming to sit on an absolute truth is something that I believe to be the most enriching part of traveling abroad, and seeing that even though we might be separated by thousands of miles, we can usually find some common ground on most issues.

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