2018 Summer Alex Ennes Denmark

Patchwork Denmark

It’s not a mystery to anyone that I have a lot of different interests. I am a jack of all trades, and a proud one at that. So, while planning my summer in Copenhagen, I made sure that I would be doing things to tick off all of my interests.

The coolest (read: nerdiest) thing I’ve done so far is one that I’ve been dreaming about since March – visiting Kronborg Castle, the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and getting a tour from Horatio, the only surviving character of the play! While I love my environmental studies courses, I miss my English curriculum a ton, so I wanted to make sure that I had some literary adventures while I’m here. I took along some friends for the visit, and we followed Horatio as he retold the major scenes of Hamlet in the actual settings where they would have taken place!  We saw the lavish gardens, the queen’s chambers (419-year-old spoiler alert!) where Polonius was killed, the throne room where the final scene took place, and the creepy underground casemates, a series of dungeons underneath the castle. My heart was soaring, and my friends got a real kick out of how excited I was. Of course, I had to grab a picture with Horatio and one with a copy of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, my favorite play which is based off of Hamlet!

But like I said, I have too many interests to count, and my love for reading is just one of many. Through my coursework, I’ve really capitalized on two more of my interests: the environment and social justice. I’m taking a class called Environmental Philosophy, and while we spend most of our days in class reviewing environmentalist or philosophical (sometimes both!) readings, we also do a couple field trips over the course of the semester! The most recent trip we took was to Brøndby, a small town about a half hour south of Copenhagen. Our professor took us there to show us some of the best examples of Danish sustainability: an artificial barrier island and three windmills. We met the man responsible for the plan to build the barrier island, and he told us that his main goals were to decrease the amount of flooding experienced by shorefront properties, create a natural setting for wildlife, and to generate economic interest in the area by bringing in locals and tourists alike to enjoy the beach. And it worked! Fifty years ago, the town dredged up sand from the extremely shallow seafloor adjacent to the shore to create an entire island, and it has accomplished all of the flood-, wildlife-, and economic-related goals it was designed to.

We also met a local man who was responsible for bringing three windmills to the town of Brøndby. He was just an ordinary mechanic, but with the help of environmentalist friends from many fields, he negotiated with an energy corporation to get three windmills built in the town of Brøndby and to allow the citizens to buy one of the windmills. He and his team went around selling shares at $800 per share to town citizens, and they eventually bought one of the three windmills, which is now owned by the shareholders in the town. It produces more than the town even needs, and lots of it goes towards a nearby energy plant run on wind power, which we also saw! We got to get up close and personal with the windmill, walking around its base and feeling it vibrate as the generator turned at the top! It was absolutely amazing to get so close to such an amazing machine, and it was even better once we learned that it was owned privately by the people who it would immediately affect. That kind of cooperative, grassroots activism made me wonder if town-owned windmills could ever be a possibility in the American future.

My interest didn’t stop there, though! I was pleased to learn more about social justice and the environment in Brøndby. The town is a center for immigrants and refugees – in fact, it’s the only zip code in Denmark where over 50% of the population isn’t of Danish descent! As someone who has worked with refugees and immigrants in the past, I was so excited to learn that one of the leading towns in sustainability here is one comprised of an immigrant population! It also tied into one of my favorite readings from class, Susan Cutter’s “Race, Class, and Environmental Justice.” In Cutter’s work and in my class discussions, I was able to explore how climate change and general pollution disproportionately affects minority populations. Knowing that the effects of climate change can be more severe on minority populations, I thought it was awesome to see Brøndby stepping up and making major sustainability moves.

So… reading, the environment, social justice? What next? Art and poetry, of course. I’m a creative writing student in the English major, and I focus on poetry. I knew I wanted to write a lot this summer after having an amazing workshop last semester with Prof. Pattie McCarthy (take her if you can!). Seeing as one of my favorite forms is ekphrastic poetry (writing about art), I headed over to Glyptoteket for Free Admission Tuesday! There, I made some amazing connections with sculpture, a medium that I’ve never felt particularly attached to. I got some new poems out of the venture, and I got to explore some new French and Danish artists while I was at it. It felt so comforting to be back in an art museum, and some of the exhibitions even reminded me of the Philly Museum of Art!

At the end of the day, I’ve really learned that having a huge variety of interests is not only okay, it’s something to celebrate – and that celebration is particularly fun while you’re abroad! Wherever you study, there’s surely something to suit every last one of your interests, even if they’re subjects you’re not formally studying in the classroom. As someone with an inexhaustible supply of new curiosities, I can’t wait to see where the winds take me next!

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