Field Studies and Not-really-related Finn

Field Studies

Any time lost in your elective courses during your core course study tours is definitely made up for in field studies. You even have field studies for your core course too!

 At DIS, Wednesdays are reserved for field studies throughout the semester.  Some weeks you’ll have none, others two, but either way it’s a refreshing break from traditional classroom instruction.  Here are some of my favorites so far:

Coffee Cupping at The Coffee Collective

The Coffee Collective was one of the first places I knew about in Copenhagen, thanks to my parents gifting me a gift card to the sensible coffee shop prior to taking off.  Within the first few days I stopped by the one in Torvehallerne to get one of their exchangeable bamboo cups that’s been in hand for the majority of my mornings.  

The visit to their Frederiksberg bar and roastery started off with an introduction that covered how their coffee gets from the producers they visit annually to Denmark.  We learned a lot about the traditional method of the commercialized coffee trade and how Coffee Collective’s approach seeks to challenge that. The quality of their beans compared to the standard of other shops can be seen in the picture.  I was bummed to find out the peanutty taste that I love in my coffee is a sign of processing under ripe beans.

Right to left: Whole cherries (dried), cherry husks, beans with parchment shell intact, crappy coffee beans, quality coffee beans, quality roasted coffee beans!

We sampled around 6 of their coffees and each had its own distinct taste.  My favorite was the one described as having aromas of “fig, vanilla, and nougat.”  I also liked the ones that tasted floral and fruit-like, two tastes I’ve never had in my coffee.  It was very cool to gain a lot more knowledge about coffee and how the tastes I’m accustomed to, and as a result quite enjoy, are often signs of pretty poor coffee!  I’ll definitely try to be better with how I purchase my coffee going forward.

For the last hour, we had a Q&A with one of the founders.  We learned a bit more about their “Direct Trade” approach, which means they pay at least 25% more than the Fair Trade price and visit the producer every year. This model aims to eliminate the traditional intermediaries between growers and consumer facing businesses.

It’s been a common theme across my courses to have access to speak to people with a wealth of experience and knowledge in unique subject areas.  I’ve really enjoyed that and always try to prepare questions beforehand, because these chances don’t come often in life!

Hvidovre Cooperative Windmills

The best part about this visit was seeing the sheer size of windmills by standing right beneath them.  It was actually a bit scary, as the blades whip around and make a whirring noise, appearing to be coming right for your head on the way down. When a blade is at the peak, the windmills are about half the height of the Empire State Building.

Beyond the looks, there’s a very cool approach this source of renewable energy.  The windmill ownership is split across 10,700 shares which each represent 1,000 kWh of yearly energy production, and each share sold for around $760.  No public funding was required, as the utility company agreed to buy up any shares that households did not. This ended up not being the case, as many household bought multiple shares to account for their total yearly energy use.  These are some of the least offshore, offshore windmills you’ll ever see. The reason the windmills are a couple meters (instinctively used the metric system, what’s happening?) offshore is that it simplified the process of having them approved.  If they were built on land, the regulatory process would have to go through the municipality, while offshore facilities can go through a designated national office. You can read more about the project here.     

Meeting with a “Relative”

After my great-aunt found out I’d be studying in Denmark, she sent some souvenirs from her prior visits, including an incredible fold-up map from 1948 that I’ll definitely be getting framed when I get home.  She has a cousin who is Danish, and recommended that I get in touch to spend some time with him while I’m here. I soon found out he has been a member of Københavns Borgerrepræsentation (Copenhagen City Council) for over 20 years!

I met Finn inside City Hall – the same building I had stood outside of to celebrate the handball world champions a couple weeks earlier – and right away noticed a difference from the U.S.  I walked right into a government building in Denmark’s capital, wearing a backpack, and was never put through security! He gave me a fantastic tour of the place and told me about some of his recent work as a member of the Technical and Environmental Administration.  

We enjoyed lunch in his office, smørrebrød of course, and he talked me through a bit of conflict he was caught up in following the 2015 terror attacks.  I still don’t quite understand the extent of what information he released, but a google search of his name will bring up plenty! He was barred from participating in politics as a result, but soon after was reelected, signifying the support he has from the general public for his work.

Following lunch, we walked over to the Danish Jewish Museum to meet his wife, Ulla, who was volunteering there.  Finn shared a bit about Denmark’s WWII history, as well as his family’s connection to the conflict.

Finn and his family escaped from Denmark in “The Rescue of the Danish Jews” in October 1943 with just hours to spare.  He recently reunited with the descendants of the family who helped his escape, and they found out Nazis were waiting outside their door the morning following their escape.   The majority of Danish Jews fled Denmark for Sweden, which resulted in a remarkably low number of Danes being sent to concentration camps for a country which was under Naczi occupation.  

The museum was beautiful and very educational.  Rather than focus on the atrocities of the holocaust, it focuses on the unique Jewish cultures which have existed in Denmark over time.   To commemorate my visit, they gifted me a book on the museum’s design, which was done by Daniel Libeskind.

I’ve been so lucky to have had some up close interactions with people involved in fields that I’m very interested in, with similar and opposing viewpoints on how to move forward.  DIS does a great job at facilitating this, but make sure you put yourself out there on the visits and get involved! Reach out to your friends and family about any possible connections in Denmark as well, you never know who may be here.  

Featured image from a beautiful walk in Christiania yesterday.  Always soak up the sun in the Danish wintertime, no matter the temperature

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