My Pandemic Abroad

By Fleur Feeney |

Aarhus, Denmark | Fleur Feeney

I’ve been dreaming about my year abroad as long as I’ve been planning to go to university. I imagined travelling across Europe with my new international friends, drinking a copious number of pints, and waxing lyrical about all my adventures when I got home. I decided I was fine with being *that* person, who starts every sentence with ‘when I was on my year abroad…’. So, when March rolled around like a monstrous grey cloud and people fled home to take their classes online, and travel was well and truly banned, it looked like a spanner had been wedged firmly in the works. Cut to August and I’m one of the few lucky students that still had the option to don my mask and board a bumpy Ryanair flight to my chosen destination – Aarhus, Denmark.

Dubbed ‘the city of smiles’ by the locals…

Whilst a fair few of my classmates were UK-bound plunging straight into their final year, or doing ‘elective modules’, Exeter’s alternative to studying abroad, I was off to Scandinavia for a year of ‘blended learning’.

Despite some small niggling fears, the semester hasn’t been entirely ruined. In terms of the corona virus itself, I feel safer in Denmark than I did in the UK, for the most part. Whilst the situation in Denmark is still not to be taken lightly, before I left for Christmas, they’ve had 764 deaths compared to the U.K’s fifty two thousand, and far less cases overall. Their slightly more favourable situation in the Autumn term meant that I was able to have a lot of face-to-face learning in the form of lectures and seminars, but also screenings and small field trips around the city. Any zoom classes ran quite smoothly, and whilst most university-run events have been cancelled now, the beginning of the term came with a good dose of socialising and meeting fresh faces.

“I feel safer in Denmark than I did in the UK.” | Fleur Feeney

When I arrived in August bars closed at 12am, and from the beginning of November they were closed from 10pm. Whilst of course it would’ve been nice to be out later (remember clubbing?), and it was somewhat frustrating adjusting my ‘we’ll just turn up whenever’ attitude to one that gets me to the pub by 6pm, I was fortunate enough not to be stuck in lockdown for most of my time in Aarhus. I could still go out to eat, to the pub, stroll around museums and shops and do other vaguely cultural things, as long as I brought a mask. Lots of day trips and ‘working’ in – horrendously overpriced – cafes for me, then.

“I could still stroll around museums… And do other vaguely cultural things.” | Fleur Feeney

Of course, I wish I could travel. I had hopes to visit the other Nordic countries, like Iceland, Sweden and Norway, and to pop over into Germany. So instead I am consoling myself with the fact that the rest of the world will still be there when all this is over (I hope). 

Luckily, I was able to travel home for the Christmas holidays, my ten-day self-isolation not really making much difference considering that my hometown was in tier 3. I did have a Plan B for the holidays – a cold Danish Christmas with my gaggle of stranded international flatmates and their mish-mash variety of holiday traditions. And whilst this alternative was quite inviting, I was definitely glad to enjoy mum’s Christmas dinner and see my family again. Travelling back is a little uncertain, but since I’m a resident in Denmark I should be let back in. At the moment, Denmark is in a similar lockdown to us, with shops and bars and so on all closed, and no in-person learning, so I’ll be facing a very different kind of university experience when I return. 

“I am so very lucky, and grateful…” | Fleur Feeney

Overall, I am so very lucky, and grateful, and all the other gushy things you should say when something good happens to you. The virus has definitely adjusted my plans for the year, but it hasn’t ruined them, and I’m still here in the most beautiful, the most quaint (and possibly the windiest, most expensive) city I now get to call home.