During the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I had the incredible opportunity and privilege to compete in the Gothia and Dana Cups, two major world youth soccer tournaments in Sweden and Denmark. I was so enamored with Scandinavia during these months and I felt such a strong connection to it. I knew I would have to return to this magical place.
Flash forward to my junior year of college, nearly 4 years later, I was given another incredible chance to return to Scandinavia in my spring semester, this time with my second love: studio! As an architecture and interior architecture dual-degree student at Auburn, I am constantly challenged to develop myself as a designer and pursue my craft at a higher level; therefore, taking this opportunity to study abroad in arguably one of the epicenters for modern design was a no-brainer. The program consisted of a two week traveling period where we had to photograph aspects of architecture and tour buildings through Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Germany. Then, the group of sixteen Auburn students and our studio professor, Matt Hall, returned to Denmark to study at the Arkitektskolen Aarhus, one of the best architecture schools in Scandinavia and Northern Europe.
Attending the Arkitektskolen Aarhus in Aarhus, Denmark, the second largest city in Denmark, was of course, incredible. Nothing beats waking up to the deafening sound of seagulls and strolling down by the water towards the medieval buildings that house studio. Similarly, my fondest memories come from aspects of everyday life in this incredible city. Throughout much of Scandinavia, there is an afternoon tradition known as Fika. Fika, in Swedish, means “coffee” and represents the time anywhere between 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm where people leave work to briefly step out and grab a coffee and a pastry. It has become a word both of action and description, for people use it throughout Scandinavia to describe this time to truly pause during the day, gather with friends, seek out some sunlight, and relax. Myself and my studio mates would often leave the studio and head down the road to Mor Anna, an amazing bakery with all different kinds of pastries: brownies, strudels, cakes, and of course, Danishes! We would also make sure to grab some coffee, especially since Scandinavian people drink more coffee than any other population in the world, including Italians! The walk back to the studio was filled with crisp March air and sticky fingers as jam and powdered sugar were wiped off on our jackets. When it wasn’t too cold outside, we would discuss architecture theory and debate while sipping on coffee, sometimes iced with jordbear (strawberry) sauce in it.
Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity that I think most people should seek out and absolutely take advantage of. Many people think that in order to really have a good time that they have to engage in all of these “unique” experiences while abroad or that they need to break the bank in order to really immerse themselves in a place; however, the best way to explore a place and to truly feel like you’ve lived somewhere is to do what the people do. Do something normal! Do something mundane. I found much joy in just walking by the water or eating a pastry or taking transit or even visiting the city library. Of course, visiting monuments and museums is very important and incredibly valuable, but there is much to be discovered from the everyday life and energy of the place with which you are seemingly a stranger.
AU APLA Studio Program in Scandinavia – Spring 2018