Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Just one more thing...

(Title to be read in the voice of Columbo)

Hi friends.

It's been a while.

More than a while.  It's been a year and two months.

I felt like there was one more issue that I needed to discuss.  An issue that affects more expats than we like to admit, because we all think we're going to be the ones to stay on the "right" side of statistics.

And that, dear readers, is the issue of divorce.

Living in a new country, in a place where the language is different and the rules for everything are different... Well, it will make a person question nearly everything.  Being newly married also does the same, but being newly married and in a new country is far more intense a crucible than some relationships can handle.  If you're not careful, or if both parties aren't completely honest beforehand about what they want (for themselves, for the other person, and for the relationship as a whole), the issues magnify quickly.

As difficult as it is, I think this can be a good thing.

As much as divorce can be truly awful, it's just as awful to stay in a relationship that should not continue.  I firmly believe that if a relationship is going to go wrong, it's best that it happen after only a couple of years, instead of waiting for all of the issues to slowly bubble to the surface.

So that both parties can move on to happier things.

I won't go into the process of how the whole thing works, as ours may have been unique, since I live in the US now.  Suffice it to say, it's a long, emotional process.

But I have been lucky.  When I moved back to the US, I decided to try living somewhere new, and it is a decision that I have not regretted for a second.  I've been happier here in Seattle than I can ever remember being, and I have found scores of amazing friends who have been incredibly supportive and just downright amazing.

Is it possible to feel blessed if you're not even remotely religious?  Maybe not, but I do feel grateful.

Divorce is hard.  Neither party usually comes out of it looking particularly good.  But it definitely forces you to take a hard look at yourself and the kind of person you want to be going forward, and the kinds of people you want to surround yourself with.  And as someone who has always been an advocate of self-honesty, I think that's a wonderful thing.

I say all of this mostly to give you hope.  Those of you who are struggling with a relationship that is struggling to handle the crucible.

My advice is this - Do what you can to make it work, but also recognize when you've done all you can.  And then find somewhere that makes you truly happy, and people who make you feel grateful to be alive every day, and hold onto those things.  Change is scary, but being stuck in a bad situation is even scarier.

I flew to Denmark one last time this past weekend, and my divorce became official yesterday.

And I'm okay.  I'm more than okay.

You will be also be okay.

And you will be a wiser, more confident person than you ever thought you could be.

And those are invaluable things.

Good luck to you, reader.  I hope you find the things that make you happiest and that you get to enjoy those things for the rest of your life.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

To Endings and Beginnings

Every good adventure story has a beginning, a middle and an end.  It's only right that this adventure follow that same path.

In just under a week, my time in Denmark comes to a close.

I will be leaving the land of Scandinavians in skinny jeans on bicycles and landing in the land of Americans in skinny jeans on bicycles.  I'll be trading in the rainy, flat landscape of Denmark for the rainy, mountainous landscape of Seattle, Washington.

While I'll miss eating excessive amounts of cake, I'll make up for it by eating copious amounts of pie.

Whether or not I'll be able to use my newly acquired fluency in Danish remains to be seen, but it'll certainly be a cool trick to pull out at parties.

So, if you happen to have a glass of something nearby, let me give it an imaginary clink, and a heartfelt "skål."

To endings and beginnings.

Farvel, Danmark, og mange tak.  Jeg håber, vi ses igen snart.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Studieskolen - Studieprøven, Mundtlig Kommunikation

I'm taking a break from preparing for the looming final leg of the Studieprøve (which, for me, is tomorrow morning), as I realized that I haven't done a breakdown of this part of the exam.

So, it breaks down like this:

After we took the listening portion of the exam, we were handed a paper with a list of three umbrella topics, under each of which were a variety of possible directions to go in when talking about each topic.  This time around, the umbrella topics are "sport's role in society," "the welfare state," and "public health in Denmark."

Unlike for the PD3, where we only needed to prepare a 2-minute presentation on a topic, for this exam we are expected to prepare three presentations, one for each umbrella topic.  Each one needs to be 5 minutes long.

The day goes as follows:  First, we come in and give a 1-minute presentation about ourselves (who we are, why we're taking module 6 Danish, what we're doing with our lives, etc.).  We then choose, at random, one of 3 cards.  That card will correspond to one of the umbrella topics we have prepared, and it's that presentation that we give.  After that, we then take the remaining 20 minutes or so to have a discussion of the topic presented with the censor.

It's a lot more work that any of us expected.  Because not only are we preparing 3 topics to present, we're also expected to know enough about each topic to discuss it for another 20 minutes after the presentation.

So, the exam sure does go out with a bang.

Luckily for me, I leave on Friday for a much needed trip back to the US to visit my family and friends.  Even if I manage to forget every word of Danish that I've ever learned while I'm away, it's okay as long as I pass tomorrow, because I'll never have to take another Danish class EVER AGAIN.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Studieskolen - Studieprøven, Lytteforståelse Prep

The listening portion for the Studieprøve is tomorrow, and it's sort of a difficult thing to prepare for.  Here's how this portion works:

Part I - In the first part of the exam, a teacher reads out an article, usually about something interesting that happened in Denmark's history.  The text is read aloud twice, and our task is to answer 10 questions about the text.  We can take as many notes as we like, and after the text is read twice, we are given 30 minutes to answer the questions.  The good news - we're allowed to use Danish/Danish dictionaries.  The bad news - the texts are usually written at a fairly high level, and will definitely include words that we've never heard before.  For this portion, grammar and spelling aren't as important, as long as the answer is understandable and correct.

Part II - I don't know why, but I kind of like this part.  Maybe it's because I'm one of those weirdos who kind of likes filling out forms.  So, we're given a text with 30 words or phrases missing.  The teacher then reads the article, and our task is to fill in the missing words that we hear during the reading.  The text is read 3 times: once straight through, once with pauses after each missing word or phrase, and then a 3rd time all the way through without breaks.  We're then given 20 minutes to make sure we have everything spelled correctly and with correct grammar.  For this portion, the word or phrase has to be 100% correct, otherwise it's marked wrong.

As far as preparation for this part of the exam, I have only a few recommendations.  First, do this to your dictionary:

For the second section, this will be extremely helpful.  It's recommended that you look up every word in every phrase you've filled in, even if you are certain it's correct, just to be sure.  And not having to sift through the dictionary trying to find the right section will save precious time.

It's also a good idea to listen to as much Danish as possible, and preferably Danish at a more advanced level than everyday conversations.  Listening to Danish radio helps (which you can stream online here), but I also recommend a Danish podcast called Third Ear.  If you like American public radio shows like This American Life or Radiolab, and you're pretty far along in your Danish learning, I highly recommend it.  Really interesting storytelling, usually about Danish history (both recent and not-so-recent).

And as an update to my previous post, the issue with my stolen residence card has been sorted out.  The administrators at Studieskolen sent me an email to print out and bring with me to the exam, which will act as dispensation.  So, thank goodness for that.

So, anyway, that's enough for today.  Good luck to everyone heading into the exam tomorrow.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Tempest in a Håndtaske

Having a wallet stolen is always disconcerting, and almost always comes with a host of inconveniences.

Such has been the case for me since I had my wallet stolen while walking around Magasin du Nord near Kongens Nytorv about a month ago.

I did all of the standard things as soon as I realized it was gone: cancelled my bank cards and ordered new ones, called the police to report the theft, etc.  What I wasn't expecting was that I would later have issues when I showed up for the Studieprøve...

As is also the case with the Prove i Dansk 3, you're told to show up to the exam with photo identification, so that you can prove that you are the person that they have listed as signed up for the exam.  What they don't quite make clear is that you're also supposed to be proving that you are a legal resident.

This is all well and good if you're an EU citizen, as you're allowed to live in Denmark just by virtue of living in the EU.  But for those of us who are not from an EU country, our status as legal resident isn't proven just by showing a passport.

I showed up to the exam with my passport, completely unconcerned.  There were two censors in our testing room, and the one who checked my legitimation insisted that I needed to prove my residency. Luckily, the other censor was actually my teacher from modules 3 and 4, so she vouched for me, but I was told that I needed to be sure to bring proof of residency to the next two parts of the exam.

Okay, fine, fair enough.

Off I went yesterday, to see what I could do about getting myself a new residency card before June 4th.  The people I spoke to at the State Administration were very nice, and I filled out my form and ordered my new card without any issue.

Well... almost without any issue.

The thing is... according to the woman I spoke to, the cards are made by a different company, and so the State Administration can't really predict how soon my new card will come.

She said it will take anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months.

So... As you might expect, I had to go to the office at Studieskolen to explain the issue, and see what I can bring with me to prove that I'm allowed to be here.  It seems that this isn't an issue that comes up very often, as the chances of having a residence card stolen right around the same time as an exam are pretty damn slim.

As of right now, I still don't have an answer.  The women in the office at Studieskolen are looking into the issue, contacting an "expert," trying to figure out the solution.

So, that's today's little bit of advice - If you're not an EU citizen, bring your residence card.

Better safe than sorry.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Studieprøven - How to Prepare

Under two weeks until the first part of the Studieprøve exam, and I'm feeling surprisingly calm.

My grades on the practice exams have been steadily improving, and I'm feeling pretty good about it.  I still have the most issues with the listening and dictation portion of the exam, but that part isn't until next month, so I've got a bit more time.

Today, I had a comment on a previous post from someone who is studying for the exam on her own, asking for suggestions for books or other resources to buy online.  We didn't actually use any books this module, so here are my two suggestion for anyone looking for ways to help study for the Studieprøve:

1.  Read the newspaper.  We spend a lot of time in class reading through recent news articles about topics from Danish and European politics, to climate change, to Greenland, and more.  Not only does this help with building vocabulary, but it also gives a lot of context that can be included in both the written and oral portions of the exam.

2. Practice, practice, practice.  Nearly every day in class, we practice for the exam with one or more portions from previous exams.  It's really helpful to get a feel for the layout and timing of the exam.  For example, similar to the PD3 exam, there is a reading portion in which we're given a pamphlet and asked to scan through it and find short answers.  Easy enough, but we're only given 25 minutes for this portion of the Studieprøve, so it's important to practice scanning and knowing how much time to take for each question.  If you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you'll find examples of the various sections of the exam from previous years.  SOOOOOO important to take advantage of these and keep yourself strictly to the time allowed for each section.

Hopefully those tips are helpful to those of you heading into the exams soon.  I'd love you hear how it went for all of you when you're done.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


You're not crazy, there has, in fact, been a marked decrease in post frequency.

So, here's the latest:

I sent out a job application last weekend on a whim, expecting that, like generally happens, I would either not hear back, or would get an email saying that hundreds of people had applied for the position, and that I was not one of the ones chosen for an interview.

To my extreme surprise, I got an email back the following work day asking to set up a time for a phone interview.  The phone interview went fantastically well.  I'm not generally a cocky person, but when the call ended, I was 99% sure that I'd be asked to come in for an in-person interview.

And I was.

The interview took place two days ago, and I'm not quite as optimistic as I was after the phone interview.  I wish I could say that I nailed it, but I was nervous.  I think I'm better at sounding confident on the phone than in person.  Must be all those years in radio, never seeing the faces of the people I was talking to.  It's so difficult to know for sure with these things, and they did mention that they would be continuing to do interviews with other candidates throughout the rest of the week, before calling a few people in for a final interview.  

At the moment, school is the backup plan.  If I'm not offered this job, I'll go ahead and sign up for that supplementary Spanish course that I'd need to take to bump my foreign language from B-level to A-level, and hope that that helps me to land a spot in one of the 3 programs that I'm still waiting to hear back from.

And finally, yesterday was my birthday.  The Big 3-3, if that's a thing.  As is traditional here in Denmark, I brought cake to class with me.  Then last night, my husband and I went out for a nice meal at Madklubben, followed by cocktails at a new-ish place called Strøm, which quickly became my favorite local bar.  It's a cocktail bar with a pub feel.  It's unpretentious, laid back, plays good music.  It's 100% my kind of place.

So, that's the latest.  The Studieprøve is coming up quickly, so look out for updates.