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.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Wanna-Be Broadway Star in Retrospect

The Studieprøve exam is just a couple of months away, and almost every day in class is spent either doing practice tests, or going over some of the more complicated grammar rules, or trying to learn a few more new words.

Maybe it's because I've spent so much of the last year and a half looking forward towards this exam or that exam, that I have become a little bit nostalgic lately.

I've been expressing this nostalgia by uploading some of my old videos from back in the days when I wanted to be a Broadway star.  Think Rachel Berry from Glee, but without the acting chops.

So, for those of you who love high school musical theater, or for those of you who want to see what a horrible actress I was back in the late 90s, here are a couple of samples.

We'll start with a scene from our 1998 production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (I'm the girl in red):

And the end of Act I from the same show:

And finally, my one scene from our 1999 production of The Wiz, in which I donned a puffy pink dress and tested out being a blonde for the first time:

I've posted the full productions of both shows on my YouTube channel, as well as the video from the 2001 musical showcase from my graduating class at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, if you want to check them out.  I'm hoping eventually to upload a few more, but it takes some time to scrounge up the old VHS tapes and transfer them to DVD in order to upload.

So, that's that for today.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Ansøgning Shuffle

The last few weeks have been stuffed to the gills with university application stresses.

The process of getting to the point where I can apply for university programs in both English and Danish has been a long one, culminating with this last module of Danish classes and a rush of trying to get paperwork together over the last month or so.

The application process here in Denmark is, on its surface, simpler than it is in America.  But its open-ended nature makes it infinitely more stressful.  Let me explain:

In the US, you get an application form to fill out, you write an essay about yourself, and you send the school your grades and your application fee.  At least 10-15 years ago when I was last applying for colleges, that was how it went.  All fairly low-tech, but what was expected of you was very clear.

Here in Denmark, the applications for almost all of the universities are done online through one central website, which then sends your information to your chosen schools.  You fill out your personal information, choose up to 8 programs to apply to, upload your transcripts, proof of relevant experience, and (for most programs) what is called a "motiveret ansøgning," or motivation letter.  It sounds pretty straight forward, but they leave it up to you to decide what documentation to upload, and aren't especially clear as to what constitutes proof of experience.

So, here's what I've managed to upload so far: My high school diploma and transcripts, the certificate and transcripts for the theater conservatory I went to back when I thought I wanted to be a Broadway star, and the transcript for the one semester at Emerson college that I managed before switching to said conservatory.  I'm still impatiently waiting for transcripts from the university where I studied broadcasting, but they seem to be stuck in the 20th century, claiming that they need a signed request form mailed to them with a check, and claiming that they "don't have the capability" to scan and email the transcripts.  This makes things infinitely more complicated and time-consuming when trying to accomplish it from overseas.

Not to mention, said university sent my first request form and check back, claiming that there was a hold on my account.  After a lot of confusion/anger/stress, we finally determined that the hold was because of a $30 parking ticked that I apparently got 8 years ago.  So, now that the bill is finally paid, we had to figure out a fast way to send the request and check back to them, and request that they send the transcript to my parents (who are, it would seem, far more technologically up to date than the university...), so that they can scan and email them to me.

There has to be a simpler way.

Actuallt, tthere is a simpler way.  Emerson College has an online request form, through which you can request to have a secure PDF of your transcripts sent to you.  I ordered mine last night, and had it uploaded to my application within an hour.  How hard was that?  Not hard, that's how hard.

But anyway, back to the applications...

So, as I mentioned, the whole thing is fairly open-ended.  Especially when it comes to these motivation letters.  I should also mention that 3 out of 4 of the programs I'm applying to require them, and 2 of those 3 need to be written in perfect Danish (the 3rd is for a course taught in English).  So, I've written the two Danish letters and have forwarded them to my current Danish teacher, as well as my previous module's teacher, so that they can correct what I can only imagine are horrifying mistakes.  But more troublesome than that, I have no idea if what I've said in the letters will be what the schools are looking for.  Have I shown my knowledge of the programs well enough?  Have I explained why my experience is relevant well enough?

Last things last, I've had a Danish friend helping me to translate my resume (or CV as they call it here in Europe), so that I can upload one in each language.

Will it all be enough?  I honestly have no idea.  I'm sure that I have more relevant experience than any kid straight out of high school, but have I documented it well enough?

All I can do is wait...

Who's stressed?  Not me...


Not stressed at all.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Studieskolen - Module 6 is Melting My Brain

Oh, hi there!

Remember me?  I'm that terrible blogger who hasn't written anything in nearly a month in a half.  Yeah, that one!

The truth is, module 6 has us writing so much that I just haven't been able to bring myself to write more.  Strangely, we took the entire class today to do a practice of the writing portion of the studieprøve exam, which is 3 hours of writing.

And yet, here I am.  Go figure.

So, let's catch up a bit.

Firstly, module 6 is hard.  On the very first day of class, we were already doing practice portions of the exam, which isn't until May/June.  And everyone in the class got high scores on their PD3 exam, which means everyone is really damn good at Danish.

That being said, I at least would have passed the portion that we practiced that first day, which is reassuring.  And the majority of university programs that require the studieprøve exam only require that you pass it with a score of 2 or higher.

As I mentioned, we're doing tons of writing, and often on topics that I struggle to stay interested in.  For example, we spent a couple of weeks discussing the EU parliament and the Danes who sit on it.  I wish I could care about EU politics, but as of yet, I haven't been able to.

Our teacher is tough, but nice.  She knows a lot and expects a lot, but is also perfectly willing to go off topic on occasion.

And she reminds me of my sister.  She actually looks a bit like her, and drinks huge amounts of coffee out of pint glasses, just like my sister does.

We'll be continuing to practice all of the many different bits of the exam for the next few months.  Not only does this exam include the reading, writing, and speaking portions like the PD3 exam, but it also includes a listening portion, which includes some dictation.  Dictation in which every word has to be spelled exactly correctly, otherwise the answer is considered completely wrong.

I'd like to go ahead and recommend a Danish dictionary.  It's just Danish, not Danish-English, but I've found it really useful.  It's actually just the updated version of one of the dictionaries that they have in every classroom at Studieskolen.  Here it is: