Venturing outside the Outer-Loop

by Charlotte O’Malley, @omalle89

I still remember how daunted I was to leave the Washington D.C. bedroom community I was raised in to go to the teeny tiny town of Athens, Ohio. I had been used to a hectic way of traveling around, waiting for 25 minutes in traffic at times just to make it to my high school, and I was used to a much larger population than that of quaint Athens and Ohio University. Four years later as a senior, every time I think of leaving Athens, my heart starts to ache, and the solitary nature of the town has become something I love and appreciate. I can see that at the end of my time in Denmark, I will most likely feel the same.

I felt the similar daunting feelings when I finalized my plans last winter to study abroad. I spent this past summer at home, commuting on the Inner and Outer Loop (I-495) to my internship as I worked and hoped to raise enough money to survive my next endeavor, nowhere near I-495 or I-68, but across the Atlantic Ocean, studying abroad for four months in Odense, Denmark. If it was shocking at first to leave the outer loop to I-68 to make it to Athens, there were no possible preparations I could make for what I would find in Odense. There are no interstate signs here. There isn’t even a highway–only roads and ways (or in Danish –vejs) traveled by people who have to go somewhere too far to bike. I challenge someone to find another country with a more thriving bike market than Denmark–this is the land of bikes!

If it was refreshing to go from having to drive everywhere in D.C. to only needing to drive to the grocery store in Athens, imagine how refreshing it was for me to discover that I don’t have to depend on anything here to get around except for my trusty Mustang bike (I’ve named her Sally).  It is a wonderful feeling to be able to control getting from Point A to Point B without calculating traffic into the mix. As one of the Danes I met put nicely, “In America, a bike is a toy, in Denmark it is mode of transportation.”

However, despite the change of common transportation, I have found thus far that I cannot find too many glaring differences between my life here and my life in the United States. I haven’t encountered the advertised “culture-shock” that I was told to prepare for, I haven’t shed tears except when I remember OU festivities I’ll be missing my last fall quarter. The atmosphere of Athens provided a smooth transition to the city of Odense, with endless brick pathways and younger aged people. While the city is home to residents other than students, it would be safe to say that much like Athens, this is a city comprised of many students getting their education at the University of Southern Denmark and other colleges or technical schools in the city.

My fellow Bobcats and I studying at the University of Southern Denmark have started keeping track of any time one of us takes a fall off our bike. Just like my experiences in Odense so far, my bike rides have been smooth sailing, and I’m proud to say that I’m the only name on the list without a tally.


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