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Postcards from Abroad

Study away highlights submitted by Duke students

Post race - Ying with host family

Three things I did not expect while studying abroad in Copenhagen:

  1. To want nothing more than a fresh, 2 AM taquito from 7/11 and nothing less than another taste of salted licorice.
  2. To be scheming my future migration to this city, in all seriousness.
  3. To be interviewed by a Danish national news outlet.

This third “thing” began weeks before setting foot in Denmark when my homestay host mom asked if I would like to join the family in the annual Royal Run, a 10K that both the Danish Royal family and my host family participate in every year. Intrigued by the idea of running with royalty, I eagerly accepted the invitation.

The Crown Prince and Royal family travel across Denmark on the day of the runs, each member of the family participating in one or two races taking place in Southern Jutland, Aalborg, Odense, Copenhagen/Frederiksberg, or Bornholm. 38,000 runners signed up for the Copenhagen race alone. The purpose of the run is to encourage everyone – regardless of age and fitness level – to stay active, but the meaning behind it all is a celebration of the community as whole, royalty or otherwise.

The new and thrilling slowly became the familiar and beloved over the first few weeks in Denmark. My host mom asked if I would be willing to participate in an interview with a local news channel that liked the story of a student studying abroad in Copenhagen participating in the Royal Run with a host family. I agreed to what sounded like a very exciting experience. We sent in a short clip of my host mom giving me my race shirt after a run with my host dad and brother, and I didn’t give the upcoming interview another thought, distracted by the abundant adventures each new day brought about.

On the day of the run, at the most inopportune moment, it suddenly occurred to me that I had never been interviewed by a reporter on live television before. At least my nervousness about the interview occupied the entirety of my thoughts on our way to the run, leaving no room for any worries about the run itself. Once we arrived at the meeting point for the interview, it became clear that this was a bit bigger than just a local news story. The journalist interviewing us was one of Denmark’s most prominent news reporters, Abdel Aziz Mahmoud, and not only was it aired on a national Danish TV network, but also a jumbotron smack-dab in the middle of Copenhagen.

During the interview, Abdel asked what I thought of the Danish Royal family, what I knew about them, and how prepared I felt for the run ahead. I admitted that I knew woefully little about the Royal family aside from the fact that that they were more “casual” than the British Royal family. In hindsight, I’m not sure the comparison was necessary, but my host family assured me the Danes would very much agree with that statement. I felt pressured by an uninvited, existentialist thought that I was speaking for not only my own knowledge of Danish history but that of the country that I was raised in and the race that I represented.

Shaking off the post-interview jitters, I took off with my host brother a few heats after Prince Frederik, the Crown Prince of Denmark. We ran through the streets and canals of Copenhagen, passing the docks I dove off of just a few days earlier, the metro station I accidentally ended up in after a first day of class mishap, and many other memories I’d cherish for far longer than the length of this semester abroad. The highlight of the day, however, was the number of enthusiastic supporters lining the road every step of the way, creating an extraordinary atmosphere that was infectiously lively and joyful. I knew this would be one of many extraordinary moments from abroad that I’ll look back on with a big smile.

Ying Yu
Class of 2023, Program II



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