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Erin Ronald '19

The privilege of studying in Copenhagen and exploring Denmark as a Sustainable Development student was not only inspiring, it was faith restoring. I did so many amazing things! I explored the local, organic and biodynamic food and farming culture of Nordic nations, witnessed accessible environmental education, toured some of the most effective waste-incineration plants in the world, stood (with the aid of virtual reality) atop one of the many wind turbines that produce 130% of Denmark's energy (creating enough to export power to other countries). I saw effective waste management in action, and traveled over 25 miles a day, never using a car. I heard from politicians prioritizing empathy and the “triple bottom line,” and from leaders in the “circular economy.” I listened to talks given by the chairperson of the Danish Commission on Climate Change Policy, and a world-renowned urban design consultant prioritizing “cities for people.” I reveled in the political climate change consensus, rode my bike for miles in the city, and saw the prioritization of equality in a social welfare safety net. Learning and living “Danishly” showed me why Denmark is one of the happiest nations in the world, and emphasized the importance of cultivating values of trust, presence, equality and “hygge” (simply the Danish ritual of enjoying life's simple pleasures) in our daily lives.

While the constructed Danish mentality naturally lends itself to some of these actions and ideals, I saw possibilities for the future United States. Danish people are not sustainable because they care more about the environment, but rather because sustainable lifestyles are the most accessible options — through urban design, government policy, innovative companies and grassroots organizations. This opportunity provided by DIS (Danish Institute for Study Abroad) and SCU Study Abroad is one that undoubtedly influenced my perspectives, passions, ideals and understanding.

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