Name: Alexandra Hinck
Hometown: Mt. Pleasant, MI
Varsity sport(s) participate in: Tennis and Track/Field
Study abroad semester and location: Fall, 2012 in Copenhagen, Denmark
What was your favorite place in your host city/country?
My favorite place in Copenhagen was this coffee shop/library called Pauldan Bogcafe that was located between Copenhagen University and DIS. I loved doing my homework there while watching and listening to both foreigners and Copenhagen students talk about their days. It allowed me to see what Copenhagen University students do on a daily basis.
How were you able to get involved with your host culture while abroad?
I was able to work at a coffee shop, volunteer at an NGO, learn swing dance, play tennis, and ran in a couple races while I was abroad. I met one of my good friends at a swing dance lesson. I found that she is from Norway and we still keep in touch. I realized early in my time abroad that if I truly wanted to get acclimated to the culture and people around me, I needed to get involved.
How were you able to stay in shape or stay prepared for your sport while you were gone?
There were a lot of ways for me to stay in shape while I lived in Copenhagen. I luckily lived less than half of a mile away from a tennis center. My host sister and I would go over and play whenever we had free time. I also entered myself in a couple of different running races throughout the semester—the Copenhagen half-marathon and a 10K. This kept me motivated to run and keep training. My host family was very supportive of keeping me in shape. Some days they introduced the longer routes to me. It also allowed me to explore the area around me because I was training for a longer race. And lastly, there were many local gyms around me and it was relatively inexpensive to get a monthly pass. If I wanted to lift weights, I was still able to do that too.
How did your identity as an athlete influence your experiences abroad?
Before I studied in Copenhagen, I was reluctant to tell people that I was an athlete because I was afraid that other students and Danes would view my differently. However, I learned that being an athlete is part of my identity but it is only one part. I was able to connect with many Danes on how I keep myself healthy, and was invited to play ultimate Frisbee, soccer, and play tennis. I realized that being an athlete opens a lot of doors. I was able to make a lot of good friends through sports. I did not anticipate this before I arrived in Copenhagen. I now call myself an athlete with pride because I know that it is one of my identities that I have that I can share with many other people.
Some words of advice for other athletes who want to study abroad:
If you want to study abroad, do not hold back. Go experience and new culture because what you learn in a new culture can never be taught in two months from a sport. Although it may be frightening to leave what you have been doing for years, this change will allow you to look at your sport in a different lens. Always remember that when you come back, your sport and team will be here waiting for you.