Before I embarked on my journey to Copenhagen, Denmark, UBC was where I spent most of my time during my first two years of university. Taking the 99 B-Line literally from one end to the other was easy, convenient and most of all, comfortable. The transit system for me was the perfect metaphor for growing up in Vancouver and not experiencing that many moments of big changes in my life.
“Velkommen til Københavns Lufthavn” — “Welcome to Copenhagen Airport.”
At the end of probably one of the most anxious summers that I have ever experienced, I arrived in Europe and began my journey of many firsts in one of the most beautiful cities in the world at Copenhagen Business School.
It was my first time in Europe, living away from home, having final exams all worth 100 per cent each and using a bicycle as my main mode of transportation.
From being a terrible cyclist that couldn’t even do a hand signal until halfway through the semester because that meant taking my hand off the handle bar to experiencing drunk biking — which is totally legal because of how safe the infrastructure and biking culture is — I loved every moment of it.
You just don’t get same feeling when you’re driving or taking the bus.
As a foreigner — and I’m sure a local as well — you appreciate the beauty of the city more when you’re on a bike, especially in Copenhagen because the skyline isn’t blocked by massive skyscrapers or Skytrains. You get to feel the cool breeze — or sometimes torrential rain and powerful wind — in your hair as you look around and see the beautiful colourful buildings, cobblestone sidewalks and beautiful Danish people enjoying their meals outside.
“欢迎来到中国” — “Welcome to China”
As a CBC (Chinese-Born-Canadian), I didn’t expect to experience as much culture shock as I did during my first two weeks in Shenzhen, China. Despite the beautiful campus and the friendliest students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen), the feeling of being empowered that I gained from being independent in Copenhagen disappeared almost immediately.
Innovative technology was the new thing. From ordering your meals and fresh fruit to household goods and taxis, WeChat, AliPay, Taobao and DiDi were supposed to make things easier — that is, if you know the language and can adapt to the fast-growing culture of tech.
After two weeks of no independence, we were finally able to set up our WeChat accounts, which meant financial freedom, ease of ordering goods and access to the DiDi services — the preferred mode of transportation to leave campus and explore this beautiful and culture-rich city.
The day I told my friend that my shoulder was hurting again from an injury was the first day that I felt truly immersed in the culture of technology, despite every Chinese person wondering why I can’t speak Mandarin. My friend told me that she would take me to a massage place off campus and that was where it all began.
We purchased one-hour massage coupons on our phones for only about $23; ate our congee lunch, which we had delivered using the Meituan app; ordered our DiDi and arrived at the massage place for a much needed Chinese style massage. I then transferred my friend the cost for the DiDi and massage on WeChat; ordered a second DiDi to go back to campus; picked up an online order at my residence from one day ago using a code sent to my phone; ordered another DiDi to go eat hotpot and one more DiDi home to call it a day.
I wouldn’t say that I going on exchange made me a completely different person because it hasn’t. But rather, it helped me learn more about myself, how to get out of my comfort zone and how to see the world in with a new perspective.
I don’t think I’ll ever get over the fact that I went from bussing my groceries home in Vancouver, to balancing a basket full of groceries on my bike in Copenhagen to getting my groceries delivered to campus in Shenzhen all within the span of a year.
Queeny Tran is a third-year student studying Global Supply Chain and Logistics Management.