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By Ashlyn

When I was deciding where to study abroad, I wasn't really taking climate into consideration. It wasn't until I was preparing to leave for Denmark last December and people started asking me, "Did you pack enough layers? Did you bring an extra umbrella?" that I started to suspect I might be in for some bad weather.

Copenhagen in the winter isn't awfully cold. During the past three months the temperature usually hovered in the low 30's. But because it was fairly mild, we didn't get much snow -- just a lot of gloomy grey skies and some rain. Couple this with the sun setting at 4:30 in the afternoon and you might begin to understand why the Danes tend to hibernate until April rolls around.

But once the sun finally comes out -- oh boy. There's a dramatic difference between cold and warm weather here in Copenhagen. In the cold, people scurry from one building to the next. The only folks you see on the streets are those braves tourists bundled in about 400 layers and clutching hot cups of tea or coffee -- that, or the cyclists commuting to and from work. And at night everything closes down early, with students staying in their dorms and families huddling indoors to enjoy some hygge.

In the warm months? Completely different. People look for excuses to stay outside. No matter what day it is or what time in the morning, people are hanging out in parks, sipping beer and enjoying leisurely picnics. You thought there were a lot of cyclists in winter? In the spring and summer the parade of bike riders is endless, and at least five bikes are locked to every vertical object in the city. And you'll find folks out in about way into the evening hours, eating ice cream cones and basking in the lingering daylight. (The sun doesn't set until 8:30 pm this month!)

I often hear some of my friends complaining about the way our semester abroad panned out, weather-wise. "If we had come in the fall, we would have had better weather!" they tell me. And it's probably true -- though the weather is nice now, there are still a few bitterly cold days ahead. Denmark doesn't get warm and stay warm until around mid-May... which is when we'll be leaving. (On a different note: CAN YOU BELIEVE THERE ARE ONLY TWO WEEKS LEFT TO THE SEMESTER? I can't even think about it. Nope. Not happening.)

But, to tell the truth, I wouldn't trade my spring semester for a fall one even if I had the chance. Though it might have been nice to enjoy more sun and to see Copenhagen in summer at the end of August, the daylight would have grown shorter and the weather colder each day. I enjoyed watching the city slowly bloom -- witnessing the Danes (and my fellow American students and I) crawl out of hibernation and finally leave the house to enjoy the sun. If I've learned anything, though, it's this: winter, spring or summer, Copenhagen is beautiful in all weather.

By nmbutler3

Christmas, particularly the time leading up to the holiday itself, is without a doubt my favorite time of year. Since I don’t get back to the states until JUST before Christmas, spending the season abroad was initially a bit concerning – no family, no secret santas, no warm house smelling of cookies and pine to come home to, no rush of Black Friday shopping or trying to sneakily hide gifts. But as the holidays draw nearer, I am starting to really appreciate Christmas in Edinburgh and the UK more generally.

Some things are a bit different of course. The most apparent is probably the lack of holiday buffer. Now I realize that this may sound strange, but allow me to explain. The buffer time that Thanksgiving provides between Halloween and the winter holidays is key to making the season such a magical time. In the UK though, with no Thanksgiving to impede the oncoming headlights of Christmas, garland and ornaments and Santas start appearing just after Halloween-that's an entire extra month of Christmas prep! Not that I am complaining, a little extra holiday cheer never hurt anyone, but it does take some adjustment to get used to not hearing people gripe about decorations in shops in November. There are some benefits though to not having Thanksgiving though, mainly the appreciation for pumpkin pie. I cannot count the number of British people I've met that have never had real pumpkin pie before. Needless to say, I racked up some serious friendship points last Thursday. Now that the Thanksgiving buffer has officially passed, I'm finally able to appreciate all that Scotland has to offer during the holidays. There have been two experiences in particular that have really upped my holiday cheer. The first is the scenery of the snowcapped highlands in the winter. Although the middle and southern belts of Scotland don't really see any snow until late December-January, the highlands up north are already a winter wonderland, with snowy mountains and twinkling lights and little villages full of cottages, all with smoke rising from the chimney. It's just like falling into a Christmas card. Not to mention, up in the Cairngorms National Park, there is an actual reindeer center where you can see an entire herd of reindeer. The other holiday experience was right here in Edinburgh at the city's Christmas Village festival. With so much extra time for prep and anticipation, Edinburgh spares no expense when it comes to the holiday. The entire central Princes Street Gardens are transformed into a Christmas village to rival the north pole, complete with ice skating, a slew of hot beverages, holiday bakery and other foods galore, Christmas crafts and gifts, and a Christmas theatre where the show a different play each week. There is even a giant Ferris wheel that overlooks all the lights and sights of the city. It's literally like being a kid at Christmas again! Of course, even with such magical experiences, being away from friends and family at the holidays is still very difficult, but you just have to make the most of it and enjoy the holiday traditions with a new twist.