Emily Goodman in front of the Radhuspladsen (city hall) in Copenhagen, Denmark's city center.
Overseas Study Program
Emily’s majors: Marketing and International Business
Term abroad: Spring 2010
Reason you chose this program: I chose to study in Copenhagen because I wanted to experience a truly European city outside of the typical tourist destinations. Also, the program at DIS offered so many classes that I easily found a semester’s worth of courses to count towards my degrees. More than just being convenient academically, the program at DIS offered fantastic opportunities to travel and gain real practical business experience in Europe. More than other programs, I felt DIS would contribute to my development personally and professionally
Favorite classes: My favorite class was my International Marketing Strategy course. We had the opportunity to analyze and develop a marketing plan for a real business in Copenhagen. I had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with the actual marketing director for this company and to present a final project for his assessment. The incredible hands on experience gave me unique insight into a Danish company.
Describe the housing situation: There were several options for housing in Copenhagen, but I chose to live in a Kollegium. A Kollegium is essentially housing for international students. While I lived about 30 minutes outside of the city (by bus), I had my own room and my own bathroom. I shared my kitchen with the other students living in my hallway, which gave me endless opportunities to interact with native Danes and other international students. I loved the independence and freedom of living in the Kollegium as well as the Danish and international friends I made.
Greatest challenge: The greatest challenge I experienced while in Denmark was the independence. Of course I enjoyed the freedom, and living on my own in Europe. But, in Copenhagen, it was up to me entirely to plan my days and to maximize my experience in Denmark. There was no set program for cultural immersion, so it was up to me to plan museum trips and nights at the theatre. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but by the end of my time there, there was very little of Copenhagen I hadn’t experienced.
What I wish I knew before I left: I wish someone had told me before I left how much Denmark would come to feel like home. I think I anticipated feeling like an American in a foreign country for my semester there. Actually it only took about two months for me to feel as though Copenhagen was home. I knew where everything was in the city, I had my favorite places to eat, and my favorite weekend hangouts. I was unprepared for the connection I felt with the city, but prepared for it or not, Copenhagen will always be a special place to me.
Experiences with culture shock or revere culture shock: When I first arrived in Copenhagen, I honestly thought I might have made a mistake in coming. My room seemed foreign, my bathroom was impossibly small, I couldn’t drive anywhere, and I felt trapped. I hadn’t anticipated such a difference in living from what I had thought was a Western European country that couldn’t possibly be that different from the U.S. I shared my concerns with my advisors at DIS, and they asked me to wait a week. If I still had concerns, I could discuss them then. I never went back. Within a week, I saw Copenhagen was much more than the differences I experienced, and by the end of my program, it was hard to imagine living any other way. This explains why once I came home, I felt uncomfortable buying groceries for more than one meal, wondered why I would drive when I could walk 20 minutes, and once again, felt a little trapped without the bus or metro. Of course, with time, I readjusted to the American way of life. The experience, however, alerted me to aspects of American living others take for granted every day.
Best memory: One of the best memories I have from my time in Copenhagen was participating in the city’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. My friends and I gathered in the center of the city with hundreds of other Danes to watch Irish dancers perform, have our faces painted with Irish flags and finally, sporting our Irish green, walking throughout the city in Copenhagen’s St. Patrick’s day parade. I really felt like I was a part of something unique and traditional in Copenhagen life.
Going abroad vs. staying on campus: I know now that there is something to be said for a simplified life. Because of the culture in Denmark (and the fact that I could only bring two suitcases), I was surrounded by less “stuff” than I typically am at home. I found that I really enjoyed the non-cluttered life. I now realize I don’t need as many things as I thought I did before my time abroad, and my room now looks much different than it used to!
Advice to Future Study Abroad Participants: It’s easier said than done, but I would advise future study abroad participants to hit the ground running once they arrive. Four months went by much faster than I anticipated. No one will make traveling or site-seeing plans for you and no one will force you to immerse yourself in the local culture. It’s up to you! Make the most of your time and work hard to fill every moment with a new experience.