Why did you choose this program? Denmark was an unexplored frontier for me and I was interested in experiencing its cultural commitment to equality and emphasis on sustainable living. I was academically drawn to this program because the core course, “Sustainable Development in Northern Europe”, corresponds with my academic endeavors. I’m majoring in environmental and sustainability studies and I plan to work in the field of sustainability after I graduate. Lastly, since everyone speaks English, I knew that language wouldn't be a barrier. It turnss out learning Danish was really fun and just added to my positive experience.
Describe your favorite class abroad. My favorite class was a 1 credit elective course called, "Nordic Culinary Culture". Academically, it aligned perfectly with my interest in food sustainability. We read challenging but interesting articles about food systems, political ideologies related to food, and celebrity chef culture. In addition to the in-class work we also went on several excursions. We had a weekend trip to the Danish islands of Lolland and Falster, where we cooked together, visited various producers, and dined at a fancy restaurant. In Copenhagen, we also toured the "new Nordic" restaurants Amass and Noma.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? I lived in a kollegium, which is a student residence hall, and it was the best part of my experience. Kollegiums are where university students live in Denmark, so there can be a mix of international and Danish students. My kollegium was the first one owned by DIS and was a mix of Danish students and other Americans from DIS. My kollegium was newly renovated historic building in the Christianshavn neighborhood by the harbor. There were 42 students, 11 Danes and 31 Americans. It was divided into four floors and each floor had a kitchen, common room, and bathrooms. I had a single room, but there were also double and triple rooms available in the house. Living with Danes was great because now they are my friends, and it made living in Denmark so much more rewarding when you get a closer glimpse into Danish culture.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Rent a bike! I was a little nervous at first, but the Copenhagen is made for biking and it is the easiest and most convenient way to get around. I biked to school every day and it was about a 10-minute commute. Live with Danes! Make it clear on your housing application that you want to live with university Danes. Get a visiting host. You can sign up through DIS to have a Danish family that you can visit. It's a great way to make connections outside of your peers. Learn some Danish. It is such a confidence boost when you can order a coffee and pastry in Danish. I would recommend you download the app DuoLingo and start practicing before you get there. I was extremely prepared for my class just because I had religiously practiced my Danish skills on DuoLingo.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? One of my favorite memories was from a trip to Norway. I was hiking down a fjord in the Flam Valley with a group of friends, and as we were passing a farmstead a massive herd of goats walked out onto the road and started nuzzling us. They were the friendliest goats I've ever met and made us feel welcome in the vastness of the fjords.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? The biggest surprise was how great the climate was! I was there in the fall, and apparently, Septemeber 2016 was one of the hottest Septembers on record. The first two months of my semester were so sunny and warm that I had to go out and buy shorts because I hadn't brought any. Also since Denmark is surrounded by water, there are nice sea breezes and a comfortable maritime climate for much of the year. On the other end of the spectrum, by the end of the semester in December the sun was rising at 8:30 am and setting at 3:30 pm. However, in mid-December, there wasn't any snow and I could still comfortably ride my bike.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. I did not experience culture shock. I was prepared to, but every time there was something different or odd, it seemed to make more sense than what I was used to experiencing. I felt almost instantly at home in Copenhagen.
“If I could do it over, I would…” ...explore Copenhagen more by bike. I did explore the city, but I wish I had carved out time for myself to just wander/bike around and find more hidden gems in the city neighborhoods.
What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? The Danish language! In all seriousness, I've learned a great deal about myself, friendship, academics, and the world in general.
What do you wish someone had told you before you left? Bring shorts!
What was your greatest challenge? My greatest challenge was finding the balance between scheduling touristy activities, travel, and just living in Copenhagen. I was constantly aware that my time was limited so I would get anxious about not wanting to a waste a single moment.
Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” If it's a question of to go abroad or not, then I completely recommend going abroad. Why not go someplace you've never been? You never know who you will meet, or what you will do.
What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn? Most people think that Denmark is freezing cold and that they eat a lot of fish. It's actually not that cold (as I discuss in question 11). Also the most common food is pork and not fish. A traditional Danish meal is pork and potatoes, though seafood is also common.
How did you find scholarships for study abroad? I searched through Hutton (HIEP), SPEA (to see if there were any environmental sustainability specific scholarships), and through the program itself, DIS.
Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? Apply for HIEP! It's great because with that application you are eligible for a number of named scholarships through Hutton as well. Another tip is to make sure you answer the question about your financial need on your original OVST application. If you explain your circumstances, you might get a scholarship.