Cool, but No Magical Study Abroad January 21, 2020

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 08/17/2019 to 12/13/2019 with

DIS Copenhagen: Semester

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My biggest take away was learning how to live by myself and navigate a foreign city. I grew the most from having to budget and deal with not ideal situations. I learned very little academically.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

DIS classes were not challenging in the least.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

DIS's administration is its biggest asset. It was extremely nice not having to worry about your own visa or getting a SIM card on arrival. DIS does everything for you, from scheduling your appointments with customs to transporting you to them, and as long as you skim the frequent emails, you will barely have to lift a finger. They are generally helpful with mid-semester questions or concerns.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

While housing was the highlight of several of my friends' study abroad experiences, it was undoubtably the low point of mine. DIS placed me in a small kollegium that was 1/10th the size of several other housing options. They did very little to facilitate bonding within the community and there virtually no common space. It was rare to see other residents unless you were waiting for the elevator at the same time. I only met other people in my housing through shared classes and housing was universally our biggest complaint. It forced me to commute 40-minutes whenever I wanted to make dinner with friends or go out. Also, one time the wind blew the door to my room shut while my key still in the room and DIS facilities (who have master keys) refused to come unlock the door for me, even though it was during business hours on a weekday. Instead I had to call a Danish locksmith, wait 2 hours for them to come, and then pay $170 for the locksmith to unlock my door which was as simple as tapping the key against the lock.

* Food:

Copenhagen has a surprisingly good food scene. Lots of cafes and cute little bakeries dotted throughout the city that make for great spots to meet a friend or study. I was worried about being vegetarian while in Denmark, but the vegan/vegetarian scene in Copenhagen is awesome and delicious.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Sign up for visiting host families!!! There was virtually no integration with Danish culture outside of this if you do not live with a host family full time. I loved visiting my host family and going with friends to see theirs. It is one of the few ways that I was able meet and spend substantial time with Danes. The parents provided great insight on Danish society and politics while the kids were super cute. Visiting them was also a great way to relax. Other than that, DIS is an American enclave. You go to bars that hold American nights specifically for DIS with other American students and listen to American music.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Denmark has free universal health care. DIS makes sure that you are enrolled and get your card. If anything goes wrong, you just contact the doctor on your card. Beware, that because you have no choice of doctors, their practices are less impressive (e.g. doctors operate out of general office spaces rather than clinics).

* Safety:

Copenhagen is an incredibly safe city. At the beginning of the semester, I was scared to bike alone at night as that would be a no-go in most American cities. I started doing it after my host mom assured me that people do it all the time and never had a single problem. Copenhagen provided an unparalleled sense of security. The worst that happened to people was to have their phones stolen out of their back pocket at clubs.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

DIS makes for an easy, but not particularly valuable study abroad experience. Copenhagen is an amazing city and I had a great time exploring Denmark and Europe for four months. Isolated housing really tanked my abroad experience.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I spent about ~$500/month on living expenses in Copenhagen. The DIS stipend covered the vast majority of my groceries until I ran out with about two weeks left in the semester. Most of my expenses were social things like going to Tivoli, GoBoats, tickets to castles/other sights, going out, and eating out. I travelled 1-2 a month, which was less than a lot of other students that travelled every weekend and that saved me money that I could then spend within the city.

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Do not waste the stipend!!! I know a lot of people that used the stipend to buy hard alcohol or organic salmon every night and then complained about how the stipend didn't last. If you make a grocery list and stick to it, the stipend will easily cover the vast majority of your grocery costs. Buying drinks out easily adds up (drinks start around $12), so pregame hard with some grocery store alcohol like Netto wine or Carlsberg before, so you only buy one or two while you are out.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

Most people had to take Danish. The class was mostly useful for the cultural component as it was a critical look at aspects of Danish society that I wouldn't have otherwise known about. My specific class was reverse classroom, so we did all of the learning at home and practiced in class. It made for a lot of replaying the audio files at home.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? German 211
How many hours per day did you use the language? 0
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Try to order at restaurants/cafes in Danish!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Copenhagen's coffee shop culture
  • Social and academic travel
  • DIS does all the work for you
* What could be improved?
  • Cultural Integration
  • Make housing options more equitable
  • Increase academic Rigor
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? This program will not intentionally challenge you. Any growth that I experienced was incidental. However, I'm not sure a lot of DIS students want growth.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Sustainable Development in Northern Europe

Course Department:
Instructor: Emmanuel Gentil
Instruction Language:
Comments: Emmanuel loved to hear himself talk and cared about little else. We had several guest lecturers and whenever students tried to ask questions, Emmanuel routinely cut them off to go on his own tangent. On the last day of the semester he was still forgetting students names, despite the fact that we had travelled with him for 2+ weeks. The course material was dull and never went into depth on any particular subject matter, leaving the students feeling disengaged. Grading standards were opaque.
Credit Transfer Issues: