A Semester Spent Learning (in so many ways)! May 23, 2023

By (Environmental Policy, Middlebury College) - abroad from 01/14/2023 to 05/13/2023 with

DIS Copenhagen: Semester

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I enjoyed my classes because the students (especially in my core course) were very like-minded and so we ended up having such impactful discussions. I was able to explore topics related to my major in a more international sense, which is exactly what I wanted going in to the program. I really enjoyed traveling with my class and also traveling alone, and I think it opened up my eyes to everything I hadn't been introduced to before going abroad. I think I became much more independent while studying abroad, and was able to explore Europe with a unique perspective of someone studying but also very new to different cultures and customs and therefore eager to explore them and make the most of my traveling.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I had a very good educational experience while at DIS for the semester. The courses I took fulfilled some of my distribution and major requirements, but I also loved that they combined field studies across Denmark and outside of the country with the material we were learning in class. I loved my core course because it gave me the opportunity to think about environmental studies in an international realm but also provided me with the opportunity to have active discussions about Danish environmental policy. The course also helped me envision, in a hands-on way, a sustainable urban future, which I found really powerful. I thought the intensity, for the most part, was perfect given that it was a study abroad program and I didn't want to spend my entire time abroad sitting doing homework, though I did also feel challenged in my classes. I enjoyed that DIS was able to merge academics with experience outside of the classroom.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I thought DIS faculty did a really good job providing resources for students, especially when we first got to Copenhagen. They had an activities and volunteer fair, where we could look at opportunities to get involved with the community. There were also a lot of talks hosted by DIS and suggestions for things to do. It was also generally pretty easy to get in touch with DIS regarding specific issues.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Housing at DIS is a bit of a toss-up, and I wish they would have asked more specific questions on the initial housing questionnaire to better discern where the best fit for people might be. I lived about 20 minutes from the center of Copenhagen, right by a metro station and a 5 minute walk from the beach. In general, I really liked our location, because it was quiet and I loved walking by the beach. Copenhagen is not a big city so it was easy to get most places from where I lived. I was, however, living in a pretty small room for two people, where we had a kitchen and bathroom. I think that is the only thing that I wish was a little bit different. The housing options at DIS are all very drastically different, and while I think I was pretty satisfied by where I was living, I know others were not.

* Food:

Over the course of my semester, I was able to try Danish food, and while I didn't love it, I'm glad I got to learn about it.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I was able to integrate into the local culture through volunteering at a few different organizations for sustainability and food distribution. I also went to some flea markets and dance classes where I was able to talk with some Danes. I signed up for the Visiting Host Program, but due to medical issues with my Visiting Host Mom, we were only able to meet once at the very end of the semester. Overall, I think I had some good interactions with Danes to help me learn about the culture, and I think just by living in Copenhagen and taking the metro and going to museums, etc. , I was able to learn about the culture. However, I do wish I had talked to more Danes or become friends with more Danes while I was there. I was a little hard because we were not attending class with them and I was not living with them.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I never had any experience with healthcare while I was abroad. We all got a CPR card so that we could get healthcare had we needed to. The benefits of healthcare in Denmark are that it is free. But this also means it is a longer wait to see a doctor (from what I heard while abroad). Also, prescriptions are harder to get than in the US.

* Safety:

I felt extremely safe while I was in Copenhagen. The only times I didn't feel safe were at the beginning of the semester, where there was a gang-related stabbing right outside our housing complex, and at times when I was walking alone at night and some times alone on the metro at night. Overall, though, I did feel very safe in the city, and never had any incidents. It goes without saying, though, that even in a safe city incidents happen and it's important to be alert and stay out of unsafe situations, especially at night.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

DIS was the kind of program I was looking for before going abroad. I had never traveled to Europe and really appreciated the support and resources that DIS gave me. I liked the hands-on aspects of my classes and enjoyed the field studies.


* 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)

Copenhagen is an extremely expensive city, and I knew that somewhat coming in, but I don't think I entirely grasped how much money I would spend. We were given a food stipend of $600, and the opportunity to get a commuter card for the metro or a bike. The food stipend lasted me the entire semester, and my commuter card allowed me to spend very little on transportation costs. Regardless, even small occasional expenses add up, so budgeting was extremely important for me.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $150-$300 (food, going out, travel)
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? It helped me to create a budget at the beginning of the semester. I do wish I had continually looked back on the budget, but it was helpful to get a sense of in what areas I was willing to spend more money and where I wanted to cut back and save money.


* 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

I took Danish Language and Culture while in Copenhagen for the semester. Through this class, I learned a lot of history about. Denmark (less culture) and some language, but it was never really encouraged outright that we use the language while out. I think this also varies from class to class, because I know some Danish classes traveled to schools to talk with Danish students and were required to speak to them in Danish. Since most people spoke English and I wasn't confident in my Danish skills, I only used Danish phrases occasionally, and I wish I had immersed myself more in this respect.

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
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Talk with people at the grocery store, on the metro/bus, or when passing by in Danish. Even simple phrases like "tak!" (thank you) show a respect of the culture and I think just help with practice.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • 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?
  • Great support system and resources
  • Traveling with classes (short/long study tours)
  • Field Studies
* What could be improved?
  • Housing
  • More opportunities for cultural immersion
  • Transparency of what some classes are about/material they cover
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I was very nervous before studying abroad in Copenhagen because it was all very new to me. I think I wish I knew how much opportunity there was waiting for me in all different forms - new people who are so passionate about the same things as me, new cultural experiences, so many places that I hadn't seen yet, etc. It was so nice to spend a semester learning outside of the US because, for example, from a Danish point of view, people live so differently and approach the world differently and those new perspectives are so important to experience.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Sustainable Development in Northern Europe

Course Department:
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This class was my core course at DIS. I loved the discussions we had about Danish environmental policy and other country's sustainability strategies. Our trips to Ribe, Denmark and Helsinki/Tallinn were some of the highlights of my semester, because we got to learn about the natural environment in Western Denmark and Finland through activities like wading in the North Sea and snowshoeing through Nuuksio National Park. I also thought the amount of homework was very reasonable. We didn't have exams, but we had a lot of group work and case studies when we went to Ribe and Helsinki/Tallinn, and I loved that the format for presenting these case studies was open, so we created videos in some and wrote papers for others.
Credit Transfer Issues: This course was helpful to me because it counted towards the International Environmental Policy requirement for the Environmental Policy major, since International Environmental Policy is not always offered at Middlebury.