It’s crazy to think about how my four months in Copenhagen have flown by so quickly. To close out this semester, and this blog, I think it’s most appropriate that I reflect on everything (academics, the homestay, Copenhagen, travel, DIS, study abroad). And so it goes..
My core course Health Delivery and Prioritization was by far my favorite class at DIS. I chose to study abroad in Denmark because I was fascinated by how perfect the universal healthcare system sounded, but this class helped me analyze the pros and the cons of different healthcare systems. Short study tour and long study tour (LST) both were amazing opportunities to learn more about healthcare in Europe as a whole and also an amazing time to have fun with even more amazing friends I met through this class.
Queer and Subversive Writers in European Cities was an incredible elective. There was definitely a lot less gender theory than I was expecting but it was really interesting to see how different writers countered heteronormative narratives through their writing. The teacher, Morten, was also so incredibly fun and his many many side-rants were so interesting to listen to.
I’m really happy I took Neuroimaging of the Disordered Brain. As a neuroscience major, I come across a lot of papers that use neuroimaging techniques in classes and in my research. This class really helped me have a better understanding of the neuroimaging methods but also they can be used to look at different disorders.
My public health classes at Vanderbilt really emphasize the use of harm reduction so it was really cool to see the Danish approach in my Healthcare Strategies for At-Risk Populations class. We got to visit a safe injection site and a sexelancen (sex ambulance for prostitutes in Copenhagen), both things we would never see in the US. I also got to interview a street nurse who walks around the streets of Copenhagen at night to see if any of the homeless population need any help. All in all, I think this was the most immersive class I took at DIS and was really cool to see all the different harm reduction practices in action.
Neuroscience of Fear was a pretty interesting class. All I knew about the neuroscience of fear was the amygdala, autonomic nervous system, and HPA-axis before this class but it was cool to delve into the specific pathways that regulate fear. We also looked at how fear is dysregulated in psychopaths! My favorite part of this class was the semester project presentations we had at the end of the class. Everyone in the class presented a project on fear, and it was interesting to see how fear is processed in phobias, adrenaline-junkies, horror movie fanatics, and stereotype threat.
I lived in a homestay this semester and by far the best decision I made other than coming abroad. DIS is by nature geared towards US students studying abroad, so you’ll be surrounded by American students, not Danish students, in your classes. I chose a homestay to get more cultural immersion and it’s been so interesting to learn about and live in the Danish family lifestyle. Danish living seems to be summed up fairly well by two words: simplicity and appreciation. Simplicity in terms of not needing copious amounts of really anything – pastries, clothes, and living space, to name a few. Appreciation in relation to living in the moment, appreciating time with others, and what life has to offer.
In choosing a homestay, I also chose to not live in the same hall/dorm with other DIS students. I was definitely a little worried about not being able to meet friends with other DIS students near me. (if you were a sensing a “but”, here it is..) But DIS puts every homestay student in a homestay network with homestay students in the same or surrounding towns. My homestay network bonded a bit during orientation week but definitely more during our homestay network social. We ended up eating lunch together every Monday and Thursday (shoutout to the V23 3rd floor student lounge) and also sometimes met up to watch movies or play ping-pong.
Being able to live with a host family was definitely daunting at first but I’m so glad I made this decision and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Copenhagen is a beautiful city. What attracted me to Copenhagen was its emphasis on sustainability, the Danish universal healthcare system, and Denmark’s stat as the happiest country in the world. Being able to live in experience and learn more about all three of these things was so rewarding, and it’s definitely an amazing opportunity to be able to learn about it in person, rather than from a textbook.
I found Copenhagen
- really easy to navigate using the Rejseplanen app
- packed with amazing (but definitely sometimes pricey) food
- full of incredible neighborhoods and areas to explore
- understandable?? because almost all the Danes in Copenhagen are comfortable with English.
- to be nice.. A lot of Danes will talk about how Danes have a reputation of being cold and blunt but all the Danes I’ve met have been pretty friendly.
- usually wet. Definitely in November and December, it rained a lot. Definitely pack rain gear if you’re studying abroad in Copenhagen!
Overall, I think Copenhagen is a wonderful place to study abroad and was a great fit for me. I was definitely nervous about studying abroad in a country that didn’t predominantly speak English. With Copenhagen, the city was enough to push me out of my comfort zone while still making sure I wasn’t helplessly floundering about. In my 4 months in Copenhagen, I’ve really come to understand and agree with the DIS motto:
Copenhagen as your home. Europe as your classroom.
In recap, I went to 12 cities/countries: Western Denmark, Lucerne (Switzerland), Tallinn (Estonia), Helsinki (Finland), Santorini (Greece), Barcelona (Spain), Florence (Italy), Venice (Italy), Milan (Italy), London (England), Paris (France), Amsterdam (Netherlands). ~ the bolded ones were with my core course ~
Most of the non-academic traveling I did was during travel week and study break. The only weekend trips I had were to Lucerne, Switzerland, and Amsterdam, Netherlands. I’m glad I spent most of my weekends in Copenhagen as it gave me more time to explore the city and with my host family.
My biggest recommendation for traveling is to book your flights, Airbnbs, and/or hostels as soon as you know for sure you’re going on a trip. I was able to get a $14 flight to London because I booked two months in advance. Also, I thought it was really important that I got to do what I wanted to on my trips. Even though I travelled with friends, I wasn’t afraid to ask to do things I wanted to do, but, more importantly, I wasn’t mad or frustrated if they didn’t want to do the same things I did. If it was something I really wanted to do or see, I just did it on my own. I think generally everyone is pretty understanding of that. Just don’t force what you want to do on others.
Before this semester, I had never been to Europe, so I’m glad I had this opportunity to explore Copenhagen and the rest of Europe as well.
I think DIS does an incredible job of helping students get adjusted and situated in Copenhagen. From giving everyone transportation passes to basically handling the entire visa process for us, I definitely think DIS really helped alleviate some of the initial stress and concern of studying abroad.
DIS itself is also in a really convenient location. It’s just a 5-7 minute walk from Nørreport Station, a 1 minute walk from a metro stop, right along Strøget and close to a lot of really great food places (American Pie Company, Lagkagehuset, Max Burger, Momo Wok Box, Conditori La Glace, Mæxico, Fresh Bagel, Gasoline Grill). In November and December, there’s a Christmas market basically right outside DIS, which is a little too convenient.
I also think DIS does an incredible job of integrating travel into the program. Traveling with my core course on short study tour the third week of classes was a really great time to bond with people in my class. My core course teacher says that she always loves going to class after coming back from short study tour. Before short study tour, the class is usually silent, but after, the dynamic is completely flipped with everyone talking to each other. Then having long study tour a month later further out in Europe was an even more amazing experience. I’ve mentioned this a couple times on my blog so far, but again, even before coming abroad, I had never thought about going to Tallinn, Estonia, or Helsinki, Finland (the 2 cities my core course went to). In the end, I’m so happy I got to go to these incredible cities.
I think study abroad students tend to be stereotyped as upper-class students from small, liberal arts colleges. Whether or not this is true, I definitely don’t think I fit that mold. My university was able to make sure that I pay the same exact amount to study abroad as I do for a semester at my university, so definitely ask your college about how financial aid works for studying abroad. I also applied for some of DIS’s study abroad scholarships, which definitely helped me finance my semester. In the spring semester and summer before coming abroad, I worked my butt off and saved every penny I could. I ended up saving enough to pay for all my expenses abroad, including travel, food, and clothes. Copenhagen definitely isn’t the cheapest city to study abroad in so definitely make a budget, and do your best to stick to it, especially if you have concerns about being able to afford a semester abroad/in Copenhagen.
Studying abroad was the best decision I’ve made. I’m grateful to have been in a place where I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I needed credits to transfer from this semester. I think studying abroad was a great way for me to learn more about the European perspective on healthcare in contrast to the American perspective I’ve heard so much about through classes, volunteering, and shadowing physicians. Studying abroad was also an amazing opportunity for me to both develop and challenge how I approach healthcare, the world, and different cultures. Did aBrOaD cHaNgE mE? I don’t necessarily think so, but it did help me think more critically and knowledgeably about different issues, and I’m so grateful I had this incredible opportunity.
And with that,
I guess this is it. Thank yall for tagging along for what seemed like the fastest but also most amazing 4 months of my life. Thank you to all to incredible people I’ve met along the way, and thank you Copenhagen for showing me the beauty of the Danish mindset. I hope I’ll see you soon.