Never Stop Exploring

How lucky we are to call DU one of our homes
How lucky we are to call DU one of our homes

Do you remember the moment that DU stopped feeling like a new strange place and started feeling like home? Maybe you went away for a weekend and texted your friends that you would be home in a few hours, but were referring to campus. Or maybe you finally figured out the quickest exit to take or the best short cuts around Denver. But I think I can safely assume that at some point, DU shifted from just your school to your home. Well that happens abroad too. Its one of the greatest feelings: you finally know the lay of the land and you can roll your eyes at the tourists like the rest of the locals do when they do silly things like walk in the bike lane or get confused on the metro. You did your time as the foreigner, and now you feel like a member of the community.

However there is something about this shift is equally as dangerous as it is beautiful. You are comfortable. You have a routine, favorite places, and a schedule. The city starts to lose its grandeur and becomes a little less exciting. I am a creature of habit, and I love getting a routine and being familiar with my surroundings, so I would have let my comfort in Copenhagen happen without complaint. Luckily for me, my parents showed up just in time. I absolutely loved showing them my new city and all my favorite places, but I knew I couldn’t entertain them for an entire week on my favorite coffee shops and parks, so I signed us up for the “Urban Bike Tour” by Cycling Copenhagen. This bike tour wasn’t the typical tourist attraction – instead it was an exploration of some of the areas just out of the inner-city. It wasn’t until this tour that I realized how much more there was to discover in Copenhagen! Our tour guide pointed out a tiny shop under a clothing store, declaring it was the best coffee in Denmark. He snaked us through a cemetery that people use like a park, then led us to a gorgeous, quiet canal crowded with dainty boats with hand-painted names peeling from their sides. He showed us the wealthy district with roads three times as large as in the city and some of the world’s best ice cream.

Shoutout to Yelp! for helping me discover a new brunch spot
Shoutout to Yelp! for helping me discover a new brunch spot

I realized had developed my own bubble consisting of my apartment, school, and favorite study spots and parks – but this tour expanded my awareness of the city and re-lit my excitement for learning more about the city. There were bike bridges and paths I didn’t know existed, a remodeled meat-packing district of new restaurants and bars, a street with unique shops and flee markets on the weekends, and more. That day I challenged myself as I am about to challenge you, to explore at least one new place every week, because even when you think you know someplace like the back of your hand, there are still undiscovered nooks and crannies just waiting to be discovered. You might find the world’s best bakery or an astonishingly beautiful cemetery, a fantastic coffee shop or a stunning running trail. Take a friend, or go alone. Spend an entire day somewhere new, or just stop by for an hour or less. Whatever you do, never stop exploring. Your time abroad is limited, so you need to savor every second of it. When you feel comfortable or find yourself talking about your abroad city like home, appreciate your accomplishment of making it your own, but take on the challenge of continuously finding new places.

Word of mouth works for discovering new places too! If you don't know locals to ask, try your professors!
Word of mouth works for discovering new places too! If you don’t know locals to ask, try your professors!
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Anticipating Abroad: Hopes, Fears, and Goals

In the two years I have been at the University of Denver, I have found that it is not uncommon for my peers to be remarkably well-traveled. In addition, as DU was recently ranked the #1 school in the country for study abroad, I never hear my peers asking each other if they are studying abroad, but rather where they are studying abroad. I am Emily Wolverton, and this fall I will be studying at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) in Copenhagen, Denmark. I narrowed down my destination options with two main criteria: classes taught in English and a program that provided interesting pre-medicine classes. I ultimately decided on DIS in Copenhagen because it met those criteria and includes experiential learning opportunities, has a strong student support system, and integrates travel into the semester via class study tours and independent travel breaks. Frankly, I am terrified for all that is to come. However despite my fears, I am also ecstatic to get the opportunity to learn about a new culture in depth for four months.

My biggest fear stems from my inexperience traveling independently. I love traveling with my family and have taken a few trips with groups of students since attending DU, but never have I set off completely on my own for a foreign country with no companions. I am anxious but also excited to be pushed out of my comfort zone and forced into independence. I rarely go home during the school year at DU, but there is something intimidating about knowing there is an ocean between my family and friends and me, so I couldn’t go home if I wanted.

Another fear is that I won’t achieve the level of cultural immersion for which I am hoping. DIS is a school geared completely toward students (mostly from the U.S.) who are studying abroad. It is an English-speaking school with a lot of support, which is comforting but also a little disappointing. I do not know a word of Danish and will only be taking a beginner language and culture course, so I worry I will not be able to connect with the Danes closely due to this language barrier and the physical separation I anticipate within the school.

bookphotoA third fear I have is that I will get too caught up in my school work to enjoy the fact that I am in a beautiful and unique foreign country. I am looking forward to all of the classes I am registered for, but am worried I will become a little too engrossed in my studies. I want to explore Scandinavia and Europe as a whole, but my education has always been my first priority. I am afraid this personality trait may limit my enjoyment and appreciation of the time I have abroad because I will be so focused doing well in my classes.

Now that I have made studying abroad sound scary and somewhat undesirable, I want to explain some of my hopes and goals for my experience as they are the things that occupy my mind most often as I look forward to the coming semester. My biggest hope is to build lasting relationships. I love exploring and going on adventures, but those experiences are always made better by having people with whom to share them. There are two separate week-long breaks set aside during the semester to allow students to travel, so I hope to find friends with whom I can explore Copenhagen, Scandinavia, and even Europe.

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This is a famous canal in Copenhagen which I cannot wait to see for myself.

I not only want to get to know my peers and professors, but I also hope to get to know people from Denmark so I may develop a better understanding and appreciation for the country and culture. My goal is for these relationships to remove me from “tourist” status to become a true temporary resident. I hope to really know Copenhagen and feel like it is a second home to me. One thing I think will help me connect best to Copenhagen is working hard to understand the culture and language which is why another goal of mine is to be able to listen to people speaking in Danish and understand the gist of the conversation. Additionally, I hope to be able to go out to eat and order a meal (correctly) in Danish.

One major reason I applied to DIS was the number of outstanding experiential learning opportunities it provides for its students. The classes I have taken for my major in biology and for the pre-med track have undoubtedly been necessary as a foundation for my future education. I have high hopes, however, for the specific medicine-based courses I will be taking in Copenhagen which are accompanied by multiple experiential learning adventures. In my main course, I get to learn how to suture, insert an IV, and more. My goal is to master these skills as they appeal to my interests and are applicable to my career aspirations. The clinical approach to the science of medicine is the root of my interest so I cannot wait to learn how to “write a structured medical report,” and “explain the rationale for choice of tests and treatments in clinical practice,” both of which are course objectives for my main class. My goal in these classes is to excel and to master the skills and knowledge with which I am presented. I chose an academically rigorous program because I love my major and am excited for a future in medicine, so I hope to do well in these classes and affirm my love for the medical field.

Another hope I have (although it is also a fear) is to realize what I am capable of when I am out on my own. I expect to be out of my comfort zone often, but I am excited to gain some independence and develop socially and culturally. I hope to embrace a new lifestyle while abroad and to gain a more worldly perspective.

Will’s blog: Copenhagen, Denmark

Will has shared his fantastic blog with us, and we want to share it with you!  He is studying on the DIS program this semester, and apparently people there won’t believe he’s American.  Read on…   williambsherman.blobspot.com

One of Will's photos from a train ride.
One of Will’s photos from a train ride.

Being an Art Major Abroad

As an art major, finding art, art museums, and historical art sites abroad is great. Especially after taking three quarters of art history, I recognize a number of famous paintings and styles. At DU, I am majoring in Electronic Media Arts Design, which has required me to take four studio art classes, as well as two general art history classes and one history of Asian Art class in addition to all of my graphic arts classes. Although I did not study in Italy or Greece, I still saw quite a range of art—historical and modern—when I was in Denmark and travelling around.

Photo: Rosa Calabrese
Photo: Rosa Calabrese

On a rather accidental trip that I took with two students from my folk high school to the art museum in Copenhagen, I got the amazing opportunity to see Jane Avril by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. I remembered studying this painting during my sophomore year art history class, and I furthermore remembered how much I liked learning about the period in which it was created and this painting in particular. Additionally, during some brief travel outside of my Danish home away from home, I went to the Picasso museum in Barcelona where I was able to explore many of Picasso’s less famous works that I did not know about even from my art history courses.

Photo: Rosa Calabrese
Photo: Rosa Calabrese

Though perhaps equally rewarding was the ability to see sight-specific works of art even without prior knowledge to the artists or reason that they were created. For example, while on the Danish island of Bornholm, I went to an art museum and was able to see many different paintings and sculptures. However, since I was there towards the beginning of my stay when I did not know much about Danish culture and had little to no knowledge of the Danish language, I had to independently try to understand the meaning of the artworks. I had a similar experience when I went to the art museum inside the Round Tower in downtown Copenhagen, which had a number of contemporary art pieces on display.

Photo: Rosa Calabrese
Photo: Rosa Calabrese

Although I still envy my friends who have been to the Louvre in Paris, to ancient ruins in Greece and Italy, who have seen the Terracotta Army in China, as well as many other historical sites that I remember from my art history courses, I still loved the art that I got to see in Denmark. I am lucky of course that my major is so relevant to anywhere in the world since art is everywhere. Of course Denmark itself is famous for its architecture and for its modern art, so it was not at all difficult to find art related sites to visit, but it is wonderful to know that I can go anywhere in the world where people have ever lived and I will be able to find art.

-Rosa Calabrese, DU Study Abroad Peer Advisor

Debunking Reasons against Studying Abroad

As seen in Transitions Abroad Magazine September/October 2003

By Brian Harley

Where can I go to get to other places?” paraphrases a question that I once received from a student. The allure of education abroad, through study and travel (not necessarily in that order), surpassed my passé mantra of academic rigor, cultural entry points, and provisions for safety and security. Travel persuasion was not necessary. I could already imagine her standing before a world map, filling it with pushpins.

Other students need more assurance. The academic and personal leap of faith can be a process, not a plunge. Some students may feign having “just a few more questions”—ultimately indicating good old-fashioned hesitation. Study abroad advisers are in a unique position to help students see past needless constraints and encourage them to pursue their dreams. One can easily think of ten common concerns, which unanswered could prevent a student from having a transformative educational experience abroad. My “Top Ten Reasons Not to Consider Not Studying Abroad” reflect comments from real-live students as well as a condensed form of my answers, and resources that study abroad advisers should keep in mind.

Photo: Luke Harden, DU Student Studied in Spain
Photo: Luke Harden, DU Student
Studied in Spain

1. It will cost too much.

Students may be surprised! In many cases, students find that they pay no more to study abroad than to attend their home college for a semester or a year. Most state and federal financial aid transfers.

2. My grades will go down.

Students’ grades may stay the same. Despite the fear of a dropping GPA, many students return with the same GPA as when they left. If students study hard and keep up, their grades tend to show it (just like in the States). Advisors can help diminish this fear by citing some pre- and post-study abroad GPAs.

3. My courses won’t transfer.

If students plan ahead, courses will transfer. As soon as students arrive on campus the options should be described. At PurdueUniversity a letter was sent to over 7,000 first-year students before they arrived. The study abroad advisor should make sure that his or her advice agrees with the recommendations of the academic advisor. For example, courses should satisfy major, minor, or general studies credit requirements, not those few precious elective credits.

4. No university abroad will have the courses that I need taught in English.

Many study centers abroad have selected courses in most of the general academic disciplines. Urge students to look at course offerings both in English and in the language of the host country. Independent studies may be possible too, if arrangements are made in advance.

Lauren Rosenthal, DU Student Studied in Scotland
Photo: Lauren Rosenthal, DU Student
Studied in Scotland

5. I am an introvert.

Remind students that making a new home abroad for a semester or year is unnerving for everybody, and people who are naturally introverted may find themselves even more daunted after trying to make a conversation in a second language with new acquaintances. But they don’t have to be “the life of the party.” Introverts will learn language and culture just as well as extroverts, and they may grow in ways they never imagined.

6. I am a leader and my school cannot get along without me.

Great! These students can now become leaders overseas. Students’ concern that their school will “miss them” will eventually be far overshadowed by the experiences they will have. Students develop more self-confidence than they ever imagined and come home with even more mature leadership skills. But for that, they’ll truly “have to be there!”

7. I don’t know anybody who is going.

In many cases most students do not know the others in their group. But they all have one thing in common—willingness to risk the adventure of living and learning in a different country. Some have made life-long friends in the process.

Photo: Kaitlyn O'Sullivan, India
Photo: Kaitlyn O’Sullivan, DU Student
Studied in India

 

8. I have never done anything like this before.

Most people never do this. Emphasize to students that it is a tremendous privilege to be able to study abroad. On-site staff will help students to understand what they need to do to adjust to a completely new environment.

9. I don’t have very good reasons to study abroad.

There is not one single “litmus test” for study abroad. There are as many “good reasons” to study abroad as there are good programs. Students become international citizens. They learn a new cultural system and see their own from a new perspective. And, they build resumes and relationships while growing intellectually and culturally.

Photo: Kylee Swiggart, DU Student Studied in Chile
Photo: Kylee Swiggart, DU Student
Studied in Chile

 10. I do not know how to contact study abroad providers.

Study abroad advisers, providers, and other professional make it easy. Students can talk with on-campus study abroad advisers and other students who have studied abroad; surf the web; and read Transitions Abroad.

Study abroad advisers are uniquely positioned to view the transformation that comes from an overseas experience. Perhaps one of the chief constraints is the imagination of the student. Advisers are to be lauded for their challenging role as administrators, advocates, consultants, and, perhaps, detectives. Sometimes only after myths are debunked can students let their imagination wander overseas, followed by their body.

DR. BRIAN HARLEY, Director of Programs for Study Abroad at Purdue Univ. (www.studyabroad.purdue.edu). Contact him at bharley@purdue.edu.

Living in a Folk High School in Denmark

The first thing that caught my eye on the program flyer for the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) was in the housing section of the flyer where it said one could live in a folkehojskole (or folk high school) “a distinctly Danish rural educational institution for young Danes.” To me, this sounded amazing. I investigated the program further, and eventually decided that this was the place for me (between the folk high school housing option and the opportunity to get a number of classes for my Sociology major including a class called Migration and Conflict which took a week long study tour to Istanbul and a class called Holocaust and Genocide that took a weekend trip to visit a concentration camp near Hamburg, as well as the opportunity to volunteer while abroad).

I was delighted to get accepted into the program, and as soon as DIS housing opened online, I applied to be put in one of the three folk high schools that were offered. This was in March, but I did not find out until the summer which housing option I actually got. I was told that I signed up early enough that it was likely that I got my first choice. In the meantime, I started researching all the different folk high schools that were offered: Grundtvigs and Krogerup (which are both Danish folk high schools) and The International People’s College (which is a folk high school for international students). I found the most information about Grundtvigs folk high school, which was supposed to have weekly costume parties with both Americans and Danes, and the building almost looked like a greenhouse. I even found one video from past Danes who had lived there, and even though it was all in Danish, the video and photos that were shown just made it look like such a blast!

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In the summer before I left, I found out that I was going to live in Grundtvigs folk high school! I was worried that I had built it up too much in my mind and that the reality could not be as good, but I ended up having a fantastic time there! We did have themed parties each week, ranging from Pirate Party to Jersey Shore to Gangsters and Dinosaurs (the last of which was a little hard to dress for). I got to eat dinner with Danish people my own age each night, and see what kinds of things they were interested in doing with their free time. I also got to go to cultural events within the folk high school including concerts, talent shows, plays, and photo exhibits presented by the Danish students.

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I later found out that many of the American students at my school were too intimidated by the sound of the folk high school housing option to choose it, and ended up settling for something less intimidating such as a dorm. While home stays and Danish roommates were two other housing options at DIS that were perhaps equally immersive as my folk high school option, I would definitely recommend to future students going abroad to choose an immersive housing option when it is available. It made my own experience so much more rewarding!

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All of the photos are mine: showing the outside of my folk high school, the common area/lounge, and the main interior hallway.

Rosa Calabrese, DU Study Abroad Peer Advisor

‘Tis the Season During Study Abroad

At first, I thought it would be sad to be away from home for Thanksgiving and the build up to Christmas because of being so far away from home and because Thanksgiving generally isn’t celebrated in Denmark. However, my Danish visiting family helped me make (or I helped them make) a very traditional Thanksgiving dinner so it was not so sad to be away from home. Also, there is so much Christmas spirit here in Denmark now, it is hard not to enjoy it even if I’m not with my family yet. But at least it’s late enough in the semester that everyone has friends and Danish ‘families’ to spend time with.

-Rosa, DUSA Vlogger in Copenhagen

Unique Denmark: Bike Culture

Here is my video about bike culture in Denmark. I thought it would be an interesting topic because I remember experiencing some culture shock when I got here about just how many bikes there are everywhere. I also wanted to include a few clips from the World Championship Bike Race that I took when I went to go watch it with my Danish visiting Family.

Rosa, DUSA Vlogger in Copenhagen

Interesting Academics: Study Tour to Istanbul

This is a video about my study tour to Istanbul. I spent about a week there to study immigration with one of my classes. We mainly studied Nationalism and Kemalism, The Kurdish Question, Non Muslim Minorities, and Immigrants and Internally Displaced Peoples.

-Rosa