I must warn you, this won’t be the most FUN or EXCITING post as it is intended to be packed full of informational material for all you prospective DIS students out there. Basically, I promised I’d talk more about all the classes I took this term, so here goes. I’ll also review all the housing options and my impressions of them (even though I only personally experienced the host family one–if you want to see some first-hand accounts of other housing options, read the other student blogs).
Danish Language and Culture: This, in my opinion, is a must-take class if you’re doing DIS. Even if you’re not “good at languages” and, like most everybody else, will not be using Danish after our semester abroad. Taking this class really helped me understand a lot more of what was going on around me, both at home with my host family and out in the city (especially on the trains, where the announcements are all in Danish!). Don’t get me wrong–I definitely do not speak or understand Danish fluently, or even at all. But I was surprised by how much my limited knowledge has helped me to not be totally lost. Plus half of the class is culture, which is definitely helpful, especially if you are not in a host family learning about Danish customs and eating Danish food. You learn a lot about Danish history and discuss the reasons behind Danish norms that might help you understand why Danes do what they do. If all that didn’t sell you, the Danish classes also do some fun activities, such as movie days, eating traditional Danish food, and going to a Danish football game sometime during the semester. There’s also an intensive Danish I-II version if you want to focus more on the language and less on the cultural aspects.
Positive Psychology: This was my core class, so we went on a short study tour to Western Denmark and a long one to Milan. There were 4 sections of this class this semester, and we all went to different places (others went to Madrid and Scotland on their long tours). Each class had a different focus as well–mine ended up mainly being about life coaching, since that was the profession of our teacher. It was definitely an interesting focus, since we got to try out a lot of positive psychology interventions in class, and even created one ourselves and used it at the end of our long study tour. I won’t lie–getting to class at 8:30am twice a week was quite a struggle, especially when it meant leaving the house before dawn towards the end. However, when you travel as a class, you get to bond a lot, and I really enjoyed getting to know my classmates over the course of the semester. Plus our study tours, especially the one to Milan, were really fun and educational, and we got to talk to some of the most important researchers in the field right now.
European Clinical Psychology: This class is going to be a core class starting next semester, which I think will be excellent. I really enjoyed this class–it was a bit of both abnormality and clinical psych this term because there was no particular abnormality prerequisites, but I think that will be changed in the future. We did a lot of different exercises in class to learn in different ways (rather than just listening to lectures). I especially liked our field study to a social clinic for those with mental disorders, and a couple guest lectures we had from a friend of our teacher, who is a psychologist works with cancer patients. The core class won’t have the same teacher we had this semester, but she is working closely with the new teacher to revise the class (because this term was the first time DIS had it) and make it even better for next term. I provided a link above to information on the new core class, but I know that they’ll be having a long study tour to Vienna to study Freud.
Adolescence in Northern Europe: This class was also in its first semester, so there were a few kinks that I think will be worked out in the future. Despite some organizational issues, I really enjoyed this class and I think with some minor tweaks it’ll be really interesting in the future. It was a more free-form style so rather than learning in a traditional fashion we had the opportunity to help decide what we would learn about and our teacher gave us a lot of choices about how to complete our different requirements. Of course, that style is certainly not for everyone, but I thought it was a nice break from the usual lecture-style. One of my favorite parts of this class was our field studies to different youth-oriented organizations, and our learning lab, which gave us the chance to go on our own to a site of our choice. We learned a lot more through these hands-on experiences than we would’ve by reading a textbook, and it was really cool to take advantage of the opportunities provided by our location in Europe.
Applied Psychology: This was definitely my favorite class this semester. We basically learned about different kinds of therapy, and got the chance to practice using the therapeutic techniques of all the different schools. My own school doesn’t have a class like this, so it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about what I think might be my future career. We also had some really interesting visits from a music therapist and a psychologist working with brain-injury survivors, plus our teacher talked about her own experiences as a therapist, so we had a few different perspectives on what it’s like to do therapy. The class also explored the theme of creativity in therapy, and it definitely changed the way I think about creativity in myself and others.
Turkey at the Crossroads: This was a 1-credit class to go on an optional study tour to Istanbul during the second week of travel break. It was taught by the same teacher as my Adolescence in Northern Europe class, so it was fun to get to know her a little better. The tour itself was amazing–Istanbul is a beautiful city and we got to see a lot of amazing history (and eat some delicious food!). It was also such a relief to travel with DIS the second week of travel break rather than having to organize the whole thing by myself. Taking a class along with the trip also gave us the chance to see a different side of Istanbul, and to know what was going on around us rather than just being regular tourists.
Host Family: Obviously my favorite option! I loved my host family this term, and I wholeheartedly recommend this option. Not only do you get to really immerse yourself in Danish culture (including home-cooked meals–OM NOM NOM), but you get to bond with a family, and have a real solid support if you have a bad day. My host family is definitely what I’m going to miss most about Denmark (I can’t believe I have to leave them so soon!). And I’ve not only had my immediate host family, but I’ve gotten to participate in family events from baptisms to birthdays, and gotten to meet lots of extended family members and friends (just read about my Danish Thanksgiving for an example). I loved coming back home after a long day at school to a hyggeligt dinner followed by tea and cookies in front of the television. Plus there’s nothing like having a host dog greet you excitedly every morning and evening. Of course, the nature and size of host families differs a lot, so be sure to be specific about your needs on the DIS Housing form. Commutes also differ greatly–mine was about an hour or so door-to-door, but I know of commutes both longer and shorter.
Kollegium: Kollegiums are kind of like the Danish version of dorms, although they are not associated with any particular school. I didn’t know that many people living in kollegiums this term, but I know of people who really loved theirs and others who were not as happy. The key to kollegiums, I think, is being willing to put yourself out there to meet the other people living on your floor because Danes are not likely to leave their doors open or do any of the things Americans usually do to make friends. However, it’s definitely possible to bond with both the Danes and Americans on a kollegium floor, and I know of several kollegium groups that got quite close over the semester. The other difference with a kollegium is you have to cook your own food, so you get a meal stipend from DIS, but my impression is that that money does not cover everything, so you may have to be prepared to spend a bit on food. As for commutes, kollegiums tend to be within a closer range than host families (which are all over). Generally I haven’t heard of any kollegiums more than 20 min. away from DIS but I could be wrong. A lot of kollegium people are able to take the bus or the metro (rather than the train) into DIS.
Danish Roommate: I think this is one of the less common options, so I only knew a couple people who chose it, but they were both pretty happy. Like host families, roommates vary a lot, so you could have another Dane your age, or you could be living with a single mom (for example). In general, I think it’s kind of like a host family option, but provides more independence because you make your own food and you aren’t expected to do anything more than be a respectful roommate (rather than participating in family events etc). This also means you might have to make more of an effort to get to know your roommate, if you want to become friends with them (rather than just two people who happen to live together). Danish roommates also live closer to DIS though I don’t know enough people with this option to say for sure how far out you could end up. Generally though the “roommate” thing implies apartment, which means somewhere in the city rather than outside it.
Folkehøjskole: I have heard a lot of good things about this option. Basically it’s like a boarding school for young people to go for about a year, in which they explore their interests without grades or requirements–they do it just for the love of learning. You can read more about it on the DIS website, but basically the DIS students who live at these schools have rooms at the school, and get provided breakfast and dinner (but the meals are provided on a schedule, and thus DIS students may often miss a meal or two and have to find food on their own). There is a folkehøjskole in Hillerød fairly close to my house, so I ride the bus with the DIS students there fairly often. This option is a really great way to meet Danes your age (or international students if you are in an international one) because the students have a fair amount of free time and do a lot of events together. Thus, it’s a bit more of a tight community than a kollegium, although the commute is always fairly long (none of the folkehøjskoles are located in central Copenhagen)–usually at least an hour.
DIS Residential Community / Living & Learning: These two options are basically American-only living situations (minus a Danish SRA–sort of like an RA in the U.S.) provided by DIS. Most of them are located about 5 minutes walk from DIS, although I do know of one which is slightly further away (maybe a 15-20 min. commute). Though I have never visited one, I’ve heard the housing is really nice, although it does mean that you are not automatically immersed in Danish culture, and will have to make more of an effort to meet Danes. Like the kollegium, you must pay for your own food with a DIS stipend card.
The Living and Learning Communities are mostly like DIS Residential Communities, but they are also responsible for holding events and being actively engaged in the topic of their housing (right now there is the Green House and the Culinary House). The Green House, for example, put on a sustainable party at the end of the semester.
Of course, you can also always find your own housing (some people do this if they have family in Copenhagen), but most people choose one of these options.
So that’s all folks (for tonight). More fun updates coming soon, I promise. In the meantime, don’t forget to ask me if you have any questions about the stuff above, or anything else Denmark/DIS-related.