Katherine Krohn. Aarhus University. Spring Why and Where

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1 Katherine Krohn Aarhus University Spring Why and Where a. I decided to study in Denmark as an exchange student because I am fascinated by experiencing different cultures first hand. As an International Studies major, I thought that studying in another country would enhance my academic experience. I am also interested in environmental issues, and Denmark has the reputation of producing a lot of organic dairy, financing windmills and supporting a strong bicycle culture. b. I selected Aarhus because the program offered a variety of classes that were suitable for an International Studies major. I was also attracted to the size of the city, which is similar to Madison, WI. c. I did not have many expectations about studying abroad, except that I would find myself with a new sense of independence and facing new situations and cultures. I went into the experience with an open mind. d. Before leaving for Denmark, I read some books on Danish history and culture, a couple Danish novels, and began to teach myself some Danish. I also took a class on Scandinavian Literature. e. I could have prepared better by talking to my study abroad advisor before choosing classes so my classes fulfilled more credits in my major. Arrival/On-Site Orientation a. I requested a shared facility house in Aarhus, which I would highly recommend. Living in a shared facility house provided a great experience to get to know other exchange students. I lived in Nordre Ringgade 70 which was an incredible place to live, with 3 floors, 3 shared kitchens, 3 shared bathrooms and very big rooms. The house was very close to everything: the university, the sea, a small shopping area, grocery stores, and a short bike ride from downtown. b. An orientation and a Danish language/culture class are offered at UW-Madison for the Aarhus Fall program, but not for the Spring program. In Aarhus, the International Center offers some lectures that introduce aspects of Danish culture, academics at AU, as well as

2 2. Academics 3. Housing practical information on topics such as grocery shopping. The lectures also provided an opportunity to socialize and meet new people. AU also provided a Danish mentor to each exchange student, which was helpful in sorting out practical issues such as signing up for classes. c. I received a welcome from the Scan Design Coordinator upon arriving in Denmark and there was a group dinner for the fellows. Unfortunately, since it was in Copenhagen I was unable to attend. However, it was comforting to know that the coordinator was there if I ever had a problem or a question. a. At AU class registration was very difficult. The website with class information was not very informative about class details and I could not actually register for classes until I arrived in Denmark. Registration is done in person, not on the internet. Classroom structure is more relaxed, allowing a lot of teacher-student interaction and discussion. Instruction is relatively informal and most teachers try to provoke discussion among the students. It is very easy to approach your instructor, since most classes are very small in size. Exams are graded by both the teacher and an impartial grader; grades seem fair. Library and classroom facilities exceeded my expectations: students have access to university libraries at all hours where there is free printing and copying. b. The quality and content of instruction was very good. Instruction is less focused on memorizing details, as lectures seem to be at UW Madison, and more focused on provoking independent thought, analysis and discussion. The classes at AU seemed to cover less material at a deeper level than Madison. c. I liked how independent the academics were at AU. I only attended classes 2 days per week since classes only met once per week for 2 or 3 hours each. However, because there is less class time, there is more independent study and reading. There are almost no homework assignments other than reading, and there was only one final exam per class, so the academics required a lot of self-motivation, which I liked. My final exams were all take home essays and I was allowed much freedom in choosing the topics, so I could research and write about something that interested me. d. Dale Carter was a great, funny and energetic professor who I would definitely recommend. a. Housing exceeded my expectations, providing very comfortable and spacious living arrangement. My shared facility house included all needed amenities such as internet, kitchen supplies, furniture, a washer and drier. My room was relatively expensive

3 compared to other options; however, its location, convenience and size were worth the extra money. b. The International Center provides exchange students with one housing option that you can either accept or reject. c. I chose the offer that the International Center gave me because I was happy with the location and type of housing, and I didn t want to the burden of having to find my own housing once I arrived in Aarhus. d. I would recommend staying in a shared facility house if you are interested in meeting other exchange students and living a very social life. My experience in a shared facility house was wonderful and made my time in Aarhus unforgettable. 4. Exchange Site Aarhus University is very beautiful: the campus buildings are located in a spacious park, only a 15 or 20 minute walk from downtown. It is near residential neighborhoods where families live, and is a very safe area. It is also a short walk from the sea and forested areas with walking paths. There are bike lanes on all major roads and public transportation is exceptional. 5. Health and Safety Aarhus is an incredibly safe city: even safer than Madison, I believe. I never felt at risk walking alone at night, never encountered theft personally, nor saw any dangerous situations. However, bike theft can be a problem in Aarhus if you do not lock your bike to something stationary. 6. Cultural Aspects a. AU helps exchange students meet Danish people by assigning each exchange student a mentor who can help you with practical as well as social situations. AU also arranges International Night every Tuesday night where both exchange students and Danish students can get together and socialize. Moreover, Friday Bars are provided by each faculty, where you can meet and socialize with many Danish students who are studying the same subjects as you. Also, teachers often promote group work at AU, encouraging students to study together. b. Danes often keep to themselves and are very respectful of other people s social space. This can make it hard to get to know a Dane; however, if you make an effort and have a drink with a Dane you will see that they can open up and have a great sense of humor. Denmark is a very progressive country so there are not many offensive opinions or customs; most people are very open-minded and free to express themselves.

4 7. Financial a. Scan Design greatly assisted my ability to study abroad, covering tuition and some transportation costs. Without this fellowship, studying abroad in Denmark would have been much more of a financial burden, since the cost of living in Denmark is relatively high. The scholarship really allowed me to make the most of my time in Denmark instead of continuously scrutinizing my financial situation. b. The best way to deal with money is just to use your debit card. It will function in almost all stores and the exchange rate is very small. You can also take money out of ATMs using your debit card with a reasonable exchange rate. I opened a Danish bank account only for the purpose of getting the travel grant from AU. Opening a Danish bank account is not necessary. c. With rent and food and other expenses I probably spent between 4000 and 4300 kroner per month d. My housing deposit was not unexpected, but it was quite high: two times one month s rent. Moreover, you should probably plan on finding a bike (which can be between 400 and 700 kroner to buy one used) or 650 kroner to rent one from the International Center with a 600 kroner deposit. e. I think the cost of living in Denmark is higher. The cost of activities such as going out to eat, going shopping, public transportation, going to a movie, buying drinks in a bar, and getting a haircut are all higher; however, housing and grocery shopping is similar to Madison. 8. Exchange/Scan Design Fellowship Administration a. In Madison, the Scan Design fellows enjoyed a dinner with current Danish exchange students. It was helpful to meet other UW students who would be in Denmark the following semester, and it was nice to get to know a bit about Danish culture before leaving. The activities coordinated by Scan Design in Denmark were fun: I enjoyed seeing the Louisiana art museum, and the trip to Oslo was fascinating. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend at least half of the activities because they were mostly located in Copenhagen. It would have been nice if there was one trip was to Aarhus. b. University administration services were mediocre. When I was signing up for classes, it was difficult to find the correct information; for example, for some of my classes I did not know the format of the exam until halfway through the semester. Also the university online service, First Class, which is used by teachers to provide students with lecture slides, syllabi and readings, was unavailable to exchange students for the first week or two of classes, which was a great inconvenience. Administration in general was more

5 difficult than in Madison because so much is in person: for example you have to sign up for classes and exams in person. 9. Program/Student Type Due to the fact that academics at AU mostly consist of out-of-class work, I would say that those who study in Aarhus should be independent workers and self-motivated. The final exams are big and require a lot of reading and researching materials that are not provided in the class. If the student really wants to get to know Danes they should also be very outgoing and friendly. I would recommend that future students live in a shared facility house because it is an incredible way to meet other students, socialize and have shared meals. I would also suggest you go to International Night on Tuesdays and the Danish class, Laerdansk, as they are both great ways to meet people. 10. Overall Experience a. My time in Aarhus was unforgettable. I learned not only from my classes at AU, but through everyday interactions with Danes and other international students. AU and the International Center succeed at providing a variety of occasions for exchange students to socialize and make friends. I would highly suggest living in Aarhus to anyone who desires to see another part of the world and experience another culture. b. Before studying at AU I hoped that my experience would open up my social life, allow me to meet many people from many cultures, while also maintaining academic excellence. These expectations were definitely fulfilled, very much thanks to Scan Design. The Scan Design fellowship really assisted me in studying in Aarhus for a semester, and the trips that were coordinated by Scan Design allowed me to meet new people. Due to the financial assistance of Scan Design, I was able to study for a semester without a part-time job, which helped me dedicate more time to my classes. c. The greatest benefit of studying abroad was a personal one: gaining independence. After being separated from my hometown, my family and my friends for the first time, I needed to become a lot more self-reliant. As I continuously confronted new situations and experiences, I learned a lot about myself. The greatest challenge of studying abroad was constantly being surrounded by new and confusing things: a different language, different food in the grocery store, a different city, different friends. Each country has its own way of doing things, and at times it was hard and frustrating to adapt. However, the challenge of newness and difference is what led to my ability to gain independence, as well as cultural insight.

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