Enjoying some of the great opportunities our university offers, many UIC students decide to escape Seoul for a semester or two and go on a study abroad program. The list of choices features universities from all around the world with many interesting cultural experiences. How can one make the right choice?
Trying to answer this question, I caught Michaela, who spent a semester in the beautiful Copenhagen, and asked her to share her experience studying abroad.
Where did you go as a part of your study abroad semester?
I went to Copenhagen in Denmark. The university I chose was the University of Copenhagen.
Why did you choose this particular place?
I always wanted to spend some time in one of the northern countries, anywhere in Scandinavia really. Mainly because it is a little different than living in North America, Asia or the continental Europe and I have lived in all of these places before. Also, I wanted to experience living in a welfare state, enjoy biking and so on. Stockholm felt a little too big for me, Norway would be too cold, so I ended up in Denmark.
Did you ever regret this choice?
Not at all. I wish I went for two semesters instead of one.
Did you have any bad experiences, any surprising events you could share?
No, I liked it so much I did not want to leave.
Can you describe one best experiences from your semester abroad?
One day, for my friend’s birthday, we went to these amazing old royal hunting grounds, with a huge forest called The Deer Forest. Close by was a beautiful hunting lodge and also one of the oldest amusement parks in Europe. We bought a bunch of groceries beforehand and found a nice little area and had a really enjoyable picnic while looking at the ocean. Later we returned nearby Copenhagen and went to one of the beaches there. We swam in the sea and grilled a delicious dinner. It was so nice!
How would you compare the people in Denmark to Korea? How did they behave towards you as a foreign student?
It was actually quite similar to Korea. Since Denmark has a very small population and similarly to Korea it is a very homogenous society, it’s really obvious if you are a foreigner. But once you get to know people, I think they are generally pretty welcoming. In my case, I worked at a café/bar, so I had more opportunities to interact with other Danish students compared to most international students there. There is not really a sense of people being automatically friendly to everyone, but if you need help, they tend to generally be very responsive. I would say that if you make the time, you will be able to meet nice friends. Denmark also has great social security benefits for foreigners. I had no problem with part-time work or healthcare, so systematically I experienced no big difficulties.
How were the classes different from UIC ones?
I mainly took classes from the English department, so they were all in English and didn’t have that many exchange students. The classes there were similar to CLC classes and covered pretty standard literary topics – for example, Shakespeare is everywhere. However, I also took an archeology course, and there the classes focused on true hands-on experiences. We went to a lot of excavations, took several trips and got to do a lot of outside of class experiences. Most of it focused on actual field work. I remember the trips to folk museums. There, I even learned how to use a Viking loom, how to weave fabric, pull thread… That was very different from UIC.
What would you advise to students deciding where to go to study abroad?
I think it all depends on your priorities. If you want an academically enriching experience, it’s best to look for specific universities that offer courses you want to take and maybe offer what you cannot get here.
If you consider studying abroad as more of a life experience, which is more common, it is important to think about what kind of differences you want. Do you want to visit loads of museums and exhibitions you can’t see in Korea? Then maybe Paris, London or Vienna is great for you, as there are many great student-friendly cultural opportunities. For nature, you can go to maybe New Zealand, Denmark or Sweden.