Authored by:
Zoi M.

Zoi M.

Because it’s Cute, Loud, and Somewhat Obnoxious – Kinda like Me

That was how I responded to my academic coordinator when he asked me why I wore so much yellow. I thought he was going to choke on the birthday cake he was eating. Actually, it was a cake woman he was eating – a traditional Danish birthday cake, which really isn’t a cake at all. It’s called a Cake Woman, and she’s made up of cinnamon roll-like pastries and covered in gummy candy, complete with licorice hair and a face made of fondant.

Back to the really insignificant conversation that started this whole blog. Rasmus was right about me wearing frequently wearing yellow and I had never thought about it. Maybe it is because it’s cute, loud, and somewhat obnoxious, maybe it’s Hawkeye pride, or maybe it’s just my color. The point is,
the academic coordinator of the program and myself cross paths enough for him to notice what I wear.

I suppose for me to write about my academics, I should first explain how they’re set up for the semester. I attend a CIEE Global institute, which means my classes are divided up into 6-week blocks. Every six weeks students have the opportunity to travel to a new country or stay where they’re at. This means that in six weeks, an entire semester’s worth of material is taught, midterms & final exams are taken, and assignments are turned in. Every six weeks I say goodbye to newfound friends, and hello to others. This semester, I’ll have had three separate midterm weeks and three separate finals weeks rather than one potentially-hellacious week for each ‘holiday,’ - I am still trying to decide which method I prefer.

I chose to stay in Copenhagen for all three blocks to really absorb as much about the culture and daily life as possible. Mom and Dad, don’t act surprised when you read this next part – I'm also keeping my eyes peeled for potential job opportunities and taking advantage of any networking opportunities that come my way. I would absolutely love to work for an international company where I could travel and experience life from all different lenses. One of the coolest parts about staying in Copenhagen for all three blocks with CIEE, is that I am apart of CIEE’s very first Copenhagen program.

This comes with its perks and quirks. For instance, this program is small, which has allowed us all to get to know one another as peers, students, and friends. We’re also fortunate that our staff is massively accessible and almost family-like in a lot of ways. I have also joined the Student Representative Council (SRC), which is an extremely important role especially because this program is in its infancy. The council meets once a week to talk about not only how current students are doing, but how we can improve the program for the coming blocks, as well as the semesters to come. Because of the program being so new, there have been minor communication errors in terms of planning out of class time and excursions, but these issues have been worked through with ease and speed. Our class sizes being so small has allowed our professors the ability to take us out of class to go on excursions to museums, speaking panels, or other events throughout the city. Almost weekly, we are out of the classroom and in a new setting to learn. Denmark has literately become our classroom thanks to CIEE and our professors.

So far, I’ve taken International Marketing, the Study of Scandanavian Happiness, International Management, Survival Danish, and Vikings in the Conquest of Europe, with the Literature and Life of Hans Christian Anderson and European Immigration right around the corner. I’m also working towards obtaining a certificate in Applied Intercultural Sensitivity; a brand-new certificate offered by CPH Business Academy. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but my professors have been AMAZING. The Scandanavian Happiness professor – a political scientist and researcher at the Happiness Research Institute (yes, it’s a real place. No, it’s not filled with puppies and candy – I was disappointed too). My Vikings professor – an archeologist and researcher for the National Museum of Denmark. My business professors – both have winding histories both within and outside of their respective disciplines that know loads of people and have tons of experience in the fields. My Danish professor – well honestly, I don’t know much about the man, he talked about his band and having interviewed the Crown Prince for TV, so I’m fairly certain he’s more important of an individual than he was letting on,  which just made the class that much cooler. We honestly are lucky students.

While we are lucky students, we are not Danish students, nor did we have a complete understanding as to how the Danish school system works and that was panic-inducing for a slight moment. We weren’t used to being able to use the word “I” in a research paper, just as our professors weren’t used to having multiple graded assignments throughout the course. It’s common for Danish students earn one grade for the entire course, and it’s given after an exam which can be a 72-hour case study preparation, an oral exam, or some other creative way of testing applied understanding. Multiple choice exams or really any other cram-and-knowledge-vomit capable exams are nearly unheard of. We were adjusting as students to much stricter grading while our professors were adjusting to more American-like teaching methods. This has made homework and class preparation much more stress-free – maybe it has something to do with the high importance placed on work-life balance (learned that one from my Scandanavian Happiness class). We still have homework and pre-class readings, but almost everything is done  with the intention of coming to class and discussing our findings with critical thinking and applied understanding. This means that I can download my readings, hop on my bike and plop down anywhere in the city to do my class-prep. There are a ton of parks (or maybe just a few large ones that I’ve entered different gates into and never noticed) here in Copenhagen – King's Garden, the Botanical Gardens, Tivoli Gardens, Ørsteads park, and the list goes on. The craziest most culturally different part about studying here versus in The States is the fact that when I walk into a coffee shop, it’s alive with chatter, people laughing with friends – the ratio of people sitting alone with their laptop to those with friends is quite distant. It’s not the pin-drop quiet other than the espresso machine, filled with stressed out, sleepdeprived, probably balding students.

I have three roommates – two of which are business students. We live about twenty minutes outside of the city center by bike, in brand-new apartments with a lot of space, that we’ve made very hyggely (the first step of becoming Danish, is understanding the word ‘hygge’). It’s encouraged by our professors that we do the readings together and talk about our findings together.

So if I'm not in a park reading, I’m usually at home working on class-work, but I have decided that coffee shops in Denmark are strictly for drinking coffee with friends.

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