Studying Scandinavian Style

Alice Logan, English Literature and American Studies, University of Copenhagen

After completing the first half of my semester abroad I thought I’d do a blog post on the differences between studying in England vs Copenhagen, as the scandi culture seems to have a massive influence on the way that the Danes study and has changed my approach to studying.

South Campus looking very pretty in the sun ☀️

Module Choices 

One of the biggest differences that studying abroad at UCPH offers is the broad range of modules available to study.  The university actively encourages cross-department studies to broaden your degree and the vast range of subjects covered is very impressive.  As I study English and American studies at Manchester I choose to study predominantly American focused modules, taking Language and Politics, Contemporary American Politics: The Trump Administration Unfolds and a Masters level course in Society and Politics in a Changing World Order (which focuses on America’s international position).  For anyone considering UCPH from the Humanities department I genuinely can’t recommend it more highly, especially for American Studies students, as two of my professors are leading contemporary researchers in their fields and the modules follow the most recent publications and news coverage from America which has proved to be invaluable for my degree and understanding of American politics.

Work Load

I had heard from previous study abroad students that the teaching and learning style in Europe was very different to that of the UK so I think I was prepared for the differences so didn’t find it too overwhelmingly.  The “lectures” that you are assigned to for each module are actually more of a classroom-style seminar/tutorial and the class sizes are similar to year two modules with about thirty students in each class.  Timetablewise the teaching hours were very similar to Manchester for me, and this semester I have ten hours of teaching per week.  However, one of the big differences I have personally found was the enormous amount of reading required for each module.  Most weeks we are set two or three chapters per  module which does add up if you don’t keep on top of it.  However, because you don’t have many teaching hours there is the expectation that the reading is completed for each class to allow you to participate (a requirement specified in all my modules) and the Danish are very, very up on their reading, so definitely no slacking in the reading department!

Processed with MOLDIV
Drowning in this term’s reading…

Campus Culture 

As well as being relaxed in their learning style the Danish are way more chilled out when speaking with their professors and generally being on campus.  The weirdest thing on campus that I can’t get used to is there preference for china mugs over paper cups.  Everywhere you go on campus you see students and teachers walking along with china mugs of coffee and tea which for the British is a health and safety hazard waiting to happen.  However, the danish prefer it because its better for the environment and they’re very into saving the planet which is  cool so I have tentatively embraced the china mug.

Also, as part of our induction day the head of department explained to us the history of Danish universities and why professors are always referred to by their first name rather than formal titles.  In the late 20th century there was a move towards better equality in academia and the universities took on board students’ advice that the hierarchy in academic teaching was impacting how they responded in the classroom.  As a result teachers are referred to by their first names to establish equality with their students and create an equal classroom where the exchange of ideas flow between everyone without a position of power.  The Danish are very big on emphasing the exchange of ideas between intellectuals in the classroom and the equality of this has been very interesting to experience.

Exam differences 

The type of exam is very varied at UCPH, and the Danes tend to favour presentations as all or part of your overall grade.  All of my modules require a presentation and they are worth 25% and 100% of my grade in two of them.  Having never had an examined presentation at Manchester, this has proved quite daunting as I’m not a natural public speaker, however it has been enormously helpful in pushing me out of my comfort zone and I know it will definitely help me in the long run even if I hate it at the time!

There is definitely a more relaxed feel to studying here as well which seems to stem from the laid back scandi culture.  The Danish students do work very hard and are always on top of work, but what is noticeable is their distinct lack of stress. I’ve noticed, especially regarding coursework, they are more laid-back in their approach to deadlines and were certainly less stressed than I was for my first essay! It was nice to experience their less-stressed approach to assignments and is definitely something that I am going to try and copy moving forward this side of Easter.

Speaking of Easter, don’t count on your four week Easter break to return home and see family and friends and have a break.  Much to my dismay, we only get one week’s holiday over here which I managed to stretch into a ten day home visit, but definitely didn’t feel long enough compared to all my friends relaxing for weeks on end! However, the only good thing about that is you don’t have the dreaded Easter revision as you still have another eight weeks of teaching until exams start so not all bad.

Overall, I think it has been a great opportunity to experience a completely different style of teaching and learning here in Copenhagen and I would encourage anyone thinking of studying abroad to give it a go as it allows you to develop both personally and academically.



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