Surprisingly, but not surprisingly, much of what you do during a semester abroad is studying and going to class (yes, shock).
While spending a lot of time with your head in a book or writing articles doesn’t sound like a glamorous way to spend your limited time abroad, the courses students can take with DIS are more interactive and don’t follow the conventional course structure.
Throughout college, I had spent a lot of time struggling with the fact that I had come to disdain learning. Doing homework, completing projects, and studying for tests felt demeaning and sometimes unnecessary because I couldn’t relate what I had learned to anything that seemed meaningful to my goals. Often I didn’t know if that meant I was studying the wrong degree or that college was not something for me. The result was utterly debilitating burnout, and it was nearly impossible to do homework, complete projects, and study for tests. Unfortunately, for many of us, it’s not an unfamiliar feeling.
During the summer before my first year, I knew that the burnout was so bad that I absolutely had to change. So I made some big decisions about how I was going to finish college and make sure I could do it in the best way for me; 1) I was going to pursue a second degree (Medical Humanities), 2) I was going to spend an entire semester studying abroad, and 3) I was going to take an extra year to make everything possible. I agree that, yes, these are important and difficult decisions that have a big impact on my graduation schedule. Which seems counterintuitive compared to the exhaustion and exhaustion I felt at the time. But looking back, I’m pretty sure the alternative was completely abandoned. So I’m honestly grateful that I was able to find a solution that worked for me.
But where it takes me right now is spending a semester in Copenhagen during my fourth of five years studying biomedical engineering and medical humanities. And the courses I took this semester ultimately resulted in a well-rounded course curriculum that includes material from each degree. As we are about to pass the milestone of final exams and projects (and think about what the next semester will look like), I have become grateful for the difficult decision I have made (especially in the middle of a extreme exhaustion).
Since my study topics are a bit unconventional (or at least I haven’t met anyone crazy enough to do it yet – I’m patiently waiting), I thought I’d talk about some of the courses I take, why I chose them and how they turned out.
Medical biotechnology and drug design and development
The name of this course is a mouthful, but so is the name “biomedical engineering”. So I find it appropriate. This course (my foundation course) focuses on the development of pharmaceuticals and their interaction with biotechnology that impacts or participates in the pharmaceutical field. Our course material focused heavily on the clinical trial process, mechanisms of different pharmaceuticals, immune system response, and current pharmaceutical development and research in Denmark, the United States, and Europe. However, a significant portion of this course actually takes place outside of the classroom. As this is my main course, our class traveled through Denmark and Portugal, where we met experts from different areas of the field, learned about the variety of research going on, and gained a comprehensive understanding of all the different roles that impact health care through medicines.
After feeling so much turmoil and dissatisfaction with this degree a few years ago, I am relieved that this course has provided a real insight into what medical biotechnology looks like and how I could participate in the field with my knowledge. I chose this course because of its connection to international biotechnology, but I made so many connections to different skills and topics related to biomedical engineering that I could not have anticipated. Honestly, really validating and reaffirming my choice to pursue my studies while turning it into something that I feel satisfied with. Especially with the amount of dedication it took to do a semester abroad, I was washed away with a sense of relief that I really enjoyed this course and my peers (I highly recommend taking this course if you are an incoming DIS student studying something close Not only is the course interesting for students from different academic backgrounds, but the teachers are exceptional and you have fantastic study trips.)
Taking this course was obvious to me since medical ethics is an important subject in the medical humanities. There were plenty of opportunities to take this course before studying abroad at my home university (and I probably should have done this before taking 400 level courses, but I digress) . However, I am so grateful to have been patient and to have taken this essential course abroad, as it deals with medical ethics within the American and Danish healthcare systems. Overall, it helps me deepen my understanding and practice of bioethics while comparing how values within ethics are cultivated and viewed by different societies. This course is taught through theoretical application to case studies and group discussions or practical activities.
Danish language and culture
When I was most hesitant and nervous about taking this course, I was entering my final year and still needed language credit, so I thought now was better than more late. Learning languages has never been (despite my best efforts) my strong point, and I knew that Danish would be a difficult language to learn. But I hoped that being around written and spoken Danish would help, and I found that it did. This course helped me learn enough Danish to feel somewhat connected to my environment.
However, learning the language is not the only thing we do in this class. Emphasis was placed on learning about Denmark and the historical and modern culture of Copenhagen. At the beginning of each lesson, our teacher allows time for questions about things we notice or are interested in outside of class. We’ve covered everything from elections and politics to social culture to family dynamics and events happening around Copenhagen. Occasionally we will do field studies in parts of Copenhagen that help to better understand the history and culture of Denmark. At this point, I know a handful of random facts or interesting things that I didn’t expect to know at the start of this course.
So my ending message is yes, you will need to take classes and study while abroad. I know that’s not what I want to do all the time here, but honestly, it’s not that bad. Classes are enjoyable and interactive, departing from the rigid structure typical of classrooms. The work we do for the class and the commitment to spending time in class is exceptionally careful to ensure that students still have free time to enjoy Copenhagen, Denmark, and to be in Europe. Study trips and field studies even incorporate some of these explorations and experiences into the courses.
What I found most important was that I would take courses that contributed to my degrees and that I simply found meaningful to my interests. And being close to the end of the semester, I can say that my intentions have been fulfilled.