One of the many reasons why I chose to study abroad with DIS this summer is that for each class, one of the weeks is spent traveling. I wanted my trip to be a balance of real-life experiences and time spent in the classroom, so getting to go on a study tour, i.e. a week-long academic trip, seemed perfect. Up until this year, study-tour week at DIS was spent outside of Denmark in a different country. Due to the constantly changing situation with the pandemic, the program decided it was best to keep the students and faculty in Denmark instead of having to navigate international trips.
At first, I was disappointed that we weren’t going to experience other cultures and places. Since this is my first time out of the US I wanted to see as much as I could. Despite my disappointment, I decided to go into it with an open mind and appreciate the fact that we’re still able to travel during this time. After all, six months ago it wasn’t even safe to travel to my friend’s house because we weren’t vaccinated yet, so I’m very lucky that I was able to do this in the first place!
For the tour, my class traveled to Western Denmark. Our main objective was to visit different schools and get to know the Danish education system. One of my favorite visits was to a “Nature Preschool.” This preschool was in a rural area and its main focus was to let children learn through playing and discovering their natural environment. Their classroom was purposely built to be smaller than traditional preschools because they spend most of their time outside. The only time they go inside is when there’s extreme weather, like lightning! Instead of following a strict curriculum like US schools, the teachers like to center their lessons on things the children find interest in. For example, if a child picks up a bug then the teacher will explain to them and the class what it is and what it does! I was fascinated by this approach because of how much influence the kids had in their education and how it helped them establish an appreciation for the outdoors.
Another one of my favorite academic visits was to a 10th-grade program. In Denmark, you are only required to go to school until you’re done with 9th grade, which is when most students are 16. If a student decides they want to further their education, they usually go to a high school program that prepares them for college or a career. If your grades or exam scores aren’t high enough for the school or track you want to pursue for high school, or maybe you aren’t quite sure about what you want to study, you can get extra help by going to 10th grade.
This 10th grade not only had classes designed to help improve student’s academic skills, but it also had vocational programs where they could learn how to do things like welding and carpentry. During the visit, I talked to a student who was in his mid-20’s and had decided he wanted to go to college to become an electrician after working for a few years after graduating 9th grade. He explained that electrician school was competitive, so he was spending a year in 10th grade to improve his writing skills so he can score higher on his exam. I like the concept of 10th grade because it’s adaptable to student’s specific needs and gives them the flexibility to really figure out what they want to do. I think that a program like this would benefit students in the US who aren’t sure if they want to go to college or if they need help exploring career options.
In addition to our academic visits, we left room for doing fun things on our study tour too! I got to visit ARoS, an art museum in Aarhus (the second largest city in Denmark), which had a beautiful rainbow panorama that you can walk through at the top. I also got to canoe with my class through the Silkeborg river. Overall, I really enjoyed traveling through Denmark. I’m grateful that I got to see more parts of it outside Copenhagen. There is so much more to a country than its capital. Copenhagen is a busy city with a younger population. I saw the side of Denmark that was more rural, car-friendly, and people seemed to live more of a slower lifestyle. Also, since I am learning about Danish education, it was nice to see alternative school programs that aren’t as popular in the city, like the Nature Preschool! I am very excited to see more parts of the country in my study tour for my next class!