Passports

Dispatches from Abroad

Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010 9:59 a.m.

Updates from Chris, studying in Copenhagen

Photo courtesy of Chris Bailey

This post was written by Chris Bailey, who is studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark.

It’s been about a month since I staggered off a plane and into Copenhagen airport, more than a little jet lagged. Things have alternated between unpleasant and wonderful, but the trajectory of this semester is long and thus far it arcs toward amazing.

Though most of my classes have picked up in intensity, my positive psychology class seems to operate at a different pace. We once meditated for the first 15 minutes of class, walked over to the national church and meditated some more, and then ended the class at my professor’s favorite café, where the Danish Institute for Study Abroad paid for us to get drinks.

The school system in Denmark is all about autonomy and a belief in the ability of children to make good decisions. They call this the concept of ‘the competent child.’ Elementary school students don’t need to wear shoes, or ask for permission to go to the bathroom, to get a drink of water, or to stay in their seats. And instead of raising their hands, they raise just one finger. This last bit doesn’t sound like a big deal, but trust me—it looks unnatural.

The best thing about DIS is its focus on doing things outside of the normal classroom. With my classes, I have visited Copenhagen’s experimental ‘free society’ Christiania, listened to a female-to-male transsexual, gone to an art gallery and much more.

My semester hasn’t been all field trips and fun though. In what was one of the most traumatic experiences of this semester thus far, I accidentally spent $50 in a laundromat. I also once got caught up in a European soccer riot (which was as terrifying and wonderful as it sounds), was locked in a laundromat in the dark (not the same one as mentioned above), and, as Copenhagen is an extremely expensive city, I am constantly hemorrhaging money. So far I’ve just been telling myself that these mishaps will make great stories.