Have you thought of studying abroad? Probably, yes. However, most likely you are not sitting right now at your laptop in some European country reading this post. That means you are not using your opportunities to spend a semester at some country you've never visited, to learn about their culture and their education. Why are you still in doubt? Probably there are some questions on studying abroad which still bother you and keep you from applying for the program. We decided to help you with that and interview a student who already used her studying abroad opportunity.
Judy Su is one of the applicants of Danish Institute for Study Abroad program. She has recently got back home from Copenhagen, where she studied graphic design. She kindly agreed to answer several questions about her time spent in Denmark and share her impressions about the experience she had. We started from the most basic question:
How did you decide to apply for studying abroad?
I go to the University of Michigan, where study abroad is required for Art & Design students. I decided to apply to the Danish Institute for Study Abroad because I've always admired Scandinavian design, and because my University has a good relationship with theirs.
So, making a decision was not a problem for you. What about the application? Is the study abroad application process competitive?
To my knowledge it wasn't too competitive given our school's requirement, but the application did include questions about my GPA and required a transcript.
Next step after the application is preparation for the trip. A bit of packing advice from Judy: 'Less clothes, only pictures (no souvenirs) from home, less art supplies.'
So, your trip started and you arived in Copenhagen. What were the barriers you've faced at first?
Obviously, the language. I was lucky that in Copenhagen, nearly everyone speaks English very well. Despite that, all the signs that appear on the streets, public transportation, and in grocery stores (among many other places) are entirely in Danish, so I had to piece things together the best I could.
What about other cultural differences you've noticed?
It appears that mainly the small things you don't really think about are the most interesting cultural differences. For example, there were bicycles everywhere. It was interesting to get used to looking out for bikes more so than for cars when crossing the street. Another interesting difference is that Danes will almost always wait to cross the street until the "walk" signal is displayed. Jaywalking results in a lot of glares from those waiting.
Let's talk a bit about your studies. What subjects have you studied?
Visual Journal, Photojournalism, European Art of the 20th Century, and Graphic Design Studio as my core course.
What were the most interesting tasks/projects?
In my Graphic Design studio, we were designing an identity for Copenhagen Harbor Farming. For my Photojournalism project, I had an assignment to photograph someone Danish for the semester. We also went for field trips for European Art and Graphic Design. For European Art, we went to Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek to look at their Gauguin collection.
Did you get writing assignments while studying in Denmark? What kind of them?
Besides being an official blogger for the school, I also did some writing for classes. They were pretty standard papers; I took an art history class, so the majority were for that class.
Do they have strict plagiarism policy in college? Does it differ from US plagiarism policies?
Yes, but my school was a school specifically for study abroad students, so they followed standard US plagiarism policies. I can't imagine plagiarism rules would be any different in other countries.
You've posted weekly plans in your blog. Did they help you manage your time?
The weekly goals were more for me to make the most of my time while I was abroad. I wanted to make sure I didn't miss out on anything that I wanted to see, because I didn't know when I would ever be back.
What helped you make your studying more effective?
I always found it difficult to get things done in my room (I was sharing my room with two other girls), so I would go to the school and finish work up there.
By the way, Judy described her accomodation at Copenhagen on her blog.
(quote) 'The three of us share a bedroom. There are also two bathrooms in my hall. There are people on the floor who have singles too, and all of us have keys to our individual rooms. My building is much more apartment style, so you are living independently… Keep in mind though, there are some DRCs that are more dorm style. Some of the building rules can be a challenge to get used to, especially if you’re used to living in a house or off-campus. In a DRC, you will have an RA, and you will have to follow rules regarding quiet hours, chore rotations, and guests.'
Would the experience of studying abroad be relevant for your future profession? In what way?
Oh, absolutely! I studied graphic design as my core course, and learning about it through an international lens is such a valuable experience. It makes you much more aware of the background and perceptions of your work, and I'm glad I was able to learn it this way. In addition, I was just exposed to so much that's different from what I used to see in the States. That definitely helped for drawing inspiration.
On her return home in Michigan, US, Judy wrote on her blog: Things here seem kind of like they always have, and it’s only the little things that remind me my semester in Copenhagen wasn’t just a dream. So, we decided to ask Judy:
How would you describe your Copenhagen time in just one sentence?
Going abroad was one of the most exciting and eye-opening experiences I've ever had.
As a final question, please, give some advice for all the students who are considering to study abroad.
Just go for it! I have never heard of anyone who regretted going abroad. Once you're there, make sure you make the most of your time. Studying abroad is such a great opportunity, and you won't want to miss a thing!
Thanks, Judy Su, for such an inspirational advice and interesting interview! Hopefully, the thoughts of this cheerful design student will change minds of our readers and help them make the right decision on studying abroad.