Denmark - My Incredible Semester Abroad: Erin Hill, Environmental Resource Management

Posted: October 17, 2014

My experience abroad was an amazing learning and cultural experience. It is one that I will never forget and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity.

This past spring semester I had the pleasure of attending the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) in Copenhagen, Denmark. At DIS, students take what is called a core class, which was the base of my studies there. My core course was called Sustainability in Europe. The other classes I took included Environmental Economics, Biological Conservation and Biodiversity, Waste Management Systems in Europe, and Leadership Across Cultures. Each class was great and I learned so much about the environmental thinking within Europe and worldwide. This really opened my eyes to new ideas and different ways of learning. 

A large part of DIS was field studies or field trips with our classes. With my core class we had the chance to travel to Sweden for the weekend and parts of Germany for a week. During these field studies and trips we had the opportunity to listen to speakers, visit organizations, and see green infrastructure initiatives such as green roofs, solar panels, and urban planning projects. I learned all about Germany’s wind energy and Denmark’s environmental forward thinking with their Climate Adaption Plan.  In fact, Copenhagen was the Europe’s 2014 Green Capital.  One of the highlights was that I got to climb a 50 meter wind turbine! Denmark has large onshore and offshore wind farms, which supply Copenhagen’s district heating.

One of my favorite parts of my experience was living in the Green House, which is a part of a Living and Learning Community offered by DIS. As at part of the Green House, tenants cooked a vegetarian diners together on Wednesdays with food from the local co-op or CSA. At this dinner we would have a guest that would provide a discussion topic for the evening.  It was really fun seeing what veggies we would get for the day and then have to think up a meal with what we were given. Discussion was a great bonding experience and an opportunity to share ideas and learn from one another. As a house we also took field trips and a weekend camping trip to Svanholm, a sustainable community with an income sharing economy that is dedicated to organic farming.

Erin HillThe reason I chose DIS and Copenhagen was because I wanted to experience something new and different, for not many people think about Denmark as a place to study abroad, and in the end I could not be happier with my decision. When I first arrived it was very cold and dark, the sun set around 4 o’clock! I came to find the Danish culture was not what I thought it would be, but I came to love the culture and even the weather. A huge part of the culture is focused around biking and in the city it is the main form of transportation; there are more bikes than cars! I rented a bike for the semester and loved exploring the city with it. In the evening I enjoyed taking part in the Danish concept of “hygge” which translates closet to coziness where we would light candles, have tea and a snack, and just sit around, talk and be together. The Danes for sure know how to relax and enjoy life.

Besides my studies I made the most of my time in Europe by following my passion for travel and adventure. I went to amazing cities like Prague, Budapest, Florence, and Rome and got to hike in Bergan Norway and see the tulip fields of Holland! Through all this traveling I gained greater independence and confidence in my abilities to navigate and communicate with others. Experiencing all these different cultures made me appreciate my own culture and way of life and I gained a greater respect for differences. As Denmark’s Hans Christian Anderson said, “To travel is to live” and in the future I plan to do just that and continue to expand my knowledge in the environmental field!