From Gothic to Nordic

Duke Students
3 min readApr 17, 2023

By Kai Chen

I studied abroad in Copenhagen last semester through DIS Copenhagen. Copenhagen is gorgeous! The colorful buildings, the cozy cafes, and the endless green spaces all make for the perfect European vibe. As soon as I got off the plane, I knew I was in for an incredible adventure.

Photo of a plane wing through the window
5 minutes before landing in Copenhagen

As someone who is passionate about foreign languages, I was stoked to dive headfirst into Danish culture and start learning the language. The Danes are all about hygge (coziness), and the language has fun words and phrases you won’t find anywhere else. Plus, the locals were super patient with my attempts to speak Danish and were always down to teach me new words, as is the case with pretty much everywhere else I’ve been to in Europe.

Taking economics classes in Copenhagen has been a unique and enriching experience. One key difference between these courses and those at Duke University is the practical approach to learning in Danish economics classes. Through field trips to France and Belgium, I saw firsthand how economic principles are applied in real-world contexts. Traveling to those countries as part of one of my economics classes gave me invaluable insights into different economic systems and policies and how they impact societies. This hands-on approach to learning economics allowed me to directly apply the knowledge I gained in class and see its real-world implications, a departure from my classes at Duke that did not typically involve field trips. Another notable distinction was the informal relationship with professors in Denmark, as I could address them by their first names, creating a more relaxed and approachable learning environment. This unique blend of practicality and informality in my economics class in Copenhagen has broadened my perspective on the subject and enriched my overall learning experience.

A group of students posed in front of the Eiffel Tower
Our class picture

But the best part? Getting to travel all over Europe! Copenhagen is such a perfect home base for exploring other countries. I hopped on trains and planes to visit cities like Hamburg, Amsterdam, and Paris. It was amazing to see each culture’s differences through their architectures, and I love to explore those cultures through their nature, and oftentimes, museums as well.

Small lamb laying on the ground
Little baby lamb at a farm near Amsterdam (left), a smørrebrød (right)

Back in Denmark, I loved exploring all the cool neighborhoods of Copenhagen. From the hipster vibes of Nørrebro to the quaint streets of Christianshavn, there was always something new to see. And the food? Don’t even get me started. Danish pastries, smørrebrød, and hot dogs (yes, hot dogs) were some of my favorites.

And let’s not forget about the people! I made some of the coolest friends during my study abroad program from all over the world. We bonded over our love of travel, languages, and hygge, and we still keep in touch today.

3 students on a small boat
From left to right, Agia from Indiana University, Tyler from Oberlin College, and me!

Overall, my study abroad experience in Copenhagen was one for the books. I got to immerse myself in a new language and culture, travel Europe, and make lifelong friends. If you’re into languages and travel like me, I can’t recommend studying abroad enough!

Kai is a junior and a third-year @Dukestudents intern. They enjoy learning foreign languages, playing ukulele, fine dining, traveling, and stargazing, walking without a destination in mind. They are double majoring in Economics and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

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