When you are looking at potential exchange destinations, you might be weighing the pros and cons of the climate, language, culture, among other things.
You may not be putting academics at the top of your list – an exchange year is when you go on crazy adventures and experience things you never did before, right? (Also, your grades don’t matter since you just have to pass the classes…)
However, in this post, I want to focus on the academic life in University of Copenhagen (spoiler: I am liking it), and how the positive study environment enhanced my overall exchange experience.
What studying at University of Copenhagen is like
*this may depend on your department – I am studying International Relations, in the Political Sciences department
First, the English courses are taught at the master’s level. So, a bachelor’s exchange students would typically take the same modules as a Danish master’s student; a bachelor’s student just receive more credits than a master’s student.
The thing that put me off at first was the incredibly low contact hours. A typical Political Science course only has one 2 hour lecture per week, and no tutorials or seminars.
That’s it! Each course is usually 10 ECT credits, so you would take 3 courses per semester. I am taking on some extra credits, and even then, I only have 8 hours of lectures per week.
I was skeptical of this at first, as I was not sure how much I can learn with such little contact hours. However, the lectures here are different from the ones in Edinburgh. In my department, the Edinburgh lectures were designed to give as much information as possible in 50 minutes; interactions between the professor and the student were minimal.
On the other hand, the lectures here feel more like tutorials – the professor gives lectures in classrooms, rather than lecture halls. The courses I took have typically 20 to 30 students, so no microphones are used. The professor interacts heavily with the students, by asking questions, facilitating discussions, and other activities you might otherwise expect in a tutorial.
I personally enjoyed this setting, which allowed genuine interactions with the professors. And because one professor oversees a smaller number of students from beginning to end, I get the general feeling that they like to teach and care for the development of students (maybe I was lucky, but I never had a “bad” lecturer here.)
The final assessments were also closely supported by the professors from the initial stages, which is opposite to the Edinburgh style that prioritises anonymity over personalised feedback.
The little contact hours do have its downfalls though – for example, I only meet the same classmates once a week, so it is hard to build a friendship unless I actively follow up and make efforts outside of class.
In addition, having a fruitful discussion depends on the students’ preparedness by completing the hefty load of assigned readings.
However, the little contact hours also mean that if you pick the courses so they fall on the same days, you free up some days to dedicate your time on something else.
Personally, this made me develop myself by picking up hobbies I have abandoned, as well as being more responsible with my free time. There was more time to explore activities and volunteering that led me to develop meaningful skills, rather than spending hours half-productively sitting in the library like I was in Edinburgh.
The studying environment in Copenhagen was more enjoyable and stress-free because the study time was concentrated; and I came out of lectures feeling like I learned something, though the overall time spent in lectures were less.
Don’t overlook the academics when choosing an exchange destination
Academics (and perhaps the host university in general) is an important part of your study abroad that may be underestimated. I have heard from peers in other destinations that enjoyed the culture and opportunities in the country, but the academic aspects have downgraded their experience.
I also had presumptions about the learning experience in Copenhagen due to the little contact hours. However, I realised less contact hours do not mean that I am expected to learn everything by myself. In fact, I feel a lot closer to my professors here because we engage in many two-way dialogue between professor and student. Therefore, it is helpful to ask people who have actually studied in the host university before deciding on a destination.