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Carls embrace a different pandemic reality in Denmark

Despite the cancellation of all Carleton Off-Campus Studies programs for Fall and Winter 2020, Carleton was able to offer a study abroad program to students through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) in Copenhagen, Denmark. Fifty-five Carleton students took advantage of the opportunity to study in Denmark this term, and the program will be extended to Winter Term as an alternative to returning back to campus after the break.

Since he had never been abroad before, for Luis Alvarez ’22, the opportunity to study in a country that boasts vastly fewer cases of COVID-19 was one he could not pass up. 

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Denmark was quick to enact a lockdown and enforce social distancing and mask requirements. Having done this early on, and with the adherence of its citizens, Denmark was able to contain the spread of COVID-19 effectively. In just mid-April, Denmark began to partially re-open. 

Since then, Denmark has continued to effectively contain the spread of the coronavirus, although they have seen a spike recently. Denmark’s success in curbing the coronavirus pandemic made it safe and possible for Carleton and other students to study abroad in Copenhagen.

The curriculum of DIS Copenhagen aligned perfectly with Alvarez’s academic interests, which include psychology, biochemistry and neuroscience. Alvarez is currently enrolled in three public-health-themed classes that all meet face-to-face. These classes not only line up with what Alvarez is interested in, but are also extremely relevant to the state of Denmark and the state of the world.  

An added bonus is the great relationship with professors at DIS. Alvarez describes these relationships as his favorite part of studying abroad in Denmark. 

Similarly, Talia Orenstein ’23 decided to study abroad in Denmark because of the opportunity to take in-person classes. Orenstein hasn’t declared a major yet, so she said she appreciates the breadth of subjects offered at DIS, which allows her to  continue to explore many different interests. In addition to two healthcare classes and an anthropology class, Orenstein is taking Danish to  help her better learn and connect with Danish culture. Although Alvarez and Orenstein are both participating in the same program, they take different classes and participate in different extracurricular activities, which speaks to the breadth of DIS Copenhagen. 

Denmark has been doing well enough at controlling the spread of the coronavirus that students at DIS get to participate in an academic study tour. These tours provide hands-on opportunities to put into practice concepts learned in the classroom. The tours take students to different locations throughout Denmark, where they also have the opportunity to meet and learn from experts in their respective fields of study. Another goal of the study tours is to deepen understanding of Danish culture. Alvarez’s study tour included visits to other cities in Denmark such as Aarhus, Odense, and Svendborg. This provided firsthand experience related to the discipline of the class as well as an opportunity to explore parts of Denmark outside of Copenhagen.

Alvarez says that his days largely consist of “planning what I will eat during the day because I am always hungry and looking for new places to visit, studying for class, and spending time getting to know some Danes and Carleton students too.” 

Because of the relatively safe state of Denmark, Alvarez and the other Carleton students attending DIS Copenhagen are able to use public transport and explore Copenhagen. Museums, restaurants, parks, and other attractions are all open for students to visit. 

Alvarez noted that “compared to the U.S., where there is a clear lack of leadership from people in positions of power, Denmark has remained relatively safe in regards to COVID-19.” 

According to Alvarez, people in Copenhagen largely adhere to public health guidelines like wearing masks, and keeping distance. He also added, “I am not too worried about contracting the virus because I am always using hand sanitizer, I limit the use of my devices outside of my apartment, and DIS has a good system in place in the case that somebody contracts it.”

Orenstein also noticed the difference in severity of the coronavirus between the U.S. and Denmark. She said, “life with COVID in Denmark feels like a bit of a breath of fresh air from the U.S. since Danes tend to follow the restrictions that are in place to keep them safe.” 

Orenstein takes advantage of the sense of normalcy Denmark’s COVID-19 situation provides by learning and experiencing Danish culture. She participates in a food club, goes on field trips around Copenhagen, and goes “swimming with the winter bathing group that me and some other Carls are now a part of. The group meets every morning to jump three times in the cold canal, followed by chatting and coffee-drinking.”

The students agree that relative safety from contracting the coronavirus has allowed for an enriching study abroad experience. Not only do they have the opportunity to take in-person classes and explore Denmark, but it is encouraged. 

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