I was a first year student reading Cultural Studies at Leeds University, developing my interest in art, literature and architecture, learning to critically analyse major paradigms in cultural theory (language, subjectivity, sexual difference, and commodification). I heard some friends discussing the Erasmus Programme – something I’d never come across before. It sounded so exciting, but naturally I assumed it was an opportunity aimed only at students who would be undertaking a year in industry as part of their degree (which I wasn’t). I thought nothing more of it at the time. A week or two later, still intrigued, I did some research and was surprised to discover that I could apply.
It was a ‘lightbulb moment’ for me – I’d enjoyed travelling during my Gap Year and here was a chance for me to study pretty much anywhere in the world, government funded! Since we were in the middle of a recession at the time, I was in no real hurry to enter the working world, and completing a year abroad meant I would graduate with an ‘International’ degree – something I felt was well worth the wait, and would surely help me stand out from the crowd.
Scandinavia appealed to me from the get-go; I’d heard such great things, and it felt like a manageable distance from home. I was delighted when I was offered a place at my first choice – Copenhagen University - to study Danish Culture alongside English and American Literature.
I applied for housing through Copenhagen university itself (with the support of the Study Abroad office at Leeds university), which involved filling out a survey ranking your main priorities – things such as cost, location, and preference of who you lived with. I was delegated a shared flat in a complex inhabited by both International students and local Danish residents, but others lived in Danish halls of residence at the university – there are options for everyone. Luckily, my flatmate and I became really close, and I made a lot of friends with people from all over the world who I still speak to today!
I soon discovered that the majority of Danes speak impeccable English, and as such, my classes were very well taught. I enjoyed an array of interesting modules, in particular ‘Literature of the Harlem Renaissance’, ‘English and American Postmodern Writing’, ‘Holocaust and Representation’ and ‘Danish Cinema’. I was assessed not only through written essays, but orally in presentations, and also on my attendance to class. Despite only needing to pass the year, I definitely threw myself at my studies and felt like I really engaged with the programme and with my Danish peers. I found the University itself was extremely welcoming, organised, clean, stylish and efficient - much like Copenhagen itself, really! The library even had hammocks! I was assigned a Personal Tutor who monitored how I was progressing throughout the year, and my lecturers were always on hand if I had any questions or concerns.
Aside from studying, I explored the city on my bike, and visited Sweden too. I worked part-time in a busy, multicultural restaurant, wrote a personal blog and fashion articles for Leeds Student Newspaper – something which encouraged me to apply for and secure the role of Style Editor when I returned.
It was the best year of my life so far. I wholeheartedly loved living and studying in Copenhagen - in my opinion one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in the world. It was the first time I felt I’d truly done something by myself, for myself. I couldn’t recommend the programme enough and my advice would be not to let the opportunity to study abroad pass you by – I almost did!
Olivia Lowden, Erasmus Student
University of Copenhagen