2019 Spring Denmark DIS Giovanny Zapata

The Ins and Outs of the DIS Program

Fair warning: this is a lengthy post meant to inform readers on the DIS Program. This program is a possibility for any and all students, so definitely give it a thorough read!

I know I’m happy I found out about DIS in time to apply, so hopefully you will be, too!

When I finally made the decision to study abroad during for semester, I was immediately overwhelmed with the myriad study abroad program options out there. I knew from the start that I did not want to participate in a Temple University program. Basically, I had three criteria: I did not want to know the culture, I did not want to know the language, and I did not want to know anyone. Sounds ironic that the unknowns that cause fear for most students going abroad is what attracted me! Therefore, going abroad to be surrounded by a majority of fellow Temple University students did not really appeal to me, so I decided to look at approved external programs.

After a quick walk-in appointment, the Education Abroad advisor and I narrowed down the option to DIS. With over 800 external programs, the advisor was able to use all my preferences and helped me filter through those programs to find the one that best fit my needs and expectations for a study abroad experience. Due to the lack of Temple students who have studied abroad through DIS, the advisor and I both decided to research more on the program after our appointment. After being in Copenhagen with DIS for 3 weeks now, I quickly learned how coveted this program is elsewhere globally and that is why I’m bringing light to it as I believe this program caters to any student in any major, no matter what career path you are on (especially to all you fellow STEM, pre-professional track majors)!

DIS: The Basics

A short 5-minute walk from DIS, I was able to visit the famous Nyhavn canal in Copenhagen! Photo taken by fellow DIS student from Haverford College, Abby Singer.

DIS stands for the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. Located in both Copenhagen, Denmark and Stockholm, Sweden, students can decide on either location for the Fall or Spring semester or decide to a mix-and-match for the summer (meaning you would stay in one city for half of the length of the summer program and stay in the other city for the other half). In Copenhagen, DIS is located right in the city center, so it’s within walking distance to many areas of interests!

DIS: The Academics

Unlike other external programs, DIS is its own entity. It is not a part of a university. Instead, classes take part in multiple buildings within the same area in the city. The way it works is a student applies for a core program. This is the main program the student is in. There are over 26 different programs that a student can apply to and they do not have to relate to your major! I decided to participate in the public health program called Health Delivery and Prioritization. After selecting a core program, students must select at least 3-4 electives to fill their schedule. These electives can be in anything. This is why I find this program very accessible for any major, as I can fulfill my Temple General Education requirements, take courses for my minor, or even take courses for my major.

The classrooms are filled with fellow students who study in an American institution back home. I word it like this because several students here are actually considered international students back in the United States, as they are studying abroad in America from their home countries, so they’re doing a shorter-term study abroad within their long-term study abroad, if that makes sense? I think it makes sense, so let’s move on! Our professors are not only Danish (they do teach in English), but they are also professionals within the subject they are teaching. So, many of our professors are CEOs of companies, renowned entrepreneurs, award winning scientists, or hold other credentials exceeding those of many American professors, in my experience. In fact, the professor for my Health Beyond Borders class has experience as the Director of the Danish Red Cross International Department; the representative of UNFPA in Afghanistan, China, and DPR Korea; and the Chair of UN System Theme Group on AIDS/China. That’s really cool! She’s also very funny, which is a bonus.

DIS: Housing

My roommate, Tony from Vanderbilt University, and I decided to make a traditional Danish dish called smørrebrød for diner one night!

DIS Students have the option to apply for housing through DIS or do self-arranged housing (i.e., Airbnb). Almost all students decide to go with housing through DIS because DIS offers many different options. The different types of housing include Kollegiums, Homestays, Rented Rooms, Residential Communities, LLCs, and Folkehøjskole ($5 to whoever can pronounce that one haha). Applicants complete a housing questionnaire and essay about their living habits and what they’re looking to get out of their experience in order for DIS to best match them with a housing option. Almost all housing options include single rooms or up to 7 other roommates. I stay in a Kollegium, which is common around Europe. These are buildings that house not only DIS students, but Danes and other international students, all ranging in age groups. This has allowed me to meet other DIS students and also local students in the area. For Kollegiums, all of our roommates are American, but if you also have flatmates, they are Danish. Even better, not all of your flatmates are of the same gender, so it really opens up students to that openness that is found in Europe. In order to avoid going too much in-depth for all of the options, just know that no matter what you’re looking for–a more immersive experience, building a community, or meeting people with share interests–DIS does an amazing job at placing in you in housing that fits your needs best. All information on housing can be found here: https://disabroad.org/copenhagen/semester/housing/

Say you’re like me, and you want to live with other students, but you still want to meet families in Denmark; DIS offers a visiting host program, which matches you with a family in Denmark. You can do many of the things that a Homestay family would do. For example, they might show you around Denmark, take you to historical places, or share traditional meals together, but you just don’t live with them. I met with mine twice already, and I love my visiting host family!

DIS: Unique Features

Remember when I mentioned choosing your core course? Well one of the most defining features of DIS is the core course, which includes long course travel weeks. Being in Scandinavia, DIS takes pride in making Europe a part of the classroom for its students. So, of course, DIS is going to make sure you explore Europe while you’re here. During the core course week, students travel with their core course to Western Denmark or Sweden for 3 days, during which they visit and participate in activities related to their course. For my core course, we are visiting rural emergency wards and talking to general practitioners (similar to our Family Doctors back home) to learn more about the Danish healthcare system. Of course, DIS also provides time for cultural immersion with planned out events for the students. Then, in March, we have our week-long tour. This is where all core programs will travel to one or two other countries with their professor and classmates for an entire week. For my core program, we are going to Finland and Estonia! I am ecstatic for this because I think these are countries I probably would have not otherwise have visited while abroad, so it is nice that I am going to experience both. Like the core course, the purpose is to learn outside the classroom and also to get a cultural experience. Our professor already told us that we’re going to a bath in Finland and participating in a polar plunge while there. Am I ready for this? Probably not. Am I going to do it? OH, absolutely! All included in your tuition.

This is me participating in a Homelessness virtual reality experience at Khora Virtual Reality in Copenhagen

Classes either occur on Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays. Classes are all 90 minutes long. Wednesdays are reserved for what is call field study days. Usually per class, there will be 2-3 field studies in a semester. This means instead of meeting in a classroom, students will go meet the professor at a location in the city and participate in activities that relate to the course. For example, this past Wednesday for my Identify Lab course, we all visited a virtual reality company and spent 2 hours testing out different virtual reality experiences. This related to the course as it dealt with conflict amongst identities, so we were testing how empathy can play a role in relating to other identities and resolving conflict and how virtual reality is becoming a key player in today’s world. These field studies are all included in the tuition and allow students to not only really learn outside the classroom, but also explore Copenhagen at the same time. I know I personally never attended anything like this in Philly and I’ve been there for 4 years now.

With DIS, all students receive a transportation pass to use on the public transportation system. This includes buses, metros, and trains. Also, all students receive a food stipend card to use at local groceries. All students receive $600 US dollars on these cards and it’s very convenient as many of the inexpensive stores accept the cards (shout out to you Netto)! Lastly, DIS handles everything in relation to obtaining the student VISA, in terms of providing a sim card for a Danish phone plan, and making sure students are aware of the opportunities provided by DIS and Copenhagen.

DIS is a prestigious study abroad program known worldwide and I am grateful to just be at the beginning of my journey. Do not feel pigeon-holed to common study abroad programs. Do your research and explore the options that are out there! For way more in-depth detail on DIS, click on the following link: https://disabroad.org/ Stay tuned for what Copenhagen has in store for me next week, our core course week!

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