These are a few of my favorite things

February 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Things I love/observations about Denmark, categorized for your convenience:

As someone with severe decade-identity disorder (as in, I feel I was born in the wrong decade), I super appreciate everything that is like a throw back here:
1) You can walk alone at night… I still am wary about this but that’s how you do it here
2) Barely any cars, just bikes (lots and lots of bikes) and trains
3) Little kids ride the subway by themselves… and I mean really little, like 6 years old
4) People don’t even lock their bikes to anything, they just put a lock through the spokes to make sure the wheels can’t turn
4) Minimum of prepackaged and fast foods
5) People leave their babies outside in carriages when they go shop! So there is just a carriage with an infant sitting alone outside a shop… I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that…

Speaking of children
1) Baby strollers here are supersized. I haven’t snapped a photo yet but here’s a representation I found online:

2) All the little kids wear onesie snowsuits. Makes my heart melt. Once I saw this little boy, he was very young, just starting to walk. He had on a onesie snowsuit with a hood, and he was waddling around trying to walk. He looked like a starfish because all his appendages and his head were the same length. So cute! Take a look at this picture I creepily took on the train (of a different child… click the image for bigger):

3) Parents transport their children around in three wheeled bikes (like tricycles except the two wheels are in the front) with these big wooden boxes that can old up to four children (typically you see two or three children). Again, not a photo I snapped but one I googled (I’m not a surreptitious enough creeper to get the pics of these bikes while kids are in them…)

And finally, classes. I know I haven’t spoken yet about my classes, but this is a post of lists… better description of each of my classes will come next post
1) All my classes are slated for 2 hour blocks. However, class doesn’t really start until 15 minutes into the block, and then you get a 15 minute break in the middle. So say a class is from 2pm-4pm. The class actually starts at 2:15pm, then the professor lectures until 3:00pm, at which time you get a 15 minute break until 3:15pm, and then lecture resumes until 4:00. So class really only is 1.5 hours.
2) This would not be too weird except that all my classes only meet once a week. So that’s only 1.5 hours of a subject a week
3) Furthermore, a full course load here is considered 30ECTS (their units). BUT most classes are 10 or 15 ECTS. For instance, my food and identity class is worth 15ECTS, yet it only meets once a week for “2 hours” (really 1.5 hours). This means to be a full time student, you could technically only take two courses, each worth 15ECTS, and only have class for 4 hours (really 3 hours) a week. Crazy.
4) Also weird is that all the departments and classes are running on different schedules. For instance, two of my classes started the 5th week of the year, but my psychology class (along with all psych classes) didn’t start until the 6th week. A sociology class my friend is taking doesn’t start for another two weeks. A corollary of this is that all the finals are at different times.
5) Speaking of finals, those are the only tests of knowledge during the whole semester. No quizzes, no exams, no problem sets. Finals typically consist of either a paper, or your choice between a paper and an oral exam, or a paper and an oral exam. For my food and identity class, I have to do an oral exam and a paper. For the oral exam, I am given a topic then I have half an hour to prepare, then I go in and get quizzed (they call it a “discussion” but it’s hard to “discuss” when a grade/reputation/pride is on the line) for another half an hour. Not all oral exams have a prep time component.
6) I know that at home classes are technically optional, but here they really are optional. (Since I am such a straight edge I of course go to all of them.) The attitude here is you should do whatever you think benefits your learning, and if that is not going to class, then don’t go. In fact, in one of my classes last week, the professor said, “Oh, there probably aren’t any Danish students here today because the 7th week is a popular week to go skiing.” He didn’t even seem perturbed at this. Just like, oh yeah they are skiing.
7) I think this fits in with the fact that school is based very much on self motivation. You only have class once a week because you are expected to do outside learning. You only have a final exam because you are expected to keep up and learn the material on your own time. Your classes are optional because it is your responsibility to manage your learning.
8 ) Finally, I get the impression school/jobs/careers are not the be-all-end-all that they are in the States. It seems very few students’ lives here revolve around school, and I have gotten that impression about people’s careers as well. Yes, school and jobs are a part of life, but that’s it– they are a part, not a defining whole.

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