Matthew Whiting found something more than he expected in a
eye-opening experience,” he said.
an American politics and psychology major, spent the spring semester
at Denmark’s International Study Program
in Copenhagen. At a DIS picnic (right) for students,
host families, faculty and staff just before the end of the semester,
was attracted by the program’s reputation for academic
integrity, small classes and the size of the city. What
Whiting hadn’t realized, he said, was that the
experience would expand his views about government and
to the individual.
Visits to both an open and closed prison with his Scandinavian
Criminal Justice class provided Whiting a perspective
of incarceration that was very different
from the American system.
The Danish prison systems emphasize normalization. To help
prepare inmates for re-entry into society, they are in
charge of their own
and cook in groups with access to kitchen utensils, even knives.
The experience impressed Whiting, who grew up in what he described
conservative Northern Virginia.”
is not as black and white [to me] now as it was,” he said.
Visiting the prison “made me realize you need to take many aspects into
account and to appreciate the Danish social welfare system, where the government
works to benefit everyone.”
Anders Uhrskor, director of DIS, said he tells the students
at orientation that DIS is not about “just bringing the classroom to Europe, but making Europe
Europe and Denmark deal with many of the same issues in society,
politics and international relations as the United States but
often with different
have different answers to the same questions. Learning about those differences
makes you more qualified to make up your own mind,” Uhrskor said.
Field studies, like Whiting’s class visit to the prison, provide hands-on
access to leaders and their ideas in most classes throughout the curriculum.
Depending on the class and the student’s area of concentration, students
might visit the Danish Parliament for discussions with leading members, the Central
Bank of Denmark to learn about international finance from a European perspective,
Scandinavian Airlines for a perspective on the European business environment,
or the headquarters of the European Union, whose growing political and financial
influence is being felt worldwide.
A Nordic Mythology class exposes students to what it was
like in 900 A.D. to live at the Trellenborg Viking Fortress.
provide a unique view of contemporary suburban housing
for those studying architecture.
Students at DIS have a wide range of classes to choose
from in 10 programs — humanities
and social sciences, politics of the European Union, international business and
economics, architecture and design, science and health, marine biology and ecology,
molecular biology and genetics, medical practice and policy, nursing in Scandinavia,
and child development and diversity. Classes are offered during the academic
year as well as in the summer.
field studies and regular classes are taught in English by academics;
leaders in research, government
professions such as
law, architecture and medicine.
School of Commerce major Carrie Lawrence said she appreciates
the exposure to the experiences and
viewpoints of the professionals.
bring a different perspective from the real world. They make
the material more relevant,” Lawrence said.
That is the intended goal of the DIS program, according
to Niels Gottlieb, director of academic administration
In designing each
area of study, he
tries to answer the question: “How can students meet reality? How can we
expose them to reality, not just books?”
Economics major Benjamin Yaeger selected courses
in European politics and culture to complement
of his classes he
was required to write a
10-page paper that focused on independent research
and emphasized critical thinking skills.
Yaeger spent many hours in the Royal Library,
one of the many DIS-affiliated institutions in Copenhagen.
Current events played a large role in his cases
in the European Union and Russia under Putin.
enlargement of the European
Union both took place last spring, and his professors
were often the experts
quoted on the news for the Danish viewpoint.
was an exciting time to be in Europe,” he said, and added that the experience
would add immeasurably to his skills in a global world.
The popularity of courses about the European
Union has prompted DIS to organize related
is timely, Gottlieb said. “With the formation and expansion of the EU there
is a renewed American interest in Europe as a competitor, rival and partner.
It’s a new Europe, which is now larger than America.”
a longtime partner with DIS, has sent students since 1973 to
study in the program. The greatest numbers study architecture,
international business/economics and the humanities. DIS works
with partner institutions to create courses that complement their
summer, nine nursing students studied at
pilot DIS program, offered in
cooperation with the Copenhagen School
and one Curry School of Education student,
majoring in communication
and diversity program in spring 2005.
Clay Hysell, assistant dean for graduate
student services at the U.Va. School
of Nursing, is
excited about the
exposed to the theory and practice of
nursing from the perspective of Scandinavia’s
social welfare system, which provides a “nice comparison to what they see
in Charlottesville,” he said.
Although the immersion in academics is
challenging and intense, there is ample
time for socializing
Program-related study tours, which
last three to seven days and offer
political look at cities
students beyond Denmark and are an
integral part of
the DIS program. A tour to Russia
gave the students an inside
at the country
The tour included visits to the Hermitage,
Catherine’s Summer Palace, Lenin’s
tomb, dozens of churches and out-of-the-way places inaccessible to most tourists,
as well as exposure to a society in rapid change.
“Russia felt very foreign, particularly after Denmark. There were two armed
guards at McDonalds,” Whiting said.
What could be more eye-opening