Scandinavian Studies


Natasha Robinson '11 of Melrose, Mass., recently returned from spending her fall semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. Although her major is English/communications, Robinson has minors in anthropology and health, aging and society. She decided to study in Denmark to gain a new perspective and to delve deeper into anthropology in a way not possible in the United States.

"Denmark had a fascinating program called 'Migration and Identity' that I thought would compliment both my fields of study. Being a homogeneous society, as well as a Scandinavian welfare state, I was intrigued by the society and culture. I'd heard that Copenhagen was progressively 'green' and way ahead of the U.S. in terms of quality of life, so I was curious to go and attempt to understand why and how this small country seemed so advanced," Robinson said.

She studied at an American institute, the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, located in the center of Copenhagen, living in a "folk high school," which is similar to an American-style dormitory. The facility is rich in Danish tradition because of its focus on social well-being, rather than grades and tests.

Later, Robinson decided to move in with two young Danish professionals because, "With them, I was able to get a better idea of how Danes live and work."

The classes she took and the travel she embarked on were the best part of Robinson's experience.

"My core course, 'Cross-Cultural Encounters,' took us on a week-long stay in Istanbul, Turkey, where we met with asylum seekers and simply experienced the grand history of its mosques and people. My class also took a short study tour to Sweden for both academic and adventure purposes," she said.

During a two-week vacation, she spent a week in Ireland, visiting her grandparents and cousins. Robinson spent the second week in in London with another MCLA senior who happened to be abroad, Brittany Shea '11.

"London was my favorite city, and Ireland was just as beautiful as ever, apart from the constant rain. I chose to spend the two weeks apart from friends in Denmark because I was just starting to feel homesick, so I needed the time with people I knew and loved, which helped me not only look forward to returning to revisit family soon, but also to return to MCLA for my final semester," she said.

Her MCLA experience helped her to prepare to study abroad.

"Being able to experience learning outside the classroom, through my volunteering and service learning course, as well as experiencing a different teaching style, has made me able to more quickly adapt in my learning environment in order to take on the challenges of being in a different country and academic setting," Robinson explained. "The positive thing about the education system in Denmark is that they encourage lifelong learning, which is a focus on socializing and real world experience, so I felt experiencing that helped me understand a new way of broadening my own realm of what constitutes learning."

She recommends that all college students study abroad: "Stepping outside of your comfort zone is beneficial to your perspective and to your entire learning experience, both personally and academically. Don't hesitate if you're thinking about it, just go."