Daniel Deefholts, a BA Politics and International Relations student, reflects on his term studying in Copenhagen.
Q: How did you feel when you found out that you had been awarded a place on the Study Abroad programme?
A: I was thrilled. Managing to secure a place months before the frightening reality of Brexit began to fully kick in was a big deal for me.
Q: How did you feel about your host university before you left?
A: It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study at the University of Copenhagen. Growing up, I studied at one of the lowest performing high schools in Croydon so the chance to study at one of Europe’s top-ranking research universities was a rare opportunity.
Q: Why did you apply to study abroad?
A: My dream is to build a career in government and politics in Europe, so this was the impetus for me.
Q: Now that you’ve returned, how do you feel about your experience?
A: It was undeniably the most challenging thing I have ever completed, but it has filled me with much perseverance. In hindsight, I wish I had been more prepared mentally. Living and studying in a foreign country was not easy at all; the experience was full of ups and downs, but ultimately, proved to be life-changing. I learned a great deal about myself in such a short amount of time. Overall, the experience enhanced my confidence, taught me new skills, and helped shape my career path.
Q: How was your experience adjusting to a new culture?
A: Initially, the reality of moving to Denmark did not sink in until I began interacting with the local Danes and immersing into the daily Danish life. At first Danish society seemed really laidback which would really irritate me, but then I learned to be more self-aware of the different norms in Denmark which helped me realise that social politeness was not the same as it would be in Britain.
Q: What was the biggest thing you learnt by being immersed in a new culture?
A: I realised that culture shock is normal, and I now try to be less judgemental whilst experiencing different cultures.
Q: How did you overcome culture shock?
A: By taking advantage of the abundance of opportunities that were made available to me, like learning basic Danish and utilising my university’s network of Scandinavian friends.
Q: Did you travel during your time in Denmark?
A: I got to explore Scandinavia – I went to Malmö by train and then jetted off to Stockholm. I’ve now definitely caught the travel bug, so spent last summer travelling across continental Europe to Belgium, Spain, France and Italy.
Q: How did studying at the University of Copenhagen help you with your studies back here at Goldsmiths?
A: The courses were incredibly challenging and thought-provoking. I was able to produce three research papers amounting to 15,000 words which explored my academic interests freely. These lengthy essays and intense deadlines have definitely prepared me for my upcoming dissertation.
Q: Has living in Denmark changed you or your attitudes?
A: It has made me feel more European and less restricted to the continent. It has also compelled me to improve my carbon footprint, through recycling more and investing in resusable coffee cups, as well as living a healthier and more active life. Overall it has taught me that Europe is more diverse across its national borders that it is imagined.
Q: What have you gained from the experience?
A: This has been one of the most fulfilling and hardest things I have ever done at university. This tough learning process has rewarded me with the ability to overcome culture shock with self-awareness, deal with difficult situations, realise my interest in research and world travel, and live life in the shoes of a continental European. I have gained an array of skills and a renewed feeling of confidence that I’m sure will help improve my future employability opportunities. Since returning, my study abroad experience has also led to me receiving a promotion at work and becoming the elected President for the Goldsmiths MUN!
The original article was published in Smiths magazine.