How Studying Abroad In Denmark Taught Me More About Myself Than About Statistics

By Jade Johnston

I would wake up early in the morning to try to get some of the hot water for my shower, before the rest of the student dorm residents woke and used it all up first. On my way to the University, I knew it would rain. It rains 1 out of every 3 days in Denmark – although to me, it felt like it was raining every day. I was not enjoying myself at Aarhus Universitet.

Studying abroad in Denmark

I was 20 years old and I had moved to Denmark to study abroad for a year. I chose Denmark simply because it was the only school that offered exchanges for students in my faculty (math). I arrived in Denmark and was suddenly confronted with a land of polar opposites. A buzzing and exciting social scene with the other exchange students, to the unfriendly dorm (where no other exchange students lived) that I was allotted. A fun and engaging Danish language and culture course, and a series of strange statistics courses where I was (in my third year) put into PHD classes because they were the only ones taught in English.

These ivy covered halls of learning REJECTED me! At least the statistics part of it did…

I found myself spending as much time as I could away from Denmark. Almost every weekend I would jet off ala Ryan Air to somewhere, anywhere else in Europe with other exchange students. My bag was always half packed.

To say the least, I did not really enjoy my time in Denmark. Why was I here?

Despite going from a straight A student, to failing every course but one (a sociology course) – my time in Denmark taught me more than any other time in my life.

I learned that I do not enjoy studying Statistics. In fact, the only class that I regularly attended was my Sociology course. All the rest I either avoided, dropped out off, or simply failed. (Sorry U of M)

I learned that I needed to take a break from academia. After taking a much needed year a half off from University, I went back, changed my major to Sociology, and threw myself into my studies with a passion I had never before experienced. I graduated four months later on the honour roll and on a first name basis with many of the professors who encouraged me to continue my studies further.

I learned that budget travel was fun and exciting. My first ever hostel experience was in Copenhagen on a field trip with the language course. It was my first experience as a “backpacker”, and also my first awkward experience with communal showers. (Which I later learned is not actually that common in hostels…). I spent my first night on the cold, hard floor of Stansted airport with two exchange student friends on our way to Norway, and quickly learned the value of a sleeping bag. I discovered culture and language barriers and spontaneity. (Let’s go to Spain for a week…. ! Why not? It’s not like I go to class anyways… )
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I did not enjoy my time in Denmark, as much as I enjoyed my time outside of it – exploring Europe with other exchange students.

We went to Norway instead of to class

But without my bad experiences with academia in Denmark, I would never had found my passion for Sociology.

I would have never realized that I needed to take a break from school in order to give myself enough time to really figure out what I wanted to learn.

I would have never discovered my passion for travel.

Sometimes, as a traveller or exchange student, we find that a place just does not live up to our expectations. But it’s important to remember that that’s OK. You learn just as much, if not more, when your expectation are challenged, than you would if you were loving every moment.

Denmark taught me how to “let go.”

I had to let go of Statistics.

And in doing so I learned something way more valuable than probability theory – I learned that it is OK when things don’t go the way we think they are supposed to. There is always a silver lining. For me, it was learning to love travel, and even more importantly, finding the subject that I had the passion to study.

Even though my time studying abroad in Denmark may look like a failure on paper (I only transferred 1 course back to Canada), for me it was a huge success.

Sure, I didn’t enjoy myself as much as I would have liked to, but the things I learned about myself greatly outweigh that.

I wonder what my life would be like if I had never gone to Denmark. Would I have ever travelled to Europe? Would I have finished trudging through my statistics degree? Would I now be sitting in Australia writing this travel blog…..  probably not.

Thanks Denmark. 


23 thoughts on “How Studying Abroad In Denmark Taught Me More About Myself Than About Statistics

    1. I was OK at it for the first two years, but Im glad Denmark kicked my ass and made me drop that line of study – imagine how different my life would be if I had a stats degree!


  1. Interesting with foreign eyes on ‘my’ old university. But there’s something wrong with the statistics – It doesn’t rain 1 out of 3 days here in Denmark. Max 1 in 4, and right now the sun is shining;)


    1. Haha! I’m pretty sure that I was told 1 – 3 in our induction there, but my brain may of screwed the information because I perceived it to be raining all the time 😀


  2. Statistics make me cringe.

    It’s interesting, as I sit here reading your post I’m about to start the 2nd semester of a 2 year MA in Communication and Cognition here in Denmark. I’m based out of Copenhagen vs. Arhus which also seems to make a bit of a difference.

    So far I’m less than impressed by my courses, but mostly because they seem to be (i’m still waiting on my grades), much easier than expected. They are also far too large (about 30 people) for a MA course, and heavily based in powerpoint lecture vs. application and discussion. My grades last semester were only based on one final 15 page paper/w 30 minute oral defense, and 20 page paper. It’s a weird system. It’s a system that seems to work for the Danes, but for me I’m generally unimpressed and uninterested in it. At least my core material is good, though I expected it to be more communications focused and it has ended up being more cognitive psych/neuroscience. Whoops.

    The experience as a whole though here in Denmark has been amazing. I’ve fallen in love completely with Copenhagen and the Danish people. As long as I make sure to take my D vitamins.

    It has also been an amazing opportunity for self development and growth. As well as a launch pad for further exploration of Europe (leaving for Turkey in 2 days).

    It’s a real tribute to how study abroad is different in some ways for everyone, and very similar for others. One thing remains constant, we all almost always walk away with amazing learning experiences.


    1. I think being in Copenhagen would make a huge difference! The city just has a lot more to offer and a lot more people live there! I had a great time in Denmark for the first time of the year with all the great exchange students I met, but they were all there for a semester while I was there for a year.

      I did so badly at my courses, and was really unimpressed with my courses, and I decided to drop out. But that was actually the best thing I could have done because after that I moved to Edinburgh and probably had the BEST TIME OF MY LIFE there.


    1. Thats a really great mantra to have. If it wasn’t for Denmark I would never have learned to love travel, and I wouldn’t be where I am now – connecting with other awesome travellers while in Australia! It’s amazing!


  3. So cool that you were able to study abroad like you did. I only wish I had done the same …

    Sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy Denmark too much but wonderful to know you learned so much about yourself and what you liked/didn’t like.


  4. I can totally relate with this post. I studied in Italy last summer. I learned more about myself and what I want out of my life than I did about art. I did however absolutely love Italy and cannot wait to go back. I’m sorry you didn’t love Denmark.


    1. I would still go back to Denmark though – especially for the Roskilde festival. 😀 I want to study abroad again though…. Im thinking of studying Spanish in Spain.


  5. I think it’s not Denmark that you dislike. It’s more of your situation – studying the course that doesn’t make you interested. But still, I commend your optimism. I guess life’s like that. Something might be a bad experience but at lease you learned something valuable from it. And that counts the most.

    I’ve been with some Danes on my travel to Malaysia for few days, and they are the nicest I’ve met so far. They are inviting me to visit Denmark when I will have my Euro trip last quarter this year or early 2013. And yeah, they are always talking about Roskilde Festivallen. So I need to plan out carefully my itineraries. I can’t wait to see them again in their country.


    1. You are totally right. It was more the situation, and not the country. But I did learn so much during my time there, and wouldn’t change anything about it.

      I would love to go to Roskilde some day! Its one of Europe’s best festivals!


  6. Hi, interesting to read your post. Thinking about studying in Denmark as I’ve heard other great things about the level of education and the country. Can you recommend any website for furhter information?



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