Kelsey Naruse '13

Why did you decide to study abroad?K Naruse

I decided to study abroad because I thought it would be a unique opportunity to be able to travel and experience another country and culture.  I thought it would be interesting to travel and study with other students from all across America in a foreign setting which none of us were familiar.  I have also never been to Europe, so this was a perfect opportunity for me to travel to somewhere that I’ve never been before.     

How did you choose where to go?

I honestly decided to study abroad in Denmark based on a recommendation from a friend who studied abroad there during the previous year.  He could not stop raving about DIS and what an amazing time he had, and I couldn’t help but get excited as well.  After checking out their website, I found the perfect program and courses (Medical Practice and Policy).

Can you briefly describe your program while abroad?

Deciding to study abroad was probably one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made (besides the choice to attend Colby of course).  I lived with a Danish host family who had 3 children, 2 guinea pigs, 1 dog, and a cat.  They also decided to host two American students, so we had a quite a full house.  I enrolled in 5 courses (Human Health and Disease, Medical Ethics, Biology of Marine Mammals, European Storytelling, and Danish Language and Culture).  I took the train to school everyday.  I also did more walking than I’ve ever done in my entire life.  I learned quickly that everything in Denmark is very expensive, so the Danes have adopted a lifestyle that is less dependent upon driving personal vehicles; a majority of the population utilizes some sort of public transportation and walking on a daily basis. 
   
While studying abroad, I did a decent amount of traveling both in Denmark and in other countries.  One of the nice things about DIS that caught my attention was the fact that two trips were included in the tuition, one trip to western Denmark and another trip to another country.  These trips are based upon one’s core course (major academic focus); my core course was Medical Practice and Policy (MPP), and we went to Ribe and Sønderborg in Western Denmark and Budapest, Hungary and Vienna, Austria.  Traveling around Europe was an amazing experience, but I did not let that dominate my weekend plans as I wanted to spend time with my host family, which I grew to sincerely love and adore (we still keep in touch).

What were some highlights or memorable moments of the experience for you?

Some of my most memorable moments of my entire study abroad experience were with my core class.  I spent a considerable amount of time with the other students in this class since we had class together twice a week and traveled together to western Denmark and Hungary and Austria.  In addition, since we all have similar academic interests, many of us were in other classes together.  We got to know each other pretty well and had an amazing time traversing through each country we set out for.  One of my favorite memories was our dinner cruise down the Danube River in Budapest and our experience at a giant natural hot sprint in Budapest.

K Naruse 2What was your greatest challenge?

One of my greatest challenges was making friends.  Since I lived with a host family who lived an hour and a half outside the city center (Copenhagen), I did not have a ready-made group of Americans to befriend.  I actually had to put in a significant amount of effort to meet people and make friends, but luckily my core class was awesome and I met some of my best friends there.
   
Another challenge was not being able to speak or understand Danish.  Usually this was not an issue since the majority of the population speaks English.  However, it was an issue at train stations because all announcements were made in Danish.  At first, I was too shy to ask anyone for a translation and I would just get off the train if everybody else did.  However, I quickly learned to speak up and ask others for a translation; it definitely saved me several headaches.

How have you and/or your perspective changed after returning from study abroad?

I think I have made a few lifestyle and personal perspective changes upon my return to America.  I think one of the most dramatic changes that I have made revolve around transportation.  In Denmark and the greater majority of Western Europe, many individuals rely on public transportation and bicycles as their main modes or transportation because gas prices, cars, and parking fees are expensive luxuries.  I believe it to be a more economically efficient and healthier alternative to driving.  Therefore, I started to get into the habit of walking, biking, or taking public transportation.  I rarely used a car or taxi to get around – I would safely say that I used these modes of transportation less than 5 times during my entire study abroad experience.
 
What advice would you give to prospective study abroad students?

I highly recommend doing a little bit of research about the program and country before going abroad.  I did a fair bit of research on my program (DIS), but I was still surprised and learned many things once I arrived.  I did not do much research about Denmark or Copenhagen; if I had, maybe I wouldn’t have been so shocked to learn how expensive everything is.  I also recommend utilizing discount websites for travelers on a budget, including hostelworld.com, airbnb.com, studentuniverse.com, and couchsurfing.com; I saved hundreds of dollars by using these websites for booking flights and places to stay while traveling around Europe.