World Class

A year in Copenhagen

Kathleen Keating at Nyhavn Harbor in Copenhagen. Kathleen Keating at Nyhavn Harbor in Copenhagen.
February 8, 2009

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Kathleen Keating is spending her junior year at Wellesley College studying child psychology in Copenhagen, where she has come to appreciate Danish hot dog stands and free university education.

ONE NATION LEFT BEHIND: "Danish students work harder. Their level and quality of education starting from elementary school is much higher than the quality in the US. They take their work as seriously, maybe more seriously than we do."

SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT: "The Danes don't pay for school and university, and they get a $900 allowance every year. They specialize in certain fields and go to certain specialized universities. The teachers are much more informal and are called by their first name. The workload seems to be much more intense. The students start college at 20 instead of 18, and are very independent, living on their own in apartments."

COMMERCIAL FREE? "There are no commercials on Danish TV! They are not allowed to advertise on children's TV as well. There are a lot of American shows that the Danes watch. 'The Simpsons' is the favorite show of many young Danes. Also, the sport of handball is huge in Denmark."

FEELING HYGGE: "There is a Danish word for socializing and getting together with close friends called 'hygge,' which none of us Americans really understand. It roughly translates to being 'cozy.' "

ALONE TOGETHER: "Christiania is an alternative living settlement where the citizens don't pay taxes and the government lets them be. It is an eclectic mix of families and people all living together, protesting the European Union and the government."

GREEN ADVANTAGE: "The trains, buses, toilets, everything is very smart and environmentally friendly. Denmark is years ahead of America in terms of green design and technology."

MIXING IT UP: "Me and a friend crashed an outdoor party in the immigrant that is next to our dorm, which was a bit intimidating at first but was an awesome cultural experience. They were celebrating the opening of a new park in their neighborhood to give the kids something to do after school and to bring the Danes and immigrant population together. There was a rapper at the party and delicious food (falafel and pita)!"