This is the “no messing around get your butt kicked as a faculty member study abroad week“. My host mate Jim and I got off to check in at 7:40am this morning with our host guiding us. It felt like my Dad taking me to school in case I got lost. The transportation in Copenhagen is clean, safe and on time. I have taken metro and train and they are very good. The rides make me wish I communicated to UIC like this every day.

IMG_1046We arrived early and checked in and met other attendees from around the United States. 44 of us started the program promptly at 9:20am.  Julie Czarnecki Scott the Director of International Relations and Jamie Cathell (pictured left) the Assistant Director set a positive and welcoming tone for the week. Expectations were made clear and we were set up to progress through the day. DIS stresses interaction and our group is no exception to this approach. We did an ice breaker, had a brief discussion about our hopes for the week ahead and shared our objectives. The notes we made were taken by DIS staff for review in the last proper session on Friday when we will revisit them and see if our hopes were realized. at the end of this session, we were split into two equal groups for our preset activities. My group was led through a 75 minute Danish language and culture class by Suzanne de Cunha Bang, Program Director for this area of the curriculum. Every semester Suzanne and her team lead 50 classes per week in this area and they take quality control very seriously.

Next we were given a crash course before moving sandwich in hand to a cavernous room in an older building for a 45 Andersminute lecture by Anders Larsen (pictured left) about the last thousand years of development of the city of Copenhagen! He did it. Anders led us on a guided walking tour of the old city of Copenhagen and several but not all the key features of the area. This was three hours very well spent. Suzanne and Anders are the kind of faculty you would want to work with. They were organized, knowledgeable, friendly, professional and did it all with a bit of humor. Ideal for study abroad students. They inspired learning in my group for sure! I am confident my Spanish culture team in Barcelona is equally as strong which makes me very happy for the students for our 2017 program.

We returned around 2pm for coffee and chat. At 2:30pm we were given a thorough 100  minute preview of the week IMG_1951-1aby DIS staff led by Malene Torp, Executive Director (pictured left). We were guided through the core class offerings, student opportunities, emphasis on undergraduate research, welfare and accommodation. DIS clearly takes its work seriously. They develop their faculty, assure content relevance, student engagement, welfare and consistently evaluate their performance. What’s not to like about this?

The final session of the day was an hour long programming fair and networking opportunity before we got our bags and traced our steps back  home for dinner at 6:15pm. Our hosts served up a Danish feast which set me up nicely to monitor an exam online a group of my students took this afternoon, respond to emails, send administrative notes, read my notes from the day and write a couple of blog posts.

What did I learn today?

  1. DIS take steps to assure very high academic standards as a matter of habit. Why should n’t we all?
  2. Do self studies and do not be complacent. Keep improving what you do.
  3. Look around and be inspired by the faculty and staff around you. There is something good to be found in their best work you can learn from and adopt.
  4. Listen to the challenges other institutions have concerning student engagement and learn how they are addressing it.
  5. Identify what you do well in your program and reuse it.
  6. Be humble and learn from all fields, from medicine to art history. Each has practices to learn content from in innovative and interesting ways.
  7. Be ambitious and do undergraduate research and don’t be frightened of a bit of effort. Get after your academic goals and prize academic content and student accomplishment as part of your program.
  8. Differentiate learning where you can. Not every student prefers to learn the same way.
  9. Use research evidence as a foundation for the work you do.
  10. Be an expert in your content and be an open minded, curious and hard working learning yourself.
  11. Teach what you do. Show the students how individuals operate in your field.
  12. Role model the behaviors you want your students and colleagues to have.
  13. Pay attention to the structure, process and outcome of your program. Attend to details. They matter!
  14. You are in a different culture embrace it and see where it takes you. See how far you can go with your cultural discomfort. Some will go further than others but all can try.
  15. Some of the biggest social questions and challenges facing societies in our time can be addressed through study abroad programming. Why not program these into your program?

Okay, I learned a lot and it is only day 1. Tomorrow I have a storytelling class, followed by a Stockholm DIS update, science and health students session, a meet and chat with two UIC students here followed by a Hygge Dinner with strangers and faculty I don’t know, in a place I have not been to before and eating food I probably have not had before. Roll on day 2!