My STEP signature project was a study abroad program in Denmark. This project entailed studying social neuroscience and introductory medicine while interacting with the students and faculty. Also, it involved exploring the city of Copenhagen and interacting with the local population.
Academically, I feel much more comfortable engaging in classroom discussions as well as speaking to professors. I enjoyed how, in Denmark, everyone calls professors by their first name, and everyone knows everyone in the class. The classes that I took put a lot of emphasis on participating during class as well as getting to know your classmates. Also, as a class, a lot of the time we would go out after the classes ended and explore the city, which has never happened in my experience in the US. I also enjoyed the Danish people and I believe I now care less about what people think of me than I did before participating in this STEP signature project.
A common activity after class during both sessions was playing a board game at the Bastard Café, which was a few blocks away from where the classes were located. As we were all Americans and none of us knew each other previously, it was nice to have a group to hang around with, a lot like freshman year of college. During college, I spend a lot of time studying for my pre med classes, but I also spend a lot of my time volunteering in clinical settings and service settings, and at academically oriented student organizations. Because of this, my time to hang out with friends is typically scarce, and not all that laid back. Chilling out at the Bastard Café, while drinking a beer and playing some random board game was so relaxing that I will try to alter how I spend my time during the school year to fit in more relaxing time with my friends.
One thing that I love about the Danish people is how little they care what you think about them. This is abundantly clear with their public display of affection. One occasion that sticks out to me is when I was shopping for groceries at Netto, and there was a young couple in the liquor isle making out. Now, this was a bit odd coming from America, where pda is somewhat of a taboo. However, I really respected how the couple just thought, ‘Hey, I want to make out now’, and they just did. They weren’t concerned with getting weird looks from other shoppers; they just did what made them happy. Another aspect of this that was great was that none of the other shoppers cared that much. They seem to have a complete “You do you” mentality, which is something that I hope to take back with me to the US.
Spending time with Danish doctors during my second class was very interesting. Much like the professors, their patients and their other co-workers know doctors in Denmark by their first name. I found this very interesting, as it reinforced the idea that no one is better than everybody. I feel as though it could be more effective as a method of treatment as well, as there is a phenomenon known as the white coat syndrome, in which patients are nervous about being around a doctor, so sometimes their heart rate and blood pressure can rise to abnormal levels. I really enjoyed how down to earth all of the doctors were that I met, and I plan on acting similarly when I become a doctor in the future.
Studying abroad in Copenhagen was a great experience and many of the lessons I learned will stick with me for the rest of my life. My time at the Bastard Café will remind me to always leave time for relaxing with friends. This will keep my relationships strong and keep me from burning out because of a high workload and high stress. Personally, I really liked the “you do you” mentality that the Danes had, and think it could be the key to their reputation as being among the happiest people in the world. In the future, I will just do whatever makes me happy, and not worry about what anyone else thinks. Professionally, I enjoyed the laid back attitude of the professors and doctors in Denmark. When I am working as a physician, I will employ this same attitude. Also, in my classes I am usually one of the smarter students, and I sometimes will act snobby toward my classmates. My experience hanging around with down to earth doctors and professors made me realize how much better interactions are if no one acts like they’re better than anyone, so I will act accordingly in my classes. In conclusion, I learned a lot in and out of the classroom in Denmark, and I am very grateful to STEP for allowing me to have such a great experience.