Afterthoughts about Stockholm and Copenhagen

Six weeks here passed way too quickly!

This time a month and a half ago, I stepped off of a plane at Stockholm Arlanda Airport, collected my single carry-on from the bin above me, and began my journey through Scandinavia. Spring felt crisp still. The very first sight out of the window was a stream of green pines. The first sounds when I exited the car from the airport were of children playing in our neighborhood, the sun still watching over us at 10pm. These were my first impressions of Stockholm: expansive, inclusive, green – and covered with what felt like endless sunshine.

Waiting for me inside of our apartment was my first of two roommates (shoutout Natalie and Kate!) – who brightened up my evening immediately. She was the first person of many that I would come to know in the upbeat, insightful crowd of DIS students, and our nightly exchange of museums visited and lessons learned was something I’d look forward to all day.

I want to write this final post about some of the differences between Stockholm and Copenhagen you may observe, but also remark on their similarities. Despite their being two easily lovable Scandinavian cities, DIS is the glue that holds together the social fabric during your stay here.

I can’t deny the impact of studying abroad with DIS: the friends from all over and supportive staff truly have given me a place that I feel like I can return to. Boarding my plane to leave for the last time, I felt that wistfulness that only comes when you’re fully moved by an experience and uncertain when and where it will happed again.

So, I’m going to trace over some of the first and last encounters I had in these two striking cities, sharing some tips with future readers who I can only hope will feel inspired to come to DIS!

A few notes about getting around:

The cities differ in their walkability: Copenhagen is the small and comfortable town where walking or cycling are the dominant modes of moving around, whereas in Sweden there is more of a reliance on hopping onto the extensive train network to get across town.

However, I opt for walking wherever possible – even if the distance appears to take the same amount of time according to a Maps app. This is where you’ll discover Copenhagen’s cozy underground bars and cafes, obscured by the busy colorful streets above them, and the quiet parks that may be touting live music on the green that day. Walking affords you the benefits of discovery on the fly and also counters the possible stressors of being in a brand new place.

The basics of social etiquette:

This could also be true of people our age in Sweden, but I at least observed it more frequently in Copenhagen. The Danish build their lifelong circle of friends beginning in middle school (perhaps even earlier than that) – so it’s not uncommon to see friend groups that appear insulated to the outside. But, Danish students have been inviting and willing to share their city with us. I think it’s really important in a new country to make an effort to mesh with locals, and striking up a conversation with one of these groups is usually well-received.

Comparing academics in each city:

Academically, both of my DIS courses stretched the boundary of what I thought I was capable of achieving in just a few short weeks. During my first session at DIS Stockholm, I took on a final project that allowed myself and my team of two other students to step into Stockholm’s neighborhoods and collect data from the people living in them. We worked with the collected data and generated several models to test whether or not Södermalm or Sollentuna residents spent more time in neighborhood parks during the week.

Due to DIS being located near a handful of Stockholm’s endless parks, we would even host class in the park sometimes! Our instructor Maria introduced us to her favorite Swedish delights: delicious fika, Swedish customs of politeness and balance, and taking in as much fresh air as possible.

Then, In Copenhagen, I feel like I developed a much stronger understanding of Python programming. It’s not something I necessarily sit down and do for fun: my classes at my home university demand a certain baseline knowledge of functional programming, but DIS’s Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning course flipped my skills on their head and equipped me with the tools to get started building networks of my own.

This was truly a fascinating class with a number of motivating visits to tech startups, presentations by guest lecturers who illuminated some of the ethical implications of working with artificial intelligence, and ultimately just a great time working with our inspiring instructor Lucian, whose advice for future projects on the subject has prompted some of us to pursue artificial intelligence projects further throughout the summer.

A slide from Danni Dromi’s presentation on generative artificial intelligence. Danni visited us the week our class focused on a type of neural network that allows programmers to produce realistic looking art – or in this case, art that adopts the style of a previously recognized piece, like Van Gogh’s post-Impressionist “Starry Night”.

The two cities offer a similar rigor and quality of instruction. Our instructors were respected experts in their fields and introduced us to some of their colleagues for lectures or Field Studies.

Both have classrooms in the heart of the city: DIS Stockholm shares a building with the Royal Academy of Music, so us American students could easily interact with local students right around our age. DIS Copenhagen’s buildings meander through the iconic streets of Copenhagen’s Indre By, so checking out some of the small shops or cafes during a lunch break is super easy!

Finally, both Sessions 1 & 2 were structured heavily around group projects and problem sets. This certainly enhanced my ability to work well in group dynamics, taking on different roles each time. Conducting class in a way that allowed for everyone to take on leadership opportunities as well as contribute what they felt most confident about helped us all grow as students and people.

Selecting a city to come study in:

While I highly, highly recommend selecting one of DIS’ programs that allows you to study in both cities, I don’t think you could make a wrong decision in coming to study in either of them. Both Stockholm and Copenhagen allow relatively affordable and accessible travel between other cities around Northern Europe, including between each other.

I hope reading my posts has inspired you to take the next steps toward a summer or full semester at DIS. Or – if you are reading this as a current and soon to be DIS alumni, I can’t wait to see you again and explore these cities and more once again with you! 

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