Copenhagen, an Architecture Student’s Dream: Q&A with Aashna, Parsons School of Design

Aashna, Parsons School of Design, spent her junior year scrambling for a solution so she could study abroad. Her college doesn’t usually let students study abroad senior year, but she was thrilled when they made an exception. Having been interested in Danish Architecture and Design for much of her undergraduate career, Aashna found her perfect match in DIS. Now studying with the Urban Design Studio Core Course, Aashna has been able to explore much of what Copenhagen, and Denmark, has to offer.

We sat down with Aashna to learn a little more about how her fall 2021 semester in Copenhagen has been coming along so far:

DIS: Why did you choose DIS, and what has your journey leading up to studying abroad with DIS been like?
A: One day, I was on my laptop scrolling through random YouTube videos, and I came across one of the DIS Yearbooks. The yearbook had compiled what it truly felt like to a be a DIS student, from having a lot of fun moments with new friends in the city, to going on Field Studies to places in Copenhagen that add to your major, to immersing yourself in a new culture and moving out of your comfort zone. It truly looked like the place I wanted to be.

My journey leading up to this semester abroad has been an emotional rollercoaster to say the least. I had always wanted to study abroad in Copenhagen, but when the pandemic hit, I knew my chances got much slimmer. My school only allowed us to study abroad in our junior year so my last chance was the spring semester of 2021. I tried my best to go that semester, however, a week before our flight to Denmark in January, the Danish government changed their travel restrictions and was no longer allowing international students into the country. I was devastated. I felt like I had lost my chance to study in Copenhagen, which I believe is one of the dreamiest cities for an architecture student. The summer came, and a glimpse of hope re-appeared when my school made an exception for juniors to study abroad in their senior year. I took that opportunity in a heartbeat. Throughout the process, DIS was very helpful. It truly felt like they understood my situation and catered to my individual experience. When I landed on the Copenhagen Airport, a tear literally rolled down my eye (I don’t cry very often). It felt like one of the most unbelievable moments of my life. I’m so thankful that I did end up making it here because Copenhagen’s become my favorite city!

When I landed in Copenhagen, a tear literally rolled down my eye (I don’t cry very often). It felt like one of the most unbelievable moments. I’m so thankful that I did end up making it here because Copenhagen’s become my favorite city!

DIS: What is one thing you have heard about that you have been wanting to see?

A: My favorite architect of all time, Bjarke Ingels, is Danish. So, when I came to the city, I had a set agenda that to see all of his buildings. So far, I’ve seen the Mountain House, one of my friends lives right next to it so it’s very surreal to see it right in front of my eyes. On my bucket list, is CopenHill, and Noma, the three Michelin starred restaurant (even though that might bankrupt me).

Another one of the biggest things on my bucket list has been to jump off the ship from Islands Brygge. The catch is that I don’t really know how to swim in deep water so a few of my friends have been teaching me how to tread water. Hopefully, by the end of the semester, I’ll take that leap (sadly, in freezing water because it will be December).

DIS: What has been the most surprising thing about Copenhagen?

A: One of the most surprising things I found out when I came here was that Copenhagen was just rated the safest city in the world. As a woman who just came from New York City, where I had to be super careful with walking home alone at night and reevaluate each outfit before I went out, this was the happiest news I could have gotten. Every time I take the bus or the metro late at night here, I don’t feel the same sense of dread as I used to in the other cities I’ve lived in. Even though you still have to be careful, it’s freeing to live in a city where I can be a woman and not have to worry about being attacked.

Mønten Kollegium (pictured, left), The view from Aashna’s window (pictured, right)

DIS: Where are you currently living?

A: Mønten Kollegium. One of my favorite homes that I’ve lived in. This is a picture of one of the windows in my apartment at the Kollegium. As an architecture student, I really appreciate the double height windows with the view to the beautiful inner courtyard. For the first few days when I was jet-lagged, I would wake up early in the morning and just watch the sunrise from this window. So, I have a lot of different memories associated to this home already.

DIS: What Core Course did you choose, and what have been some of the highlights so far on this Core Course?

A: My Core Course is Urban Design Studio. Recently, we went on our Core Course Week which was split up into two parts. In the first part, we went on a bike tour for 8 hours where we explored courtyards and public squares all over Copenhagen. It was super exciting to explore the city on a bike and look at the different spaces and scales where the public areas really make the city whole. During the second part of the trip, we visited a few different places in Western Denmark, some of them being Aarhus, Kolding, and Odense. One of my favorite parts of that trip was visiting the Fjordenhus by one of my favorite artists, Olafur Eliasson and seeing the masterpiece in person! One of the coolest things about this building is that all the bricks were custom-made for the project and a specific order was decided by him.

One of the more unexpected things I ended up enjoying was a 10 course dinner meal that we had in Aarhus. It went on for three and a half hours and every minute was worth it, the food was so delicious. It honestly was one of the best dinners I’ve had in my life!

DIS: Has studying in Denmark been different from studying in the U.S.?

A: I actually believe it’s a lot different than studying in the U.S. The educational format stays the same with DIS where we have lots of different assignments that account up to our final grade. However, I believe DIS provides a platform where you can actually go out and explore your major in the practical world. For me, going on Field Studies to the public spaces and buildings in the city helps add the extra layer of depth in my understanding of the concepts we are taught in class.

In terms of student culture, I believe Denmark is better because of how liveable the city is. Back home, my school is in New York City, which is obviously one of the most daunting places to live in because of the amount of buildings, people, and not a whole lot of decentralization of spaces. Whereas, Copenhagen has a lot of spots in the city where you could go and destress such as the trampolines integrated on the sidewalks, or the parks, like Amagerstrand, where you can sit by the water. To me, Copenhagen feels more accessible as a student because its a city, but on a much smaller scale.

Aashna, center left, at a soccer game in Copenhagen

DIS: What have you gotten out of your semester in Copenhagen so far?

A: I have successfully:

  • Traveled in public transport alone (as simple as that sounds, it scared me for a long time).
  • Eaten Danish Smørrebrød (did not love it) and Danish Pastries (best pastries in the entire world).
  • Biked in Copenhagen without dying.
  • Said ‘Tusind Tak’ (thank you very much) every time a stranger asks me something in Danish.
  • Used the trampolines on the street for a 5 minute workout everyday.
  • Figured out which milk to buy in the grocery store without having a nervous breakdown every time.
  • Embraced Danish fashion and wear a full palette of muted colors now (black, white, and beige).
  • Been to a Danish football match, where every time the Danish team scored a goal, everyone threw their beers in the air. In my game, they scored five goals, yay for my clothes!
  • Made friends and memories that I will always cherish.

DIS: If a future student were to ask you for advice about going abroad to Copenhagen, what would you tell them?

A: Take the leap and immerse yourself in the environment. This past month has honestly been the best month of my life, as I’ve had a lot of opportunities to grow as a person. In the first week when you arrive, everything is daunting, and you feel like you’re completely out of your comfort zone. However, conquering that fear and moving forward in a country that is unknown to you really strengthens you as a human being. When you arrive, don’t come in with a set mindset of how you want things to be. Be adaptable to change and deal with situations as they come your way. Lastly, bring a black rain jacket, get used to saying tak (thank you) a lot, and don’t be surprised when you see potatoes on a pizza (It’s not as bad as it seems).

Learn more about DIS:

>> Take a look at all the semester courses at DIS Copenhagen

>> Check the @DIS.copenhagen Instagram for more stories like Aashna’s

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