Rediscovering my Passion for Biology and Embracing Danish Culture

In my previous blog, I discussed how the summer session’s departure from the traditional classroom structure has transformed my approach to learning. The primary purpose of my participation in this summer abroad program was to help determine my future path, and this new learning method allowed me to discover my genuine passion for biology.

While I had always known that I wanted to pursue a career in biology due to its research opportunities and freedom from a rigid 9-5 office routine, after two years at Bates I started to doubt if I actually liked the subject or if I even had the skills to cut it out in this field. However, my professor Inger Kærgaard rekindled my passion for the environment, showing me that biology entails more than just exams and papers. It involves getting hands-on experience, observing ecosystems firsthand, and actively engaging with the environment. Her teachings made me realize what kind of thesis I wanted to do and the type of internships I want to pursue in the future. I feel a complete turnaround from that person who entered this program on the verge of giving up on biology.

Our class looking at the marine samples we collected in Kosterhavets National Park

Inger also used the class to teach us about the politics and government structure in Denmark. Coming from the United States, where the focus is primarily on our own country, it was eye-opening to learn about different types of democratic governments and gain a fresh perspective on how a country can operate. Denmark’s political system, with its collaboration between parties and emphasis on listening to the people, is inspiring. It was refreshing to see that, unlike in the US, science is not up for debate, but rather respected and valued. This experience made me realize how important it is to respect scientists and their expertise, rather than engaging in constant arguments. While I don’t fully understand Danish politics, this introduction provided valuable insights that I can carry into my studies in the U.S.

Surprisingly, the most memorable moments of my summer program did not come during our free time but rather while exploring various habitats and collecting data in the field. Despite the program’s short duration of three weeks, we had ample opportunity to get outside and explore numerous locations in Sweden and even the surrounding parks in downtown Copenhagen. From going to Faringen Lake in Sweden to visiting the Botanical gardens in Copenhagen.

A trip to Copenhagen University Botanical Garden.

Our program was not solely focused on science; we also delved into the history and culture of Scandinavia. We celebrated Midsommar and learned about an ancient Swedish structure called the Blomsholm Stone Ship, which was used to honor the deceased and facilitate their journey to the afterlife.

Classmate Logan explaining the Nordic meaning behind the Blomsholm Stone ship.

Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised by how easily I made friends. Even though not everyone in the class was a biology major, everyone actively participated and was open to conversation. Spending a whole week traveling, living, eating, and studying together created a strong bond among us. Some of the most memorable moments involved stepping out of the classroom environment and getting to know each person’s unique background and personality.

Our wonderful class dancing at Midsommar

Furthermore, it was fascinating to witness how Danes prioritize and value their free time. This emphasis on leisure allows individuals to be more invested in their work, as they are not burdened by the pressure of working long hours. They can enjoy their lives and create a work-life balance. In contrast, American culture often revolves around the notion of working tirelessly until retirement. Our tour guides and teachers highlighted the Danes’ love for free time and socializing, which is evident in the city’s architecture designed around the people, prioritizing pedestrian-friendly areas over cars. This aspect of Danish culture made me realize how vital it is to have time outside of work and how American society tends to view people solely as work machines, neglecting their personal lives. The US can undoubtedly learn a great deal from Danish culture

We also got to meet a gigantic lobster which is always a plus 😉

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