What Makes the Biggest Impact? Q&A with Owen, University of Minnesota

Owen, University of Minnesota, struggled to find time to study abroad between conflicts in his busy school schedule. He ended up realizing that studying at DIS during the summer, where he could tailor his own experience was actually perfect for him.

We sat down with Owen to find out a little more about how his experience in Copenhagen turned out:

DIS: Why did you choose to spend your summer with DIS in Copenhagen?

Owen L: For the entirety of my college career I didn’t think it would be possible to study abroad. Every semester I had large commitments and even my summers would get filled quickly. My dream was always to study abroad in college, but I came to terms with the reality of not being able to give up that much time.

Then, last fall, I was sitting in my advisor’s office and saw a catalog that said: “Spend your Summer in Scandinavia.”  I picked it up, flipped through a couple of pictures and instantly fell in love. There was practically a five star menu of classes to choose from. You could pick what you wanted learn, where you wanted to learn it, and how long you wanted to stay (3 week intervals). For dessert? A week-long Study Tour! It had to work. How could it not!?

DIS: Why did you decide to take a photography course in Session 1 and a course on the visual culture of cities in Session 2? What have been the highlights of these courses?

Owen L: Back at home, I am majoring in strategic communications and minoring in design. Looking through all the classes for Session 1 and 2, I was in search of classes that would help me better understand Copenhagen and truly integrate me into the city’s everyday life. Both my photography course and my course on the visual culture of cities seemed like a perfect mix of in class learning, guided Field Studies, and independent exploration. 

Honestly, the highlight of each course has been its respective faculty. Both of my faculty are extremely knowledgeable, well known in their field, provide stimulating conversation, and genuinely care about me and my classmates. 

If I had to pick an actual day to be my highlight for my photography course, it would probably be our final Field Study. We spent the day going to exhibitions as part of the Copenhagen Photo Festival and stopped at Reffen, a tasty food market, for lunch and a drink.

Besides our Study Tour, my favorite part of the visual culture of cities course was the week where we biked around the various boroughs of Copenhagen.

DIS: Why did you decide to become a DIS Student Photographer?

Owen L: Before I was even accepted into DIS, I spent more time than I would like to admit scrolling through photos of Copenhagen on Instagram. I learned a few things. There are more bikes than people and more croissants than bikes – don’t fact check me on that one. I also learned that it’s practically impossible to take a bad picture in Copenhagen. Combine these things with my love for photography, advertising, and design and you’ve got a perfect recipe for becoming a Student Photographer. 

I also wanted to become a Student Photographer for the professional experience I could put on my resumé. One of the challenges you face studying abroad during the summer is losing the opportunity for a summer internship. By becoming a Student Photographer, I have been able to enjoy the thrills of studying abroad while simultaneously gaining valuable experience for the creative field I’d like to work in someday. If that’s not a win-win, I’m not sure what is. 

DIS: What have been the highlights of your summer with DIS?

Owen L: It is SO hard to pick just a few highlights. Every single day here has been a day to remember. My first highlight has got to be Three Days of Design. This was a series of events I found myself at by accident. For three days Copenhagen showcases “a curated selection of work from a variety of creative talents – from designers, artisans and architects to producers.” Within those three days I visited countless design showrooms, four different embassies, met Bjarke Ingels (a world-famous architect), and ate my heart’s desire of free croissants. 

There are so many more highlights, but the final one is simply riding my bike. I have never found myself more content than riding down a bike highway in beautiful sunny weather, surrounded by trees, grass, parks, and dozens of other people enjoying their afternoon.

DIS: How has studying abroad with DIS been an impactful experience?

Owen L: When I applied to study abroad with DIS, I had no idea how much it would impact my life. Even though my summer sessions only lasted six weeks, the amount of new information I cultivated while abroad is still expanding. 

For me, it started the second I was dropped off at the airport. I have flown plenty of times, but never alone. The new independence was slightly frightening but also extremely exhilarating. I was going to COPENHAGEN! 

One impactful experience from my time with DIS came from many aspects of my second course. It was here where I finally learned to articulate the magic of Copenhagen. Our faculty member, Anders Larsen, brought us through practically every inch of the city explaining facts about history, culture, and bricks. Can’t forget the bricks. Anders’ impact on my time in Copenhagen didn’t stop there. 

At the end of my six weeks with DIS my family came to visit for an additional week. I was relatively confident with my touring skills by this point but I wanted my family to have the real deal. Anders Larsen. I asked him if he would be willing to fit us in his busy schedule (not thinking he had the time) and within minutes we had a date on the calendar. 

While yes, I was impacted by the course, I think the real impact came from Anders. His charisma, passion for Copenhagen, and generosity will stick with me for a life time. 

Thanks to DIS and Anders, I left Copenhagen feeling like it was truly my second home. 

DIS: A piece of advice for someone who is going to come abroad?

Owen L: My advice to any student who gets the opportunity to study abroad is to wander. After class, I would dedicate a few hours on getting lost by myself. The first walk I took lead me to the Three Days of Design event I mentioned before. What could be better than beautiful design, free food, and free drinks on my first sunny Friday in Copenhagen?

There is plenty to learn from your courses at DIS but through observation, reflection, and real life experiences, you open your eyes to an entirely new type of knowledge. For me, it was these findings that truly shaped my time in Copenhagen and my character moving forward.  

Want to know more about studying with DIS in the summer?

Take a look at all the courses DIS has to offer for summer study abroad.

Check the @summeratDIS Instagram for more stories like Owen’s

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