FINDINGS

Three Categories emerged from the students’ digital stories

Categories emerged as main issues and as concerns from the students’ digital stories.

Explanation of categories:

  • Adventures & Fairy Tales

    Many of the project students took advantage of living in Copenhagen and travelled all over Europe. For them, Copenhagen is a hub to the rest of Europe. They traversed not only physical boundaries but also cultural and psychological ones – attaining the tremendous aspect of learning by travelling. They travelled to other Scandinavian (and Nordic) countries and throughout eastern, western and southern Europe. This is one of the under-rated aspects of studying abroad in which the term studying should be understood beyond the formal learning spaces.

  • Otherness / Familiarity

    When living and studying in a foreign environment, it is natural to see more differences than similarities. These East Asian students are no exception to such. They were all struck by stark contrasts between Danish culture, society and environment and those of their home. The project students told digital stories as they encountered differences, which made them feel being other-ed, in situations and activities they participated in. At the same time, they also noted many similarities as they told their stories. They recognised their own familiarities with Danish culture and society as they came across iconic figures and events from Danish fairy tales and cultural narratives and myths, which they had previously learnt in their home countries.

  • Studying

    All the project students addressed various aspects of studying in UCPH as a major concern and interest of their intercultural experience.  They encountered differences between UCPH and universities in East Asia in terms of a) their roles and expectations of studying at universities, b) work/study-life balance c) the significance of study abroad experience.

 

Recommendations

  • The students are reported to have had personal and emotional issues during the time they stayed in Denmark. Living in a new climate, new culture, new language and having to build new social relations have impacted on the way in which they handle everyday life. With respect to this problem, they all appreciated having been given mentors. However, the provision of a mentor programme varied depending on the department. Students said that there was a mismatch of expectations between the mentors and the mentees. Further training of the mentors and the re-designing of the mentor programme at the university level might be considered.

  • Loneliness was reported to be one of the most difficult issues as they arrive in Denmark. Despite our efforts, the students still felt isolated in day to day living, when it came to mingling with local Danish students. There seemed to be a division between what we call the local Danes and the internationals. We can try narrowing a social and cultural distance by organising various events and activities that foster the sense of community and belonging.

  • Despite a huge effort by the international office and the departmental international coordinators, the students said they had felt lost at a number of moments in their first few months. We ought to improve international student support in the following ways:

    1. Campus signpost system can be improved to make the campus more comprehensible to the newly arrived students and visitors.

    2. Some of them never felt settled when it came to securing accommodation and other administrative procedures (e.g., resident permits). We ought to consider supporting students not just the time of arrival, but to follow up over a longer period.

    3. Campus accommodation (e.g., housing foundation) continued to pose problems and challenges to the students. They were often left to their own devices. This is one areas with which they were most unhappy about the university. To address this problem, it is worth considering to appoint local resident tutors, who would deal with issues on the spot of living in a campus accommodation.