Thursday, July 8, 2010

Copenhagen Study Abroad Recap

I just returned from the DIS (Danish Institute for Study Abroad) Summer 2 Session after a very intense 3 weeks of classes and cultural immersion. I want to summarize up everything that happened, but I feel that anything I could squeeze into one post won't do it justice. Instead, I'll give a rundown of the events and activities, and then later go into some events in depth.

I flew put of Philadelphia the night of June 11th and arrived Saturday around noon in Copenhagen. The flight seemed to take forever because of both my excitement and uncertainty, also it was an 8 hour flight… Upon arriving, I met a few other students and we took a bus to the heart of Copenhagen where DIS is located. Picked up a temporary cell phone and public transit pass and then was shuttled to my living arrangements. My apartment was a small efficiency in Keops Kollegium, north of the city by a 10 minute bus ride. We had a pizza social and I met a few of the people living near me. The rest of the evening was spent settling in and getting internet hooked up.

Sunday morning I got up early to go for a run (only one of the trip) to explore the neighborhood. Some early observations that were reinforced as the trip went on:
  1. It's a bicyclers paradise, with dedicated lanes and plenty of service and sales shops. Streets are lined with bikes of all types, whereas in Philadelphia you rarely see them outside for fear of getting vandalized or stolen
  2. Everything is quieter in the morning. At first I thought this was just because this was a Sunday morning, but rush hour isn't until about 8:30 - 9:30. When I say rush hour, I mean packed buses and roads clogged with bikers.
  3. Small cars everywhere. I have always been drawn to smaller cars, and seeing all kinds of offerings that we don't get in the US makes me jealous. Compact cars from Citroën, Peugeot, Ford, and BMW were the most common. Most all are turbo-diesel, something that Americans are demanding but have been challenged by emissions restrictions.
  4. Social trust. Maybe it was the way I saw bikes and valuables outside, or the way the city seemed cleaner, or just how courteous and friendly all the locals were. Copenhagen citizens pride themselves on being polite and trustworthy, and it shows.
Later in the morning there was an introduction ceremony. A speaker talked about Danish culture and how it has been transformed over the years into the passive, content, and friendly society it is today. Caught a cool lunch with some students down by the canal, and then made our way back for the group trip to Esrum Abbey. There, we spent the afternoon doing field events such as archery and sword fighting, and followed it up by trying the beers that they make. After that, we had a DIS social back in town where they treated us to hotdogs and beer.

Class started on Monday, the course was entitled Sustainable Technology and Culture: Energy and Responses to Climate Change. There are about 20 students in the class, and 7 of us are from the PhilaU MSSD program (Rudy, Sharon, Toby, Carrie, Laura, Karen, and myself) The other students are mostly undergrad students studying everything from Environmental Policy, to Urban Development, to Geology. The class was structured so that in the mornings we would have class/lecture for about two hours, then take a break for lunch, then go to field studies in the afternoons to clean-tech companies and institutions. The professor, Nils Thorsen is a senior manager in Ernst & Young and responsible for Environment and Sustainability Services in Denmark.

Field Studies:
  1. Hyldespjældet - Development in Albertslund, Denmark - The neighbourhood of Hyldespjældet consists of some 390 mainly small flats in 1 to 3 story concrete blocks, belonging to a public housing association. In the eighties, it was a “problem” neighbourhood, but now it is a safe and desirable place to live. The many green activities in Hyldespjældet have had profound effects not merely for the physical environment, but also socially. A large proportion of the inhabitants take active part in one or more activities, getting to know each other in the special way that people do through shared work for a common purpose. This has contributed to making Hyldespjældet an attractive place to live.  
  2. The National Art Gallery Of Denmark - Biospheres Exhibit - Biospheres can be seen as models representing his vision for alternative types of social spaces and habitats. Taking a metaphorical, poetic approach to serious subjects such as the overpopulation of Earth, environmental issues, and migration, Tomas Saraceno seeks to create a new relation between culture and nature. This exhibit was part of the larger one called RETHINK Contemporary & Climate Change that took place during the COP15.
  3. Rockwool - The Rockwool Group is the world's leading producer of stone wool - a material that improves the quality of life for millions of people and helps to alleviate environmental problems, such as the greenhouse effect, smog and acid rain. Rockwool insulation gives us pleasant indoor environments by keeping out the freezing cold. In hot climates, stone wool helps to keep indoor temperatures comfortably cool. 
  4. Danmarks Naturfredningsforening (The Danish Society for Nature Conservation) - The largest nature conservation and environmental organization in Denmark. For nearly a century, the Danish Society for Nature Conservation has worked to preserve nature in Denmark and to ensure people's access to our natural surroundings. This has resulted in a unique line of preserved landscapes, views and habitats for animals and plants for us to experience and enjoy in the future.
  5. Risø DTU, National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy - Risø DTU is one of Europe's leading research laboratories in sustainable energy and is a significant player in nuclear technologies. Risø creates pioneering research results and contributes actively to their exploitation, both in close dialogue with the wider society. Check out their 2009 Annual Report here.
The course packed a deluge of information to digest, I'm still going through my notes and files that I brought back. I also interviewed a clean-tech company, Liqtech. They manufacture Diesel Particulate Filters for large truck applications. I'd like to touch on that in depth as well in the future.

After the two weeks of class, we took a 4-day study tour to Norway. I'll recap that next

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