When I first enrolled in DIS for the fall semester, I thought I would only be taking classes with other American students. I didn’t necessarily have a problem with this, but I realized that it meant I would have to be more conscious about finding avenues to immerse myself in Danish culture through my Kollegium, visiting host family, and other avenues. As I was choosing classes to take, I thought that a philosophy course would provide a good balance to my otherwise science and policy-focused course load. I found a philosophy class on existentialism that caught my fancy, and by pure chance, I discovered that it was taught at the University of Copenhagen (Københavns Universitet in Danish, or KU)! The fact that I love the class despite it being two-and-a-half hours long and on a day when I have two other classes should be a good sign to anyone interested in the University of Copenhagen cross-registration program.
The University of Copenhagen is spread across the city, but my class is held at the South Campus in Amager. South Campus is a 10-minute pleasant bike ride from DIS, and the fastest route takes you across Lile Langebro (Little long bridge), a cute winding bridge designed exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists. University campuses in Denmark are much more integrated with the city than in the US since they don’t contain dorms or extensive sporting facilities – getting to campus feels no different than going to any other building or location in the city. However, one of the cool features of South Campus is a café with affordable student prices – perfect for when I can’t get myself to pack lunch in the morning!
I was unaware of it during course registration, but the University of Copenhagen consistently ranks in the top 50 universities for philosophy worldwide! As a result, our class has not only DIS and local Danish students but also exchange students from across the world. Through the class, I’ve made friends from Norway, Singapore, and Australia, and the diverse perspectives truly help when we’re discussing a concept as universal as existentialism. We keep in touch outside class, and I’ve even found some buddies to go to the gym and play board games with!
Now, for the actual class itself. The approach our professor follows is to make us grapple with the original texts until we can gather some insight from them – the process is both excruciating and extremely rewarding, especially when reading the likes of Sartre, Nietzche, and Beauvoir. An aspect of the class I appreciate is the concerted effort to introduce us to the Danish philosophy tradition – our first readings were by Søren Kierkegaard, a 19th-century Danish philosopher who actually worked at the University of Copenhagen. Our professor constantly mentions how the English translation of his book could not do justice to the original writing, but I found his views on the relationship between anxiety and self-consciousness to be brilliant, nonetheless. The essays and grading scheme are structured similarly to what we are accustomed to in the US, but I was pleasantly surprised that the essay prompts asked us to identify weaknesses in the philosophers’ arguments. There aren’t many classes where you get to critique the work of some of the most renowned in the field as an undergraduate!
DIS offers cross-registration in a range of philosophy and sociology classes at KU and I’ve heard great reviews about all of them. I believe that it’s a great opportunity for philosophy/sociology majors and students with a cursory interest in the disciplines alike – I’ve only taken one philosophy class before, but the professor sticks to a pace that we are all comfortable with. As great as DIS is, it is a bit of an Americanized bubble in Denmark, and it can be nice to step out of it every so often.