If this week has taught me anything, it’s this: DIS sets the bar high for study abroad programs.
Let me explain.
This week my core class (Humanitarian Law and Armed Conflict) participated in what is known as core course week. This is a week dedicated to bonding with our classmates and taking a deeper dive into our academic objectives. Because this week was jam-packed with activities, I thought I’d split up my account into two posts. For more on my core course adventures in Western Denmark see my upcoming blog post.
For now, the beginning of my week in Copenhagen:
Our week began bright and early at 8:30 a.m. on Monday with a lecture from Nicolai Christoffersen about the ongoing conflict in Syria. For the past few weeks, we have been playing with the definition of “armed conflict” and attempting to understand the different humanitarian issues that arise based on this definition. This topic is especially interesting when we apply our class knowledge to real-life examples, particularly the conflict in Syria. So far I’ve really enjoyed the hands-on Danish style of learning, and I definitely feel like I’ll walk away from this semester with the ability to discuss relevant issues in an academic context.
After our lecture we ventured to the Royal Danish Arsenal Museum for a guided tour of “A Distant War–An Exhibition on the War in Afghanistan.” Guided by a museum attendant, we walked through a recreation of a Danish military base in Afghanistan. We discussed the nature of the conflict in Afghanistan and participated in a healthy debate about the necessity of Danish intervention in this conflict. Interestingly enough, Denmark lost the highest percentage of its troops in the war in Afghanistan, though the number of deaths (43) may seem small in an American context.
Finally, we rounded out our first day with a canal tour of Copenhagen, which I’ve been dying to do since I arrived. Again, I was thankful for the sunny weather, which made our trip around the city quite enjoyable.
We began our day with another lecture, this time from DIGNITY: The Danish Institute Against Torture. This provided us with a basic framework for discussing the various methods of and motivations for torture. Obviously this is a heavy topic, but our presenter, Christopher Grønlund presented the information in a compelling yet not overwhelming manner.
After that cheerful beginning to the day, our instructor Trine guided us through a city walk. We stumbled upon some beautiful botanical gardens and decided to have a little class meeting in the park to discuss our upcoming trip to Western Denmark. Again, I had to pinch myself as a reminder that, yes, this day actually qualified as ‘class.’
Our second day concluded with lunch at Peder Oxe, a traditional Danish restaurant known for its smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches), and a film screening of Krigen (in English: “A War”). This Oscar-nominated film follows a Danish commander in Afghanistan who, under extreme duress, accidentally orders the bombing of a civilian unit. Though it was difficult to watch at times, I really enjoyed this film because it gave an emotional context to the legal issues we’ll be discussing this semester. Though it may be easy to find the ‘right answer’ in class, International Humanitarian Law involves a number of interrelated and conflicting considerations that can be, at the end of the day, extremely personal.
To be fair, we had this day off from class to get ready for our trip to Western Denmark, but I had a really good pizza in Vanløse so here’s a picture: