International Humans of Mizzou: MU domestic, exchange students share their experiences studying abroad

A domestic student studying Linguistics spent a semester in Belgium last fall while an exchange student from Denmark studies journalism in MU for the spring semester.
MU exchange student Henriette Olsson is a senior studying at the journalism school from Denmark.

”International Humans of Mizzou” is a series that began last semester. In each edition, we sit down with international students who currently study at MU, from semester-exchange students to degree-seeking students.

This semester, we’ve expanded the series to include domestic students who have studied abroad in order to share their experience studying overseas.

Elizabeth Kujath Junior, Linguistics

Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Kujath spent her 2018 Fall semester in Ghent, Belgium as an exchange student. She studied under the department of African language and culture at Ghent University, where she conducted research about the Bantu language group through textual evidence.

“I went to Ghent University, which was 45 minutes away from Brussels by train. The area I was at spoke Flemish but I did not speak any Flemish. All of my classes were English, but outside of class, I would encounter someone who did not speak any English once a while.

“The communication started out a lot more difficult, but then you had certain interactions that you do a lot and you started to pick up those words and phrases. By the time I left, I could go to the store and check out and everything without letting people know that I didn’t speak Flemish.

“Being a linguistics major, I think I am generally more interested in languages and it helps me pick up languages faster.

“There were a lot of things I adjusted into very easily and some of the other things were a bit more difficult. I think America has such a weird pop culture presence. Everyone gets excited when they realize you are from [the U.S.]. But there are a lot of little things that I forgot about. For example [the saying] 'bless you’ when other people sneezes is not a thing people do [in Europe]. I said that one time and I got so many weird, confusing looks.

“One of the hardest things for me to deal with was that their classes only meet once a week but they are three hours long. Just my attention span wasn’t there by the end of the time most of the time. I also think there was less structure with some of the classes there. I think I had one class that had a midterm and everything else was you only got graded for your final exam which was a lot of pressure to put on.

“There were a lot of minor things that I miss. I ended up feeling really stupid, because one thing I missed the most was Walmart because I knew I could get everything I need in one store instead of going across town for different specificity stores.

“One of things that sits with me whenever I leave the country is to have the expectation that not everything is going to go right. Because whether or not it is going to stick with your plan, there is going to be variances that you didn’t think of beforehands just because it is such a different environment.

“[Before heading to Belgium], I tried to go into it with fewer expectations. Even if it’s not exactly what I expected, it is still a good experience.”

Henriette Olsson Senior, journalism (exchange) Hometown: Copenhagen, Denmark

Originally from Copenhagen, Denmark, Olsson current studies journalism at the MU School of Journalism as an exchange student for the 2019 spring semester.

“I am in the Danish media and journalism school. And [during your four years of study] there is a one and half year [section] where you get out and work somewhere at the media field or you can separate [the one and half year] into parts and intern at different places. I got a full-time job at the Danish TV station and it was part of the education.

“After this half-year exchange, I will go back to Denmark and finish my ending thesis before I get my bachelor’s degree. And when I am done with that, I am a journalist.

“Since I have only been in the states for one month, I don’t completely understand how the curriculum works for the domestic students. But here I feel like you can choose the courses more than where I came from. Because [in Denmark] there are some classes you have to take and in your third semester you have to choose to go to television, radio or magazine. This was also part of the reasons why I decided to do a exchange here because in Denmark all my courses for the seventh and eighth semester were set. I want to expand the classes that I can do. I didn’t think the classes in Denmark fit where I wanted to go.

“I don’t know if I have expected anything. I came here with an open mind. But we watch a lot of American movies like other countries. I had this American college thing pictured in my head from the movies, and I feel that the reality is very much like what I thought. Also, I think people dress a lot more casual here than back home. Activewear is a huge thing, we don’t do that in our college, people normally wear a nice shirt and pants. But I think it is a nice thing, because people seem really relaxed and more down to earth.

“Also Danish exchange students in my school have been going here for years. So actually we have this one American couple, Tim and Paula, who live in Columbia. They do all kinds of nice things for us like taking us out to eat, bringing us to sport games, travelling and introducing us to their friends and families. It makes a huge difference for me, because they know Danish people and they know who we are at home. Their home is a safe place for me to go and I have [a sense of] security in there.

“I think they were connected with some kind of program that the school had with the exchange students and got into the whole Danish thing. The school stopped the program but they continued to keep in contact with the Danish students. In that way, they have become a huge deal for us. We are their 22nd semester of students. They visit us in Denmark as well. When they come visit Denmark they have a whole Danish family.

“I do like the way that Americans are very welcoming and open. In Denmark we don’t just go on the street and talk to people. But I think it is just a common thing that people do in here. It’s really nice how people don’t hesitate to ask where you are from and how you are doing. That’s just a huge deal for someone who’s [actually] living here for the first time, not just on a vacation.”

Edited by Emily Wolf | ewolf@themaneater.com

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