Denmark: Shealynn Wegner (Learning on Excursion, Our Global Classroom)

Learning on Excursion

During my time in Copenhagen, I was enrolled in the course, ‘Nordic Culinary Culture.’ This class covered food traditions in Scandinavia, primarily focusing on Denmark, and discussed the culture around meat consumption and recent evolutions of the food system. One requirement of this course was to take a week-long study tour to the Faroe Islands, a small group of 18 islands that are part of the Danish Kingdom. This territory is located about two miles north of Scotland and experiences frigid temperatures and little daylight for most of the year. Their cold, wet, and dark climatic conditions and historic isolation from global trade have resulted in a long-standing tradition of sheep farming, fishing, and whaling for survival. These traditions are still carried out today, but the Faroese people are experiencing increased criticism for their meat-dependent diets and active whaling practices. During our time on the Islands, our class explored various parts of the food system including visiting markets, farms, and museums, meeting local fishermen and catching fish on a sailing charter, and dining at several critically-acclaimed restaurants. We learned about the difficulties to farm vegetables, the complexities around the hunting of pilot whales, and emerging efforts to uplift and celebrate traditional Faroese food.

Throughout the course, we learned about the “New Nordic Manifesto,” a document signed by chefs from every Nordic country, detailing their dedication to sourcing local and sustainable ingredients to recreate traditional meals and uplift the food culture significant to their home country. This Manifesto has resulted in Denmark (and the Faroes) becoming gastronomical hotspots, which are now home to some of the best restaurants in the world. Before this class, I hadn’t even known where the Faroe Islands were located. Now, I am more informed about Nordic food systems, global trade, international politics, and issues of ocean conservation and animal welfare. The Faroes was one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited and numerous aspects of Faroese communities reminded me of my home. This study tour allowed us to explore multiple facets of the food system and interact with Faroese people in every part of our educational journey. What I have learned has broadened my view of the world and given me a deeper understanding through which I can interpret food systems in the US and around the world.


Our Global Classroom

While in Copenhagen, I participated in the course, ‘Strategies for Urban Livability.’ The class used Copenhagen as a case study to analyze how cities are built, develop over time, change to fit the needs of the people, and reflect current societal values. Before my departure, I was slightly apprehensive about what challenges this new experience would bring. Would the course load be too challenging? Would I be intellectually equal to my new classmates? Would the professor have insanely high expectations? I was nervous that I would spend long days in a classroom where I felt uncertain about what I could contribute to the conversation. However, contrary to my fears, I found my class to be one of the most engaging, inclusive, and insightful courses I have taken in my academic career.

From the beginning, the very structure of the class was different from what I had been used to at UW-Madison. The course comprised 22 students from different universities across the United States, many of whom knew several other languages and had dual citizenship in countries around the world. However, instead of being intimidated by my classmates’ achievements and backgrounds, I found that our differences contributed to a better learning environment as they brought new ideas and ways of thinking to the conversation. While the lectures were based out of a traditional classroom, most of our days were spent using the streets of Copenhagen as the basis of instruction. We used bicycles to navigate the city and learned how and why Copenhagen was built by analyzing plazas, parks, roads, and buildings. Every part of our learning was hands-on and my understanding of cities was enriched by the “out-of-classroom” experience. I felt as though I was learning important things that applied to real life and I was given tangible solutions to problems I had previously only read about.

My educational experience in Copenhagen allowed me to shift the way I think of learning and place a higher value on integrative and hands-on experiences. In the future, this will influence me to choose educational opportunities that offer more than the traditional lecture experience and strive to use the world as my classroom instead.

Shealynn Wegner

Major: Double major in Community and Environmental Sociology, Landscape and Urban Studies

Hometown: Green Bay, Wisconsin

Program: DIS Study Abroad in Scandinavia in Copenhagen, Denmark