Jaqueline Hurwood, Bachelor of Science
Short-term program: Experience Summer at Aarhus University
Denmark (July 2018)
Who knew two weeks of looking at fungi on wheat crops in a tiny village in Denmark would make some of the most memorable moments of my university experience, and life? I initially had no intention of studying plant diseases at all but applied on a whim to Aarhus University’s summer program, with almost no background knowledge of plant biology or microbiology. After completion, I am now confident and capable of loads of field assessments and lab analyses and have extended my comfort in biological science unexpectedly.
Each week of classes had a different focus: first week introduced different fungal diseases and field identification, and the second week was lab-based analysis. Each week, a group report was due and we presented the findings informally, then we were assessed with a 20 minute oral exam at the end of the course. I’d never experienced an oral exam before, but I’ve discovered it is an amazing way to be assessed with a fraction of the stress of a standard exam. As Aarhus’ agricultural rural campus, Flakkebjerg is very small and intimate, and all the staff are friendly and approachable. The buildings are surrounded by multiple crop fields and greenhouses, all established with countless experiments, making for very scenic views and the mild summer weather made field work comfortable. The accommodation was surrounded by forest and a lake, with plenty of wildlife. There are also a number of beaches and a harbour nearby that made for exciting day trips full of bonding with other students.
The class consisted of students from Denmark, Germany, Kenya, China and Slovakia, and I was the only Australian for the first time in my life. The small class size, constant group work and communal spaces at the accommodation made close interactions with other students necessary, and I made genuine connections. Learning about Danish welfare, the German high school system, and Slovakian history were unexpected benefits from bonding with diverse classmates.
English is widely spoken even in small Danish villages, but there were many situations where I was the only non-Danish speaker in a room; the first time I have experienced this in my life. Danish people are stereotypically beautiful and sarcastic and all the Danes I met definitely delivered. Denmark is one of the most expensive European countries to visit, so careful budgeting is necessary. Accommodation during the course was covered by the university, so most of my spending was on food and transport. Splitting grocery shops with other students meant that I tried a lot of new food and halved costs, and downloading the Mobilbilletter app discounted bus and train ticket costs. Since the coursework was only for two weeks, I was able to spend time visiting other European countries during my holiday, and experiencing other cultures and attractions, which made the invaluable trip even more exciting. I couldn’t recommend this summer course enough and am so grateful for the people I’ve met and things I’ve learnt in Denmark.