The Road to Copenhagen

When you’re a senior in high school and applying to universities all over the country, tour guides throw a number of perks at you in the hopes that one or two will make the difference. Everything from no mandatory gym classes to free spring concerts to great food gets mentioned. For many people, that’s enough.

But for me, it all came down to study abroad. Who was going to let me study what I loved, in a place I was excited to visit? Spoiler: It was WashU.

While I was still trying to decide where I wanted to go, I went to the Overseas Office website and browsed WashU’s offered programs (I would recommend you do the same: overseas.wustl.edu). I knew I wanted a program that would allow me to pursue genocide studies, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity. Then I found “the one.”

Flash forward three years, and you won’t find me in St. Louis.

These days, I’m in Copenhagen studying international humanitarian law. Not only has the program been a fantastic entry into legal studies (a field I am considering for my post-grad life), but it has also given me a chance to study the Holocaust in the place where it happened.

The road here was a bit unorthodox, but WashU was more than willing to help me along the way. My program, which allows me to study the law of war (genocides tend to fit snugly in that category) as well as travel to Bosnia to study the genocide, is approved only for International and Area Studies majors—something I am not.

Worried, I explained the situation to my major advisor. She agreed that the program was a perfect fit. And then she told me that I would still be able to go, despite the fact that I’m a history major. All I needed to do was complete a petition explaining why the Copenhagen program was the best one for me. After a few meetings with department advisors and two letters of recommendation, I was good to go.

I could not be more glad to have this opportunity. I have been here a month now, and though the sky is almost constantly gray, daily life is not. My professors are incredible people with fascinating careers. Take, for example, Trine, my humanitarian law teacher. After graduating from law school, she served as a legal advisor to the Danish military in Afghanistan—and yes, she was in Afghanistan, for three tours. Now, she is Head of Section for the Danish Ministry of Defense and an instructor at DIS. Best part is, we get to spend time with her outside of the classroom. Last week we traveled to Western Denmark together to attend a lecture on the Ethics of War, visit Defense Command, and of course, have some fun (side note: when playing laser tag, make sure the woman who knows how to use a gun is on your team). Come next month, we will be in Sarajevo.

I’d say something cute in Danish to conclude this post, but I must admit that this language is a toughie. Just give me a few weeks.