Extending north into the frigid waters of the Baltic Sea with its Scandinavian neighbors Norway and Sweden just miles away, yet still firmly attached to Western Europe by way of Germany, Denmark is a fascinating land of old and new. Thousands of years ago, it had deep ties to Nordic culture and was one of the strongholds of Viking culture. Over the past several hundred years, it developed into a major trading and political power, and developed a unique and fierce sense of independence. Today, Denmark remains decidedly Danish, yet has successfully integrated centuries’ old tradition with liberal democratic notions and the newly emerging traditions of the European Union. Students interested in studying abroad will find Denmark to be a wealth of opportunity, with a gamut of academic and cultural pursuits available.
For students majoring in political science, international relations, humanitarian and human rights studies, African studies, environmental development or economics, Denmark is particularly attractive. The country’s strong ties to the European Union (EU) make it a primary location to study the policies, procedures, ideology and practices of that organization. Though monetarily still independent, Denmark’s largest and closest trading partner is the EU – its top three import/export trading partners are Germany, Sweden and the UK respectively. Furthermore, while the Danish parliament has made a decided effort to align Denmark’s foreign policy with that of the EU, Denmark is also an active member in the UN and NATO and maintain close ties with the US. In the area of economic and environment development assistance, Denmark’s levels of contribution rank among the highest in the world (particularly in Africa). Domestically, Denmark is one of the few nations that has been successful with social democratic policies. Emphasizing national health care, equality in work and wages for women and men, and environmental responsibility, Denmark’s approach to politics may interest students seeking to bring these characteristics to other countries.
In literature and cinema, Denmark has established itself as a magnet location. During the 19th century, author Hans Christian Andersen became world-famous for such fairytales as “The Little Mermaid” and “The Ugly Duckling.” Andersen’s contemporary, Søren Kierkegaard, also established himself as one of history’s great philosophers through questioning society’s collective tendencies and stressing the individual’s responsibility to freedom of choice. Kierkegaard is credited with founding Existentialism. In modern times, authors such as Karen Blixen and Peter Høeg have made international headlines for their critiques of modern thought. As a student in Denmark, you would be exposed to this great tradition and study alongside some of Denmark’s up and coming new authors.
The Dogme (Live Cinema) movement that emerged out of Denmark in the 1990s has become a world-wide phenomenon. In this style of film, technology and dependence on it have largely been eliminated, allowing directors and actors the latitude to explore the characters and story without the intrusion of CGI and camera tricks. Directors such as Lars von Trier, Søren Kragh-Jacobsen and Susanne Bier have set the bar in this genre and are still inspiring the creation of Dogme films. Majors in Cinema and Television, Cinematography, Photography, Philosophy, and Art would find this segment of Danish culture particularly applicable for their studies.