Friday, February 20, 2009

The Curious Case of Mars Chuang in Denmark

Now it seems like that I just had a half-year dream. In the dream, I saw the Little Mermaid in Denmark, the sparkling Eiffel Tower in Paris, the ancient Colosseum in Rome, and the tremendous Alps in Switzerland. Everything is too good to be true, but I really experienced; I was the protagonist of such a story. Welcome to the Curious Case of Mars Chuang!

School Life

Fortunately, it was running smoothly for the adoption of being an exchange student in College of Management of National Taiwan University (NTU), having the qualification to exchange to Copenhagen Business School (CBS) for one semester. After fourteen hours on Thai Airline, I arrived in Copenhagen, the hometown of the Little Mermaid. Seeing the CBS reception staffs in the airport, I felt a great peace of mind and expected for the wonderful school life in the future.

There are about 15,000 students in CBS, including approximately 700 exchange students in each semester, accounting for a high proportion. Because CBS has run the exchange programs for a couple of years, the arrangements for the exchange students have a well-planned set of supporting measures. Apart from the orientation campaigns to understand the faculty and facilities in CBS, we still had Copenhagen city tour and evening activities such Live Concerts, Danish Folk Dancing, and Welcome Dinner Party to make friends in each occasion. Such activities also let us not feel lonely in a foreign land after knowing a lot of exchange students.

In fact, I feel the teaching methods are totally different from the spoon-feeding education I’ve adopted in the past. First of all, the foreign students often go to class in advance to do study group discussions before the lesson. As a result, we have to arrive at the classroom before class; otherwise, we may be sit in a corner, or even hard to find seats, then the lesson will be wasted. Furthermore, if students do not understand the concepts, they will immediately raise their hands to ask questions; also, comparing to the indifferent attitudes of Taiwanese students, as the professor ask a question, students will answer enthusiastically in general. Third, it is common to be assigned for a number of reading materials after class, but it will result in lots of complaints from students.

It is also amazing for me about the two exam types. One is oral exam which means that students need to hand in a synopsis on the basis of all materials, and the contents must fit in with the topic, literature review, research results, and conclusions. You are arranged to have twenty minutes to present your synopsis to two professors, as well as to answer questions asked by the teachers. For example, what I most impressed question is "Do you know which articles this theory you quoted in the synopsis comes from, and the author’s name?" Thus, you can only express a lack of ideas if you cannot memorize all materials. Another exam type is written exam, including in-class and take-home tests. In fact, the in-class exam is similar to the exam type in Taiwan. However, take-home exam means that the professor might ask you a few questions, and you will have twenty-four or forty-eight hours to integrate your comments and opinions. This is quite challenging!

Danish education seriously emphasizes on "how to inspire" rather than "how to recite" for students. Professors often use interactive methods to teach students, and send e-mail to them for concerning about their studying problems. In addition, after the test, professors will give you the comments directly of your performance. These conditions are rarely visible in domestic education.

International Forum

CBS often held campus activities to unite the centripetal forces of students, to inspire students’ creativity and implementing abilities, and to enrich the after-school recreation. Among all run-off activities, the most I impressed is the "CBS International Forum".

It is an activity like the University Fair. With the theme of "Market Your Home-country and Home-university", CBS make the best use of the resources from the exchange students all over the world. Such an activity is not really expected for us, but we are fortunate enough to receive helps from the Taiwan Offices in Denmark, getting a number of tourist books, magazines and other materials. Besides, we prepare a short video to introduce Taiwan, NTU, and College of Management of NTU. Under such competitive atmosphere, our team was lucky to win the first prize out of more than forty countries. This encouragement is infinitely glorious for us.

Daily Life

I live in a dormitory called "Tordenskjoldsgade", near the famous Nyhavn. For me, although it is an old building, I love everyone in my dormitories. We have different kinds of parties and often drink beers overnight. It is hard to imagine that beer is cheaper than mineral water in Denmark, so it is no wonder foreigners have the good capability of drinking beers. I also often eat with my dearest mates or go to nightclubs with them, including Marie, Lin, and Morgan. Although in a strange country, I have the “sweet-home” feeling with their affection and care.

Everything in Denmark is really expensive, approximately five to six times than in Taiwan, but I think it is very worth to visit. Thinking from another side, it is able to make you spend money more economical and control your budget. Moreover, it is easy to find people are very friendly. I remember I had once asked a bookstore owner as looking for one used book. He was disappointed to said, "Beg your pardon. We don’t sell used books", and then he told me that "I could write two bookstores for you. There might have used books, and you could go there to take a look. In addition, there are three websites. You could also browse the sites online." Taking this piece of paper from the boss, I strongly feel it is really kind of him because I am only a consumer without spending money.

As talking about travelling in Denmark, I guess everyone would mention "high prices, Little Mermaid, and sexually open culture". Moreover, there are still many special places in Denmark. You can visit Odense, the hometown of Hans Christian Andersen, to know something about him, have a lot of good time in Legoland theme park of Billund, walk along the streets in Copenhagen to appreciate the sense of a wide range of design merchandises. More importantly, the bicycle culture was prevalent in Denmark, and it is a good model worthy of our culture under the concept of promoting environmental conservation today. It is also amazing to last the rapid and clean transportation in such a modern city. Therefore, it is a pleasure and comfortable to live here. It makes me want to press the rewind key to enjoy again…

Travelling

I think "Tourism" is a compulsory course for most exchange students. I have madly been to nineteen countries during the six months. To tell from scratch, the adventure resulted from the Oktoberfest in Munich.

In order to take part in Oktoberfest, we bought a two-month Global Eurail Pass, and started in the crazy travel from September to November. Because all our curriculums are arranged on Tuesday and Wednesday, it means that we can strike a balance between schoolwork and travel. Our journey often starts from Thursday to Monday. It is a good time for us to read textbooks, to take a rest, or to watch movies on the long-distance train. I feel I am a real backpacker.

Among so many countries, I personally think that Paris is "the best city for touring". For instance, you can walk along the Champs Boulevard, overlook the Eiffel Tower, or have a leisure afternoon cafe on the left bank. Then, Switzerland is where I selected for "the best city for honeymoon". You can overlook the Alps in Zurich, enjoy the snow-covered Jungfrau in Interlaken, and eat the famous local cheese pot romantically. Finally, I think Germany is “the best city for long-term living” due to its advanced transportation facilities. Moreover, it is worthy of our visiting, including the history of Berlin, the modernization of Frankfurt, the well-known cathedral of Cologne, the beer culture of Munich's, the Neuschwanstein, and the
Rhine river.

Originally, I wanted to exchange to the United States or Canada, where is good to practice English. However, after exchanging in Denmark, now I think this experience is priceless for me. Namely, chatting with foreigners in English, opening my eyes, and going travelling in Europe by convenient railway system.

Outlook

Finally, I am seriously thinking about the gains and losses in this semester. People often think there are cultural differences in Asians and Westerns, but I think the real cultural differences exist “in our mind / thinking”. Foreigners broadly treat everything with less care, but we usually think for the things after much calculation. In fact, we have to learn "how to focus on something money can't buy". Besides, foreigners are happy to do a favor to others and to share everything to their friends, but we may be defensive and feel that it is meaningless if someone asks you "how are you" everyday. Indeed, we forget to allow ourselves to enjoy such friendly and humorous happiness.

We always count on inside-out thinking to hope to enrich our live s before pursuing other dreams. However, foreigners enjoy outside-in thinking to make their lives more colorful by making new friends and broadening their horizons. I trust now I am not the same that I have been.

I was thinking how nothing lasts, and what a shame that is. (by Benjamin Button)

I start to miss my life in Denmark again……