"Diversity of Experience" in Denmark

February 07, 2018

An Econ and Psych Double Major Finds a Program that Meets his Educational Needs

On a sunny fall day in Copenhagen, Denmark, Bryce Lew ’19 meets his Ancient Art and Archaeology class at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek art museum. Eight students follow their instructor Thyge Bro into a room filled with Greek statuary.

Bro gathers his students around a kouros, a statue of a boy. “Be inquisitive. Be curious,” Bro says. The students, including Lew and Lauren MacKenzie ’19, stand in a semi-circle and gaze at the statue. Bro encourages them to look at it from different angles — one of the benefits of seeing sculpture in person.

Bryce Lew and another student contemplate a sculpture at a Copenhagen museum
“What’s notable?” Bro asks. The students offer various answers — the headband, the almond-shaped eyes, the symmetry.

Lew admits that the class has “been a little bit of a struggle” because of the course’s emphasis on history and art. “Something that was completely out of my comfort zone,” he says with a grin. “It's been such a rewarding experience because I've been able to learn about ancient history with actual artifacts that are right here with us in the museum.”

Studying Something New While Off-campus

During his first two years at Grinnell, Lew immersed himself in economics and psychology. So when he searched for a study abroad program, he “wanted to try something a little bit different. I’m someone who believes that diversity of experience is crucial to learning.”

He also wanted to study in Europe. And although he studied Spanish for 12 years, he hasn’t (yet) taken any Spanish at Grinnell, so he wanted a program in English.

The DIS Copenhagen program met his criteria. He also found a range of courses he couldn’t take at Grinnell, such as business and marketing.

So at the beginning of his third year as a Grinnell student, Lew hopped on a plane in Los Angeles and flew to Copenhagen.

Initially he enrolled in a boatload of business classes. To help balance out the business content, Lew decided also to take Ancient Art and Archaeology.

“I thought this would be a perfect opportunity because we’re literally going to museums and examining different art,” Lew says.

Another challenging class is Danish Language and Culture. Despite his many years of Spanish, Lew says, “Danish is hard.” The language has three vowels that are unfamiliar to native English speakers. 

Suzanne da Cunha Bang, a Danish instructor for DIS, wants to change the attitude that language is hard. When students try small talk in Danish, she says, Danes react differently. “Language opens up extra doors,” she says.

Interacting with Danes

Although Lew is not doing a Homestay, he did join the Visiting Host Program in which he was matched with a local family. “I go to their house for dinner every other week. We sometimes go on excursions on the weekends,” he says. Those have included a visit to the Viking Museum and biking around Copenhagen together. “They definitely go out of their way to help us really immerse ourselves in Copenhagen.” He enjoys having the connections with Danes.

Another way he’s interacting with Danes is by getting to know entrepreneurs. He chose to live with a group of several other American students in the Young Entrepreneurs Living & Learning Community. “It basically tries to connect you with start-ups in Copenhagen to understand what it's like to be a start-up in Copenhagen and how to get a business off the ground,” Lew says.

Expanding Skills Learned at Grinnell

One of the courses that attracted Lew to the DIS Copenhagen program is the Digital Media in Marketing Project, a class that provides hands-on experience. DIS students made two commercials for the American Pie Company in Copenhagen.

“It was interesting going through that experience of working in a group of people that I had never met before,” Lew says, “but coming up with an idea and executing it and editing it. It was a really good experience.”

The previous year he’d taken a multimedia storytelling class at Grinnell with Jennifer Shook, assistant professor of English. “I was actually pulling skills that I had gained from my class with Professor Shook. I got a lot of video editing experience there, but taking it to the stage where I’m working with a client to create a video for them was really beneficial.”

Lew has been able to do nearly everything he hoped to while studying abroad — travel, learn, explore. “I’m super appreciative of being able to double major and study abroad and get as many experiences as possible.”


Bryce Lew ’19 is double majoring in economics and psychology. He’s from Pasadena, Calif.

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