International Spotlight: Sterling Kowalski in Denmark

January 03, 2013

Sterling Kowalski in Denmark

Sterling Kowalski spent fall term 2012 in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS). A psychology major with minors in German and business and management, he chose DIS – which has a program in Northern European public health -- because he is interested in a career as a health care administrator. He is a junior from Galesburg, Illinois.

Can you cite an example of how your in-classroom and/or out-of-the-classroom experiences at Knox benefited you as you studied abroad and traveled internationally?
The skills in language learning that I gained by studying German at Knox really helped me to pick up the Danish language. Danish is exceedingly difficult, and I was able to pick it up well enough to hold meaningful conversations with Danes that I did and even did not personally know in a variety of social settings. I credit the professors in the German department for giving me the skills I needed to achieve one of my most important goals while studying abroad: being able to communicate in the native tongue!

How do you think this study abroad experience will benefit you in terms of your education, future career plans, personal development, etc.?
I now have every intention of returning to Copenhagen for school or work sometime in my future. I felt wonderfully at home there and fit into Danish life with little struggle. I really feel as though Copenhagen is a home that I can always return to and see the many Danish friends I made while living there. (Photo above: Sterling Kowalski, center, with his host father and host brother on Kulturnat -- Culture Night -- inside the Danish Parliament building, eating specialty pancakes typically reserved for foreign diplomats and special guests. On Kulturnat, Copenhageners spend all night exploring various specialty events.)

What was the best/coolest part of studying abroad?
It was a great feeling to fit into the culture so well after a while, that Danish people themselves would walk up to you and ask for directions. It was a shock the first time it happened, and I understood them, knew where to tell them to go, and was able to say it in Danish and be understood!Sterling Kowalski in Denmark

Describe your day-to-day experiences.
My day-to-day experiences changed as my time in Copenhagen passed. On a basic level, I would leave my host family’s home in a nearby suburb and commute to the city center by bus and train. I spent a lot of time in class, but there was some free time during the week to wander with friends and explore the city. I always spent the evening making dinner with my host family and relaxing with the family and generally learning from them how to be Danish!

How did you learn about this opportunity?
DIS representatives visited Knox my freshman year (as I believe they still do) and set up a booth outside of the cafeteria. I stopped and collected their information and spoke to a representative and essentially decided right then that this was something I wanted to do. Kelly Grant ‘12, a friend and fellow student, also helped to solidify my decision with a wonderful recap of her time in Denmark.

What inspired you to pursue study abroad in general, and why did you decide on this particular study abroad experience?
I wanted to study abroad so that I could have the chance to actually live in another culture for an extended period of time, and not just visit and observe for a week or two. I chose DIS due to my interest in health care administration as a career, and DIS had a great program in Northern European public health. Also, my heritage is largely Scandinavian, and while my family originated in Sweden, I wanted to travel to and experience some element of Scandinavian life in an extended stay.

You have completed your study abroad experience. What did you learn?
I learned that I am capable of a lot more than I ever thought I was. A lot of what I was able to accomplish in Copenhagen I never dreamed I would ever be able to do. (Photo above right: The Østerbro neighborhood of Copenhagen, as viewed from the old city defenses and looking toward the residences of the Danish royal family. Photo below: A view of a canal in Copenhagen, with the dark spire of the Danish Parliament building visible in the middle of the photo.)
Sterling Kowalski in Denmark