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Course catalogue — Foam, raffle games and beer tasting, all in the name of science. Your fellow students are doing courses you probably didn't even know existed. Here is a handful of niche subjects to inspire you in your choice of elective subjects.
Six months ago, the University Post ran a story about a BA course in Beyoncé at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen (UCPH) that garnered headlines all over the world.
But Beyoncé, Gender and Race is far from the only UCPH course, which has a topic far away from the academic beaten track. We have found five students who immerse themselves in ‘niche’ subjects, to put it mildly. And they all love the nerdiness of it all.
Do you think beer is something that you drink after the lectures? Think again.
“In the course Fundamentals of Beer Brewing and Wine Making, we learn about the chemical processes that take place in beer and wine. Our instructor believes that we need a well-rounded education, and so he consistently, once a week, has bottles of beer and wine on the table for us to taste. Then we get a bunch of molecule cards in our hands, and we have to taste for aromatics and explain why a rosé wine, for example, switches its colour to red. It is actually a very scientific process so it can be a challenge to stay sharp at the same time as you are getting slightly tipsy.”
I think that it adds some value to know a great deal about something instead of knowing a little bit about everything. I think the University of Copenhagen should get better at cultivating these niches and preserve these small nerdy courses.
Brewing Science and Technology is a continuation of the bachelor programme in food and nutrition, where students specialise in either meat, dairy or brewery. Nikolaj knew exactly what he wanted to do, and so he took a six month internship with the Ørbæk Brewery and Carlsberg, where he learned how to do the heating process of corn for malt.
“I like the practical aspect of the programme, because I learn a lot from going out and having your hands in it, so to speak.”
At one point I reckoned that, now that I’ve been drinking all this beer – wouldn’t it be fun to brew it myself?
Nikolaj Metz Jansen
The passion for beer began in secondary school, where Nikolaj and a friend often sat in a park and shared a bottle of Ale No. “At one point I reckoned that, now that I’ve been drinking all this beer – wouldn’t it be fun to brew it myself?”
So Nikolaj went on a brewers course, and today he brews beer as a hobby with a friend in the faculty’s kitchen. He is not sure where the path will lead him, but he is playing with the idea of taking a plane to Japan to study fermented rice wine. “Because they have a great product called sake.”
“By the ‘Dansepladsen’ in Fælledparken there is a hollow tree where there is a bat! When you walk past there at dusk, you can hear he sits there calling for a mate. When it gets quiet later, you know that that he has company.”
This is according to Regitze Renee Pedersen, who is studying biology and has had a supplementary subject in the course Denmark’s Fauna, on all the Danish vertebrates from buzzards to guinea pigs. The course is a combination of theory and field study where the instructors and the students jump in to their rubber boots and catch fish in the Botanical Gardens, watch deer in the Dyrehaven park, or listen to bird song on Amager Fælled at four o’clock in the morning.
“It’s great to get outdoors and get some dirt under your nails. Our instructors are very passionate about their field as experts in bats, fish and birds,” says Regitze who also likes to go out and study the birds through binoculars.
When I was small, it was a sign of spring when the lapwing came flying. This happens rarely today.
Regitze Renee Pedersen
“When I was small, it was a sign of spring when the lapwing came flying. This happens rarely today, because it is disappearing from the Danish landscape. This is one of the reasons why this course is so important. We learn about what animals we have, and that we should take care of, and I recommend it to everyone – regardless of whether you are studying biology or not.”
As a child of a hunter and an angler, she grew up with animals when her father took her out on a fishing trip or when she watched him dissect ducks on the kitchen table. She started her biology studies to study wolf behaviour, but has since become more aware of the field of microbiology.
Her dream is to work with diseases and bacteria. In the autumn, Regitze will write her thesis on borrelia, and she has to go out and find ticks in the undergrowth. Perhaps in the Fælledparken, so she can observe whether the bat is still sitting there in the tree making its call.
“I like things that go bang,” says Olivia Aalling-Frederiksen.
She is doing a supplementary course in chemistry teaching experiments, where she has ample opportunity to do everything from attention-grabbing chemical explosions to snakes of foam.
The course is intended as preparation for experiments at secondary school level, so students put on their lab coats every week and learn how to communicate abstract chemical formulas in a language that secondary school students understand.
I like things that go off with a bang
“Chemistry is a very visual science, and you can quickly make a show. In this way, I think it is easier for the audience to remember,” says Olivia, who has chosen the subject because she is toying with the idea of becoming a secondary school teacher.
“I like chemistry, because I can relate it to my daily life. I am looking forward to standing in front of the students in the laboratory and showing them how important a subject it is. There is chemistry everywhere!”
“It depends on culture, context and personality, what it is that you signal with your arms folded,” says Malte Zachariassen and lets his arms drop down along his side. He is doing his master’s in language psychology and an elective course in the psychology of body language, where they learn about non-verbal communication via glances, gestures and facial expressions.
“The course makes you a bit uncomfortable because you suddenly become very self-conscious about how you walk, stand and hold your hands,” he says. “I often find myself analysing the people around me – and you can easily get caught in some awkward situations!”
Personally, I think it would be cool to learn how to manipulate and affect my surroundings in one particular direction
The course links theory and practice in that students both have to memorise thick text books and analyse statues at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket. Malte hopes to end up as a spin doctor for a football team, but he tells us that the course can be used everywhere – both on and off the university campus.
Personally, I think it would be cool to learn how to manipulate and affect my surroundings in one particular direction This could be at a job interview, or to get away from a fight when I am out on the town. And I think all boys think it would be great if they could use some of it to score the ladies,” he says, laughing.
“In the Middle Ages card games were not just fun and games. If the King discovered you played cards, you were hung at dawn.”
This is according to Ditte Engel Hermansen, who is studying this elective subject at the Humboldt University in Berlin. The course is included in her master’s degree in Danish and German, and today she is just one master’s thesis away from being a qualified secondary school teacher.
“Chess was for the nobility, dices were for the mob. When the poor had no money left to play for, they would typically bet a body part in the form of a hand or an eye. But the law stated that it was prohibited to sacrifice a body part, because this was a gift from God. As a consequence, the sanction for sacrificing a body part, was that you had to forfeit another body part. In this way, you could lose both eyes raffling!”
In this way, you could lose both eyes raffling!”
Ditte Engels Hermansen
Ditte is still overjoyed with her study abroad in Berlin, where she was allowed to immerse herself in the history of games and cards. This was why it felt a bit stale to have to come back to South Campus, where the small specialty courses are to an increasing extent being cut back. She believes that UCPH can learn a great deal from the German university.
I think that it adds some value to know a great deal about something instead of knowing a little bit about everything. The University of Copenhagen should get better at cultivating these niches and preserving these small nerdy courses.”