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Randi, first Danish student at University of North Carolina

Literature student from Copenhagen is breaking out of her shy Danish self, and learning the American way

American strangers are friendly and initiate conversations in many social settings. This is is the biggest cultural difference from her Danish home country, according to Randi Christensen.

She is the first Danish exchange student at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte after it partnered up with the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) to provide students with a new exchange agreement.

”I knew that if strangers asked ‘how are you?’ that I should respond with ‘good’. However, when someone asked me ‘how’s it going?’ I paused to think more deeply on the question and before I had a chance to say what came to mind, the person was gone. Now I know,” says Randi.

Different social rules

Randi has found it easy to meet people and make new friends. And she has so far had the time to observe subtle differences with regards to what is considered polite in the US versus in Denmark.

While shopping, a sales clerk directly asked her what she had bought. Randi was stunned by this interaction and said this was not something common to do in Copenhagen.

Randi points out that meeting Americans and other exchange students helps to educate them about Denmark while also encouraging her to think about what being Danish means to her on a more personal level.

Good coursework and teaching style

Her own exchange at the University of North Carolina began as a spur of the moment decision. But it soon became Randi’s first adventure outside of Europe. She is one of 70 exchange students at UNC Charlotte and the only student from Copenhagen.

”I decided to apply one year ago on a whim. I was not sure if any spots would open, but I received my letter of acceptance last semester and arrived in Charlotte in December,” says Randi.

Back in Copenhagen she studies Comparative Literature, but at UNC Charlotte she is taking courses in literature and gender studies. Her favorite one is Shakespeare and Ecofeminism.

Overcoming the shyness

Though she was not certain what to expect from studying in the US, her first impressions have been positive. She raves about her coursework and the intimate academic atmosphere she has experienced. What she enjoys most about her courses is the personal teaching style.

All her classes are seminar based and students participate in open conversation for the majority of the class. Graded participation has motivated her to be more engaged with the material she is studying inside and outside the classroom.

”In the beginning I was a bit intimidated about speaking up in class because almost all the students are American. Now, I feel like I’ve become less shy and reserved.”

”All my professors know my name. I like that. Sometimes they joke around with me. I don’t know how to react to that. I’m not used to it.”

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