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The start of a memorable year

12th February 2010

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It was during my first open day at the University of Leicester that Erasmus caught my eye.

I remember a passionate student regaling me with stories of how they had enjoyed their time abroad. I also discovered that as a law student I would receive a unique type of LLB for my year abroad (providing I pass the year). It was these reasons that convinced me to take the wise decision to 'go for it'.

The process of applying for a place on the Erasmus scheme was quite simple. The only paperwork required was a completed 'change of course' form and my university choices before I was accepted. The hardest part was choosing somewhere to go. The University of Leicester has links with other universities across the whole of Europe which made selecting a country a daunting task.

I chose the University of Copenhagen mainly because of what I was told by family members who had visited there and the fact that my courses would be in English (I considered being able to understand what was being said a major plus point).

My first impressions were good on arriving in Copenhagen in late July 2009, the view from my plane window just before landing was breathtaking with nothing but boats and clear water surrounding me.

After collecting my luggage and finding my way to the centre of the city, the fact still had not sunk in I had arrived. After thinking about doing this for over two years I finally made it!

After a few days of looking around it was time to get down to business. My Danish language course and the lease on the accommodation both came on the same day. August 1 proved to be quite a hectic day. I had to take all my possessions to the other side of the city where my language course was going to take place.

You might be asking: Why didn't you just take your stuff to your room and then go to your class?

That would have made sense but unfortunately Copenhagen University had plans to make me suffer. The email I received about the language course specifically stated that if anyone was late they would be taken off the course. This gave me no other choice but to take my things with me so that I could get to class in time, not fall down at the first hurdle.

After the struggle of getting there on time I was sure the day would get better, I'd get to know a few people and should be able to say a few phrases in Danish by the end of the day. Well, I was half right.
The way in which we were taught Danish was strange, to put it politely. We had a textbook that didn't have a single English word in it and we spent the day repeating Danish sentences with no idea what we were saying. Those who had English as their mother tongue were obviously the worst at Danish throughout the course (and I was the worst out of them all).

Ending the course for the day I was then left with the task of somehow travelling 14km to get to my accommodation. One thing that I learnt on my first proper day (and something I wish wasn't the case) was don't ask bus drivers any questions because they won't answer you at all! I asked the bus driver whether a particular road was on the route. He said nothing but reluctantly nodded. As soon as I got off to collect my stuff he immediately drove off! After shouting words that I won't repeat here I finally found my route on the S-trains and arrived at my accommodation at about 6pm.

When I arrived at my accommodation there were no welcome banners or anything. I got into the room and there was an envelope with the key to the door inside of it. 'So much for a welcome' I thought. I didn't expect a huge party in my honour but I did expect something more than an envelope with only a key inside.

The rest of the language course was the same as the beginning (confusing and not taught in a comprehensible way). However, I did get to learn a few useful phrases so it wasn't all a waste of time.
So after an agonising month of the language course I finally began my law courses in Copenhagen. I didn't know what to expect and what the classes would be like.

My first class was one that would suffer a 'lecture clash' for the whole semester. My Human Rights in the EU and International Law of the Sea were at the same time! Now I have many skills but being in two places at once is not one of them. Step up my trusty Dictaphone. I went to Law of the Sea which was a two-hour lecture and recorded Human Rights which was three hours.

In addition to these classes I had Indigenous People, the Environment and Law on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This class was an intensive course and was going to finish by the start of October (which is why I chose it). The exam was also open book that I took home and wrote over a few days (which seemed a good idea at the time of choosing my modules). These classes were fine; the tutor was really nice and she always had a positive attitude that I enjoyed. The other people in this class were from all over the world but mostly from countries where there were indigenous peoples living with a change of culture that settler's had brought to their countries, such as Australia and Canada.

By the end of September being just one month into my classes I had my Indigenous Peoples take home exam. We were told that the exam questions would be based on the mandatory readings. During this first month I hadn't been keeping up with the readings; preferring instead to watch DVDs and episodes of Scrubs, Fresh Prince and How I Met Your Mother. This meant that I had to squeeze all the mandatory readings (around 500 pages) into less than a week before the exam.

The exam itself covered most of the course and comprised of three questions (both essay and scenario). There was no choice in which questions we did - we had to do them all. This was weird to me coming from Leicester where I've always had a choice between questions. To top off my problems with the exam, I had to endure the effects of under-cooked chicken that I made myself a night or two before the exam. However, despite these problems I wrote the essays as best I could and submitted it online 2am Thursday which was ten hours before the deadline.

There was no time to rest after this though because on Friday I was about to start my journey to Russia, which I had been looking forward to since June. I received an email about a two week 'Study Tour' that the University of Copenhagen organises each year to Russia.

We would travel to St Petersburg and Moscow for the fortnight tour. I decided to fulfil a curiosity of mine by joining this group to Russia.

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