The College of Europe is a special place for every student. But maybe even more so for Danish Students, as Helle Thorning-Schmidt, their former Prime Minister, is one of the most famous and prominent alumni of our postgraduate institute of European studies. This academic year, 5 Danes are enjoying the academic life-changing experience at our Bruges campus and three of them talked to us about the extraordinary study environment, how they ended up at the College and what the future has in store for them.
"When I came across this school and programme, it just felt perfect taking into account my background, the chance of getting the whole EU-specialisation and what I want to do in the future. My previous master’s in Development and African studies was very broad, and I wasn’t sure in what direction to go professionally. With a master’s from the College, I’m adding an EU dimension to my interest in development and Africa, which already now is helping me imagining what to do in the future", says International Relations & Diplomacy Studies student Astrid OLESEN.
"I wanted to supplement my educational background from Denmark, which was in business and I wanted to do something else. This was a great opportunity to do something for an extra year. In the long run, this feels like a small investment of time in my career, but hopefully with a really high return. On top of that I wanted to study in a different environment than the Danish one. The College is very different and from that perspective you could say that it has been a success already" explains fellow IRD-student Nina OLSEN.
"I have been working in Brussels and through that I had the opportunity to meet people who visited and knew the College of Europe and talked about their experiences. It made sense to specialise more in and learn more about EU-matters. I will be working with the European Union a lot in the future, I suppose. I'm really amazed by how ambitious, interested and committed everybody at the college is when it comes to their studies and work", adds student Espen KROGH from the Political & Governance Studies Department.
"There's a special atmosphere among the students as Bruges is a very small city and the College of Europe is quite a small school with only 350 people who live in student residences. That also influences the studies as this bubble makes the students much more dedicated and invested" states Astrid OLESEN.
"It's a very different study life compared to my experiences in Denmark. It's intense in a whole different way as you have the social aspect that is such an integral part of the studies. One of the other distinct things about the college is the variety of nationalities which creates a very stimulating environment. If you are a curious person and interested in other cultures, countries and people, I cannot imagine a better place as you have a mix of people from all over the world", complements Nina OLSEN.
Why opt for the CoE?
Astrid OLESEN: "Danish people should come to the College because you don’t only get the academic side, but also a more practical side. In Denmark, universities are usually more focused on the academic and theoretical part. I also really appreciate the international vibe and the fact that you can enhance your language skills. They do not only teach French, but also other languages. Next to that, you can also choose among optional courses and seminars to fit your background and create your own unique profile."
Espen KROGH: "I share that view. If you want to specialise in European affairs, the College of Europe is the place to be. Also very important and relevant is the proximity to Brussels. Actually, I cannot think of another place that offers the same opportunities to engage with European Affairs. It's definitely something that you don't find in Denmark."
Nina OLSEN: "What is important to know is that you don't have to be a European expert before you come and study here. Students have many different backgrounds and come to learn about Europe. It's a unique opportunity to not just scratch the surface, but go into depth and try to understand what the EU is really about. And in the end, you will have the advantage of understanding Europe and the EU much better than the average person in Denmark."
"Bruges really feels and looks like a place from a fairy tale, like you are in a movie setting because all the houses and streets are so perfect and nice, also with the cobbled roads. On top of that, you have the horse-drawn carriages and all the tourists. It's truly amazing and magical, no doubt about that", is the enthusiastic description of Astrid OLESEN.
"I would say that the experience that you get, wouldn't be the same if the College would be located, for instance, in Brussels. You don't have the same intimacy that you find in Bruges with all the facilities, like the campuses, restaurant and residences, close to each other. I don't think the concept would work in a bigger city", reckons Nina OLSEN.
"The cosy city makes the College of Europe setting unique. Every road you take is the ‘scenic route’. I studied in London for instance, but the experience was totally different.The student community was much less intense, close and connected compared to here in Bruges. You're not really capable of having that much of a life outside the College as you are so focused on the context, which adds something to the experience", adds Espen KROGH.
And then maybe the most important question, what will the future bring for our Danish students? "It is examination period right now, so I’m taking it one day at the time", laughs Astrid OLESEN. "Thinking about what will happen after our graduation is too much of a mystery. Maybe a job in Brussels or maybe some field experience in Africa..."
"For me the future is also very open at the moment. I have flirted with and have seriously considered the thought of going for a PhD", is Espen KROGH looking to his personal perspectives. "But I’ve enjoyed working with European affairs, so I could easily see myself returning to Brussels afterwards as well. But we'll see after the exams."
"To begin with, I would prefer a job in Denmark. I could also have tried to find a job with the master's degree I already have, but I would definitely like to work in some sort of EU related policy area in my home country", is Nina OLSEN sharing her future ideas and aspirations with us.
Astrid OLESEN and Nina OLSEN talking about the unique study experience at the College of Europe in Bruges in a small video testimonial:
Video testimonial Astrid OLESEN (in English)
Video testimonial Astrid OLESEN (in Danish)
Video testimonial Nina OLSEN (in English)
Video testimonial Nina OLSEN (in Danish)