Adjusting to collegiate life as a first year is notoriously difficult for many. But for the first-years that studied abroad in Copenhagen, beginning their first semester in Gambier comes with unprecedented challenges.
The Kenyon Copenhagen program began this year, when the College admitted its largest first-year class in history — 560 students — which, while an impressive feat in a pandemic, also came with repercussions. The influx of admitted students further strained a housing system that was barely meeting the needs of the student body. The additional first years, as well as the unusually high number of seniors graduating in December, required the College to think creatively about its housing situation. Thus, the program was born, and 50 Kenyon students were shipped off to Europe to begin their college careers.
In partnership with DIS Copenhagen — a nonprofit study abroad foundation — Kenyon offered first-year students the option to begin College with a semester-long abroad program that included courses taught by Kenyon faculty, similar to the Kenyon-Exeter and Kenyon-Rome programs.
First years in Copenhagen highly appreciated these courses — taught by Associate Professor of English Sarah Heidt, Professor of English Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, Associate Professor of Psychology Irene López and Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Robert Alexander — as many felt that the DIS courses alone would not prepare them for the rigor of their first semester in Gambier. “When we were in DIS, there were other Kenyon kids who were juniors that were with us, and while we were there, they told us, ‘These DIS classes are nothing like you’d see at Kenyon,’” Halle Preneta ’25 said.
The Copenhagen Program offered first years a distinct experience, not only because of its geographical location, but also because of the program’s unique schedule. Its structure provided Copenhagen students multiple weeks throughout the semester to conduct field studies, take trips for specific classes or to simply see the Danish countryside. “There were almost like break weeks from school,” Preneta noted. “Professor Heidt was like, ‘The kids at Kenyon don’t even have a break until November,’ and we were all like, ‘Oh my God.’”
Now on campus at Kenyon, Copenhagen students have certainly been forced to grapple with many adjustments. This has been eased to some extent by their residential placement. The majority of Copenhagen students now live together in Mather Residence Hall, a decision that allows for students to see familiar faces, but also leads to a potential lack of exposure to non-Copenhagen first years.
Copenhagen students seem to have developed a special notoriety now that they’ve returned to campus. When asked how he felt he and his cohort had been received back at Kenyon, Owen Wells ’25 quickly answered, “Have you seen the Yik Yaks?”
When it comes to Yik Yak — the location-based anonymous social media app — the Copenhagen students are in on the humor. Wells joked, “It’s kind of funny, when we were in Copenhagen, we were the Kenyon kids, and now that we’re back, we’re the Copenhagen kids.”
While the Copenhagen first years begin to navigate Kenyon as all previous classes have, they look back fondly at their time in Denmark, and are appreciative of having 50 familiar faces that they can smile and wave to as they discover the campus together. Wells is very grateful for the reception he has received from the Kenyon community. “Once you branch out, everyone is a bit excited to meet you, and honestly impressed that you are branching out. Generally, I feel like I’ve been received with open arms,” he said.