Student Spotlight: Sara Heckelman
Sara Heckelman | Copenhagen Business School | Spring 2020
1) Share an experience where you interacted with someone in your host culture in a way that taught you something. Describe the experience and what you learned about yourself, your host country, or the world in general.
Throughout my time in Copenhagen, I met people from all over the world. The students in my classes and in my residence hall were from places like Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Hungary, China, France, just to name a few. During my first day of classes at Copenhagen Business School (CBS), I walked into a large lecture hall and sat next to a 20 something year old woman who was sitting on her own. I too was walking into the class knowing no one so I decided to sit next to her. During the first lecture, our professor introduced our final project assignment and told us to find partners with whom we would work. Everyone in the class began twisting and turning to make eye contact with those around them, indicating the start of a project partnership. We introduced ourselves to each other and decided to work on the project together. Réka, on exchange from Budapest, Hungary, quickly became one of my closest friends during my time in Copenhagen. Not only did we do a really great analysis of a Copenhagen-based sustainable start-up for our final project, but we also built a really strong friendship.
One day after class, Réka and I biked to and began exploring Fredericksberg park – a gorgeous, expansive area of greenery and swan-filled streams not too far from the CBS academic buildings. We spent nearly three hours there that afternoon comparing and contrasting young adult life and overall culture in Hungary and in the US. It was fascinating to pick apart American and European culture. Throughout our conversation, it became clear to me what aspects of American society I was really proud of and what aspects I wished weren’t so. It is not often that we are prompted or given the opportunity to really reflect on our upbringing and the society in which we live and this conversation and my friendship with Réka gave me that opportunity. I am so much looking forward to visiting her in Budapest sometime soon!
2) What advice would you give to students who are preparing to go abroad to help them make the most out of their study abroad experiences?
My answer to this is simple: say yes. Say yes more often. Say yes to new things. Say yes to strange things. It is more than the cliche idea of “going out of your comfort zone” – it is allowing yourself to subscribe to a mentality of occasional discomfort (with safe limits of course) for the sake of experiencing new things with new people. Of course you can’t (and shouldn’t) say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. However as you go into your abroad experience, allow yourself to break down the barriers of “I can’t” or “I don’t like that.” Do more, and do it wholeheartedly because it will all be over before you know it.
3) What was it about your program specifically that fit best with your personal goals over other programs?
Something that is unique to CBS is the fact that course grades are entirely determined by one single final exam, paper, or oral presentation. This format of grading forces you to self-motivate, to learn the material as you go along, so that you are not cramming at the last second for all of your exams. At UMD, I became so accustomed to having weekly submissions and assignments for courses – indications of my progress throughout the semester. This new change, while difficult at first, was liberating in a sense and allowed me to understand my own work ethic and personal motivating factors, more than ever.
4) What concerns/fears did you have about studying abroad, and how did you overcome them?
Before studying abroad, I was definitely concerned about missing out on happenings in College Park with extracurriculars, friends, and events. After building such a life and such a community in a space for 2.5 years, leaving it abruptly was nerve wracking. Once I got into a routine in Copenhagen and made for myself a home and community there, it became easier for me to be away from College Park. My feelings of missing out turned into feelings of pride and excitement for my friends still there experiencing it. I was able to share my experiences and stories with them and hear about theirs in return. I am excited to return to it all next semester, with the worldly knowledge and self growth I have experienced. I will be coming back into these comfortable, predictable environments and communities with a more understanding and mature mindset which will undoubtedly make my final year in College Park unique and my return to what was once so normal, decidedly different.