Hi! I’m Anton from Denmark and I study Political Science in Copenhagen. After having studied remotely since March, I was hanging on to the slight hope of schools reopening in time for my planned exchange to London in the fall of 2020. Unfortunately, as the end of August grew closer, it became more and more unrealistic. Not wanting to waste a second before the second wave of Covid-19 rolled over Europe, I jumped on a plane to stay with my girlfriend in Colombia – which is where I have carried out my remote exchange at Queen Mary, University of London since.
Online fatigue yet living in the mountains
Although online learning has taken some time to get used to, the setup has been straightforward. Every week the course platform provides lectures, reading material and questions to answer. However, I have missed the physical presence at university, grabbing a coffee after class with new friends, attending quiz nights, listening to external speakers and playing university sports. As a lucky trade, I have instead had the chance to see the Colombian countryside on weekends, driving a few hours down the mountains of the capital Bogotá to ride horses and chase sunsets.
The question of logistics
I have taken four modules at Queen Mary, ranging from the politics of the Middle East to the history of the UK’s relationship with the EU. Besides finding the content of the modules extremely interesting, their format has also been great match with my preferences. Due to a time difference of six hours, I had to wake up at 4 AM on the Thursday of the first week. However, after asking the administration for help, all my classes have been between 8 and 10 AM, which has given me ample time to write class assignments, exercise and explore Bogotá.
Understanding the country context
Granted, at times it has been hard to remain motivated when sitting in front of a screen all day for weeks on end. My main way of coping has been to study at a local coffee shop called Caffa, where I have made friends with the owner. Rates of Covid-19 infections have been much lower in Bogotá this fall, and city life has remained open, albeit with masks, temperature checks and disinfection. Besides making great coffee, Caffa also works to improve the livelihoods of their coffee suppliers by teaching human rights classes in areas affected by the long-lasting conflict between the Colombian government and the guerrilla group FARC. Their work has been a great motivation, and it has allowed me to reflect on the way that civil society can leverage both law and business to create societal change.
Inspiration for future projects
Overall, I have had a great time studying at Queen Mary. In fact, my class on the UK’s relationship with the EU has opened my eyes to the blended form of Political Science and History that maps and traces international negotiation processes. I hope to draw on this approach in my thesis this spring, where I intend to analyse the Danish negotiation of the Single European Act of 1986 using European integration theories and historical documents. My two semesters of remote learning have taught me the importance of creating a daily routine – making sure to eat proper meals, going outside for walks and staying in touch with the people you love. Until the European vaccines are rolled out, it looks like I will have to continue those habits in Copenhagen.
Written by Anton Holten Nielsen