Alumni Spotlight: Marla Manes


Marla is a student at the University of Florida expecting to graduate in 2019 with a degree in Sustainability Studies. She's passionate about travel above all else and loves getting to know a country before scratching it off her map.

Why did you choose this program?

DIS was one of the few programs I found with courses geared towards sustainability, which is something that was important to me. While so many other programs offered sessions in Spain, Italy, or France, the idea of going to Copenhagen thrilled me like nothing else.
DIS also is unique in their approach to field trips, and it was really important to me that field studies around Denmark and the rest of Europe were included; I got to see a concentration camp in Germany as part of my Holocaust and Genocide class, which gave me a totally unique experience that could never be replicated in the states.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

DIS took care of pretty much everything. My phone plan, my visa, my transportation needs around Copenhagen and my housing were all done through the program. They even got me my CPR card, which is like Danish social security, so I could get free healthcare. They handle all of the paperwork, so all you have to do when you arrive is pick it up when they tell you to.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

There are so many factors that you should be thinking about, but a lot of people forget to think about the weather. Coming from Florida, I had never experienced a real winter, so moving to Copenhagen was a pretty big shock for me. I went in the spring so the days got warmer and longer, but had I gone for a fall semester, I would've found my days getting shorter and colder. Think about what will be most comfortable for you, keeping in mind that seasonal depression is a real thing.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

You sign up for Monday/Thursday and Tuesday/Friday classes, with all Wednesdays reserved for field studies. On a Wednesday, you may find yourself visiting a Danish art museum or a refugee center depending on what kind of class you take- almost every class you sign up for will have 2 field studies throughout the semester.

There are 5 crazy points during the semester- core course week, travel weeks 1 and 2, study break, and finals week. Your core course will also have a week-long field trip later in the semester, during either travel break 1 or 2. Whichever one you don't have, you can relax and explore Copenhagen or hop on a plane with a friend, and the same applies during the study break you get.

Finals week can be a bit of a madhouse, but then again, we're probably used to that anyways.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was not based in Copenhagen, but back at home. I was scared of missing my friends and boyfriend, scared I would feel left out of my sorority and my campus's social scene, and terrified that so much time apart would ruin my relationships. In reality, distance made me feel stronger and more secure in these fears.

The campus will still be there when you get back. Enjoy the time off from your extracurricular responsibilities. You and your friends can Facetime every few weeks, or just catch up when you get home! I realized that nothing back home would be worth missing out on the incredible experiences I had in Europe.

What's the biggest difference between DIS and your home university?

The professors blew away my expectations. Besides being hilarious and kind people, which all of them were, I'm so glad that I got to experience a taste of international education. I had so much more control over my education abroad than I ever have at home, from designing my own midterm to having the ability to write my analytical paper on literally any topic. American education is all about rubrics and instructions and control and stress, and it was absolutely wonderful to have a semester where things were a little different.