Newhouse Students Experience Denmark with DIS Study Abroad Program

Syracuse University actively encourages students to pursue a diverse learning experience by building exchange programs with different universities around the world. Many students have participated in the DIS study abroad program, including four Newhouse School students in the last semester.  

The DIS program is a long-running non-profit foundation that provides educational opportunities to global students with sites in Copenhagen, Denmark and Stockholm, Sweden. The classes—which impart cultural and experiential learning in Northern Europe—are taught in English with a versatile curriculum based on a Core Course.

Nyhavn waterfront in Copenhagen Denmark
Nyhavn, a 17th-century waterfront, canal and entertainment district in Copenhagen. Photo courtesy of Unsplash

The classes these students choose involves a graphic design-oriented Core Course, which occupies a large portion of the classes. That course involves traveling to different places like Aarhus and Amsterdam to visit art museums, sketching local designs and learning about each museum’s exhibits.

Last semester, seniors Amanda Smith, Danny Kahn, Emily Baird and Maya Goosmann took graphic design courses via the DIS exchange program in Copenhagen. After the experience, they have all expressed positive feedback and personal growth from their time in the Scandinavian city.

Amanda Smith

a girl sits on a concrete railing in Copenhagen
Amanda Smith

The experience proved to be life-changing for Amanda Smith, as she gained a new perspective on design and explored new passions. Smith had never traveled outside of the United States before and wanted to gain a new perspective.  

She was excited to visit different museums and bring her sketchbook to learn about each museum on her own. The laid-back atmosphere in Copenhagen allowed her to do things at her own pace and explore more freely. 

For Smith, she said one of the biggest takeaways from her experience in Copenhagen was the emphasis on sustainability. In Copenhagen, she learned from the recycling habits of its residents to the sustainable fashion startups that she had the opportunity to work with, which inspired her to focus more on sustainability in her own designs and to use design for good. 

Smith’s passion for art and sustainability has only grown since her time in Copenhagen. She plans to create a sustainable fashion startup and focus on magazine layout design that is both ethical and sustainable. She also hopes to inspire others to create change through her design work.

Danny Kahn

For Danny Kahn, the six-credit Core Course was more intensive than other classes. In the graphic design studio class, she would spend hours working on designs in class and then spend the same amount of time outside of the classroom working on her portfolio. 

One of the highlights of the class was the opportunity to tour around the city, as Kahn went on weeklong and day trips to different parts of the city to gain inspiration for her designs. She saw cities through the eyes of a designer and was able to incorporate her experiences into her designs. 

The central themes of Kahn’s designs are centered around illustrations, 3D and augmented reality. She loves experimenting with contrast in her designs and has also been also influenced by Eastern European designs. She enjoyed designing and making illustrations with soft, curvy strokes, geometric or detailed designs and contrast themes, especially in her work for children. 

After her experience in Copenhagen, Kahn discovered she truly enjoys designing from start to finish in a holistic manner. She is now planning on working with a studio and appreciates the more free-range and collaborative environment of the classroom. The classroom environment has allowed her to interact with a broader range of people and learn from their perspectives. 

Emily Baird

Emily Baird was introduced to DIS through Ken Harper, a visual communications associate professor and director of the Newhouse School’s Center for Global Engagement. After attending an information meeting in the spring of 2022, she decided to attend the program. Her Core Course met twice a week for four hours, and the class collaborated extensively through field trips which included a five-day field trip to Amsterdam.

“The professors over there emphasized sketching, and it is important to do,” Baird said. “It’s helpful for practicing and focusing on the screen, but sketching and doing by hand is important. It allows you to go a lot faster instead of just figuring things out with nothing.” 

One of the biggest differences between her DIS classes and her Newhouse classes was the depth of each project. Each major DIS project took half a semester, with a lot of ideation stages before starting. This slow-paced approach allowed for more depth and exploration in each project. 

Baird was also forced to think about her design choices in a more minimalistic way. In Scandinavia, design is all about serving a purpose, not just looking nice. This approach forced her to consider each line, color and word in her designs. 

“Everything has a purpose in my designs,” Baird explained. “From the typeface to the color to the wording, instead of just throwing things together.” 

Through DIS, Baird also gained a new perspective on website user interface creation and designs. She became interested in creating websites that were easy for users to navigate and interact with, and researched how users might interact with them to create the least amount of trouble. 

Maya Goosmann

Maya Goosmann’s motivation for studying abroad was her desire to step outside of her comfort zone and gain a new perspective. At first, she said, she was intimidated by the fact that the program was not specific to Syracuse University, but ultimately found that the DIS program allowed her to challenge herself and work on projects that were different from what she had done before. She has also discovered that Danish design is more minimalistic than American designs, and from that, Goosmann learned to “take out what you don’t need” in her designs. 

Goosmann found the DIS program to be very hands-on and approachable, with small classes that allowed her to get to know her classmates well. While most of the students were American, they came from different schools and design programs, each bringing something different to the class.  

Goosmann said the biggest change from her time at DIS was overcoming her insecurities as a designer. She dealt with self-doubt at the beginning of her semester, worried that she wasn’t good enough. However, as she worked on her projects, her confidence grew and she learned to trust her instincts. 

Goosmann encourages students to take the opportunity to meet wonderful people and step outside of their comfort zone. With her future career plans involving working for a newspaper and doing passion projects with illustrations, she believed that this experience has greatly enhanced her artistic talent. 

Allen Huang is a graduate student in the media studies program at the Newhouse School.