Lisa Wants to Become an Expert in Health Information Technology

Before you leave

Start early. You need to sort out a lot of practical matters, before you can go. Each university has different collaboration deals. The International Office, the Student Counseling Service, or a theme day may be the place to start – preferably,w at least a year before you plan on going. Some schools put a lot of emphasis on grade average. Although a lot of students favor the U.S. and Asia, Europe also has a lot to offer – especially in terms of jobs after graduation. Don’t give up, if you have to be a trailblazer and be the first to go to a specific place. If you really want something, go get it.

The financial aspect. Choosing to go to a university with which your own university is currently collaborating, enables you to receive free tuition. If you go somewhere else, you can apply for study abroad grants through the state education grant office. Applying for grants is time-consuming, and the competition is tough, so you may also need to save up some money. Studying abroad for six months will probably cost you 100,000 Danish kroner. At a public university in Australia or in the U.S. the general fee is around 45,000 – 50,000 Danish kroner.

Admission requirements. Find out if the university in question demands that foreign students take a language proficiency test. If so, you need to book an appointment to take the test in either Copenhagen, Aarhus, or Malmø. You also have to make sure the study board will accept a transfer of merits – in other words, sort out formalities as well as technicalities.

Accomodation. Postponing the hunt for housing till you arrive may prove risky. Find out if your university offers on-campus student housing and ask other students enrolled at the same university how they found a place to live. At Danish Student Abroad you may meet other exchange students.

Insurance. You need to get health insurance, so that you will be transported back home, in case something serious happens. A health insurance with coverage outside the European Union costs at least 3,000 Danish kroner. In the U.S. you also have to get student insurance, which costs about 5,000 Danish kroner per semester. Remember to list these expenses when applying for grants.

Purpose. Figure out what matters most to you, regarding a stay abroad. Do you want to evolve professionally or personally? Or travel around and experience something? Getting your priorities straight will help you decide if you should choose a big city or a university far away from temptations. Also, you need to discuss your purpose with potential travel companions, before you start applying.

When you’re away

Social life. Having roommates to talk to may be nice – preferably someone who wants to go with you on weekend trips or sightseeing. You could also travel with someone from your class, who would like to take the same course as you.

Contact. Will you favor staying in close contact with the people back home instead of engaging in activities in your new surroundings? Allow yourself to experience the foreign country; don’t get stuck in the house due to constant Skype dates, which may cause you to feel homesick. Contacts abroad provide you with a network – perhaps for your thesis or a future job.

Leisure. What do you want to do during your time off? Study or go to the beach or the city? Visit other people or explore the country? Hang out with other Danes or Scandinavians, meet other exchange students, or get to know the locals?

A stay abroad is going to make Lisa Madsen stronger personally and professionally.

Lisa Madsen is spending a semester abroad at University of Wisconsin-Madison in the U.S. “I am spending my third semester of my Master’s here, because I am studying Health Biomedical Engineering and Informatics at Aalborg University. From the very beginning of my studies, it’s been my plan to study abroad for a semester – you see, after I graduated high school, I wanted to go to university right away. I had a vague idea that I wanted to go to the U.S., and, as it turned out, the U.S. is in the lead in the field I want to explore – Medical Informatics.” Lisa examines how a hospital can make better use of patients’ health data without compromising confidential or personal information. “I am a part of a research group at the Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics, which deals with the exploitation of clinical data. The group consists of people from different professions – engineers, doctors, and statisticians – and we have a meeting every Wednesday, at which we assess the status of the different research projects. You really benefit from presenting your project in front of others, and being at a university hospital is a great advantage.” Being registered as “staff” at the university enables Lisa to gain merits for her work on the project.

Difficult Terms for Grants
Lisa found out about the stay abroad through her Danish supervisor, who had contacts at the American university that was interested in Danish students. Therefore, Lisa had to take two online courses to gain permission to work in the department. It did take quite a long time to get an official letter from the university, and further, Lisa missed the deadline on quite a few grant applications, because she failed to fulfill the requirements concerning documentation. Therefore, she also did not have a place to stay before she arrived in the U.S., but now she’s living with three other girls and pays 4.000 Danish kroner in rent each month. “We’re here to learn something, but I also want to grow as a person.”

When Lisa Madsen has finished her ninth semester, she’ll go home and take an exam with her Danish advisor – with a paper written in English. “I graduated from HTX (Higher Technical Examination Program), which does not really focus on language, so being able to improve my language definitely motivated me to go to an English-speaking country. Since I am still immersed in my studies abroad, it’s a little hard to say what else I am gaining from the experience,” says Lisa Madsen, who made a deal with her boyfriend before traveling to the U.S.: they would not see each other for five months. “Well, it is a bit hard, but before we started dating, we both knew I had decided that I wanted to study abroad. He’s probably busy with his Ph.D.; it’ll be fine.” Since Lisa won’t be going home for Christmas, she’ll be spending the holidays in Florida with a fellow student, whose uncle lives there. Her father will come visit her. “It makes it a little less hard to be away for Christmas,” laughs Lisa, although, of course, she misses the people back home.