University of Calgary


February 26, 2010

Postcard from Denmark

University of Calgary student Orlagh O'Kelly studied during her third year of her law degree at the University of Copenhagen, in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is her postcard home.

Why study abroad?

I always saw the opportunity to study abroad as a unique experience to learn international law and to see Canadian law from an enriched perspective. I chose Europe because they have the highest academic standards. In particular, I decided on Copenhagen, Denmark both because it is a dynamic city and because Denmark has lots of points of reference from a Canadian vantage point.

Why go on an exchange?

At the University of Copenhagen I had the opportunity to study international terrorism law. This course was very well put together, with students from all over the world and Denmark. One highlight was a trip to PET (that is, the Danish CSIS). We were able to hear about the challenging legal issues from the inside. Moreover, I learned much about international environmental law simply by osmosis. Copenhagen was the home of the climate change conference and the number of learning opportunities and public lectures were infinite. Coming from Alberta, I will forever be grateful for acquiring a more global perspective on these issues.

Tell us about Denmark.

Many people stereotype Scandinavians as ice people. But I was surprised at the warmth and friendliness of many of the Danes. They are, however, more like a bottle of Heinz ketchup. It takes a while, but once they warm up, the Danes were so helpful, caring and friendly.

Where did your travels take you?

Because of my interest in aboriginal law, I was fascinated by Greenland's homeland rule set up by the Danish government. I took my interest to the field in northern Norway, where I visited the Sami Parliament (Norway’s self-governing indigenous institution) in Karasjok on the day a new parliament was opened. I had a chance encounter with the King and Queen of Norway there! Norwegians and Canadians are kindred spirits as nationalities, I think. We value much of the same things and we both work consistently at embracing the joys of winter.

What new interests did you develop?

I tried my hand at Norwegian and Danish, but my one regret was not taking a Danish language course. Instead, I mastered my skills at city riding on my beloved pink fixed wheel. After all, Copenhagen is the biking capital of the world.

What will you take from this experience?

On a personal level, I learned a lot about myself being oceans away from home. To my career and studies, this experience has broadened my horizons and opened up a whole other level of possibilities. I will work with the federal Department of Justice in Toronto beginning this summer. I hope that I might eventually turn towards international legal matters.

Words of wisdom?

As one European said, "non je ne regretted rien." But I am happy to be home in Canada.

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