This summer, I had the opportunity to take the Unit Operations Lab for chemical engineering majors at Denmark Technical University in Copenhagen. The Unit Ops lab is very well known as one of the most challenging parts of the chemical engineering major, but I thought it would be more enjoyable if I took it abroad in an exciting place. However, the workload was not what I expected, and I had to learn how to balance work with travel. This program is different from other study abroad experiences I have participated in because it is not fully centered on traveling and learning about a new culture. The main purpose of this program was to complete the lab requirement for my degree, and the “abroad” portion of the study abroad was secondary to that. Therefore, I had to adapt my goals and expectations for this program in order to succeed in the lab while also making the most of my time in Demark.
The lab itself was very interesting. Denmark Technical University has a pilot plant with large-scale equipment and machinery. This provides a great opportunity for chemical engineering majors to experience what working in an actual chemical plant might be like, which is part of the purpose of the Unit Ops lab. Access to these facilities was another reason I wanted to complete my Unit Ops lab requirement in Denmark. We had 6 labs to complete over the course of the 4-week program. Each lab consisted of a day in the pilot plant working with a specific piece of equipment and then a lab report due 2-3 days later. The time spent in the lab was very interesting, and all of our TAs were super helpful. I thoroughly enjoyed working in the pilot plant and getting a taste of what my future career could look like. The hardest part of the program was writing the lab reports. The reports analyzed the data collected in the plant and included an introduction, results, discussion, and conclusion. They took a very long time to write, and my lab partner and I ended up spending most of our time during the week completing the reports. This large time commitment prevented me from exploring the city on the weekdays, but if I worked hard during the week, I was able to have the majority of the weekends to myself. I had to adjust my expectations and realize that I would be working all throughout the week in order to have fun on the weekends. Once I realized this, I was able to use my weekends to explore Copenhagen with my friends and see all the city has to offer. Overall, though the lab was difficult, I was still able to enjoy my time abroad once I adapted my expectations and managed my time wisely.