DIS Copenhagen – Fall 2021

After having my first study abroad in Aberdeen, Scotland in Spring 2020 cut short due to COVID-19, I knew I HAD to go again. This time I chose the DIS Copenhagen program. During the enrollment process at DIS, you will choose your “major” (core course). I chose a course entitled New Media & Changing Communities. My other courses were called Glued to the Screen, Food & Identity, and Danish Language & Culture. All my classes and professors were wonderful and made the classes enjoyable and memorable. By the way, one aspect of Danish culture that was a little strange at first was calling professors by their first names, but I soon learned that is the Danish way.

During the enrollment process you will also choose living accommodations. Because I wanted to live with other international & DIS students, I chose an apartment-style arrangement called Kollegium. However, home stays are also available, and I have heard nothing but positives from students who chose to live with Danish families. The flat in my Nimbus Kollegium was comprised of a big kitchen, common space, two bathrooms, and four bedrooms. Although I shared a bedroom, there was plenty of space. The best part of housing is that the apartments were FULLY stocked, down to dish detergent, cookware, linens, and bedding. We also received a starter food stipend because Copenhagen food tends to be pricey. My Kollegium was convenient, as it was right across from a grocery shop and a short walk to public transportation (Fasanvej Station). I was also near a large park and the Copenhagen Zoo. Besides Nimbus, there are three other Kollegiums located at various greatlocations throughout the city. However, wherever you will live in Copenhagen, the city is extraordinarily safe and easy to navigate.

DIS has a set arrival day for all students. If you arrive that day within their certain time frame, you will be greeted at the airport by friendly DIS staff wearing DIS t-shirts and waving Danish
flags, so they are easy to spot. They will then offer you light snacks, water, and present you with a personal packet with your DIS student ID, stipend card, and sim card. Then, they will transport you to your housing for free!

Because I went to Copenhagen alone (recommended!) I felt a bit unsure at first, but that nervousness lasted just a short time. Of course, many DIS students come with friends; however, just as many come alone and are seeking friendships. You WILL find your friends because everyone is open and friendly! In addition, all classes involve experiential learning, so you will be eating and traveling with classmates as well. And even before you arrive in Denmark, there are several DIS GroupMe chats so you can meet people before you even leave the U.S.! When abroad I met some of my best friends, who I still keep in touch with daily.

The classes were all experiential learning which I loved. DIS includes two all-expense paid trips for travel in your core course: the first, usually in other areas in Denmark, and the second, elsewhere in Europe. My core course visited Aalborg and Aahrus Denmark and Dublin Ireland. Everyone in DIS has classes every day but Wednesday, which is “field study” day. These days include travel around Denmark and/or visits from guests. On Wednesdays with no field studies, students are free to explore Copenhagen. There is also a travel week where you and your new friends can travel to various places in Europe or stay in Denmark and explore!

1. BUDGET. Copenhagen is very expensive, and money goes FAST.
2. If you’re a coffee lover, buy instant coffee. A typical cup of coffee in Copenhagen is anywhere from $5-8.
3. Don’t pack unnecessary toiletries: they are heavy and can be bought in Denmark.
4. Pack light so you have room for souvenirs.
5. Download Google translate.
6. Buy food for 2-3 days at a time at most (if you are close to a grocery store)! If you try to stock up, food will go bad because Europeans use fewer preservatives than in the U.S.
7. Save bottles with A, B, or C on them because you can return them to a store through a machine thing and get money back.
8. DIS pays for a commuter card or rental bike. I recommend the commuter card for more options. If you choose a Metro commuter card, you can still rent a bike for the semester (Swapfiets gave good student discounts).
9. If you want to join a gym, SATS DK gave a DIS discount. (I paid $171 USD for the semester)
10. If you get a MetroCard do NOT forget to renew your card every month or you will be fined $116 U.S. dollars by the metro workers.

I fell in love with Copenhagen. It is sustainable, clean, efficient, and gorgeous. It is a perfect mix of modern and historic. I recommend renting a GoBoat and seeing the city through a self-service canal tour. I chose to take the Metro (train) to class, about a 20-25 commute, which soon became second nature and quite pleasant. On some weekends, I visited other areas of Europe: Prague, Portugal, Vienna, and Turkey. These visits helped me become exposed to different cultures, but I loved just being in Copenhagen. It always felt comforting and cozy…just like home. In retrospect, I would have been just as happy spending every day in Denmark because the people and country all demonstrate “hygge” in their own ways.

In terms of social life, there are many options. If you choose to go out, be sure to finish the night like a typical Dane–go to a local hotdog vendor grab yourself a hotdog! However, if that isn’t up your ally then Copenhagen offers so much to do, whether alone or with friends, whether by day or by night.
I could go on and on about every memory I made in Copenhagen or every tip I could offer. However, I’ll stop and just say GO ABROAD!! The experiences and memories you make will be held close to your heart forever. You will also be so proud of yourself getting out of your comfort zone and venturing off into a new country for 4 months! Those months fly by way too fast so take advantage of every moment you can 🙂

1. Go alone! → EVERYONE is looking for friends. So many people came in alone and they have best friends by the end of the program, and you will too!
2. Say yes to everything → some of the best memories come from just saying yes
3. Budget → only buy what you will use and learn to not waste food!
4. Take Danish Language and Culture → I loved my professor and the class, and I thought it was a good introduction to Danish.
5. Go to smaller towns/cities You’ll experience more of the Danish culture and lovely Danish people.

If you want more information, I’d be happy to answer questions: kristinamcgee@callutheran.edu

By: Kristina McGee

University of Aberdeen, Scotland – Spring 2020

Coming into college, studying abroad had never crossed my mind. The thought of leaving the U.S. for four months and venturing into the unknown alone made me nervous to even think about. However, I am so grateful I decided to take the leap into what turned into an unforgettable
adventure full of cherished memories, unique learning, and lifelong friendships. Even though my semester abroad was cut short by a month due to COVID-19, I wouldn’t have traded the program
for anything. I met some of my best friends for life. I also grew as a person, pushing myself to do something I originally thought was out of my comfort zone.


The process was simple, thanks to the Cal Lutheran Office of Education Abroad, which helped every step of the way…starting with deciding what international program would be best for my major and my personal preferences. The office kept students on track with completing necessary documents, arranging travel, getting health insurance, finalizing finances, and having academic
credits transferred back to CLU. A few weeks before the semester abroad begins there is a pre-departure dinner that allows students to interact with alums of their programs for last minute tips.

Also, The University of Aberdeen has fantastic staff who kept in touch every step of the way with advice for admittance, travel, living, and academics. They were also on call once on site for any concerns, large or small.

On January 1, 2020, I left LAX for the journey of a lifetime…through London to Aberdeen, Scotland. I immediately felt relieved that Aberdeen is friendly, comfortable, and easy to navigate. There were taxis in a queue to transport folks to residences, all easy to arrange. I personally arrived in Aberdeen a few days early and stayed in a small hotel in the city first, to overcome any jetlag, but also to familiarize myself with my new home. I noticed that because of the latitude, in early January it became dark about 3:30 p.m., but as the semester went on, the days became longer and more beautiful.

– Wow! The flats (dorms) were so nice! Each unit had a shared kitchen and living room with five single bedrooms, each with a full bed, desk, shelf, and private bathroom!
– The University of Aberdeen conducts a one-day orientation for meeting fellow international students. There is a full day of information, activities, and social events.
– Walking and taking the bus are main modes of transportation. I liked the 20-30 minute walk to class through a park filled with other students. However, the bus is also convenient: students show their ID and transport to campus is free! After hours bus service to town has a fee, but it is minimal and can be arranged through a prepaid app.
– If you want to join a gym the University of Aberdeen has a great gym with a pool, tons of cardio
machines, free weights, machines and classes!

Because I was a sophomore, I took mostly Core 21 courses. There were many, many choices, but I ended up taking “How Should One Live?” (Philosophy), “Death” (Archeology), “Scottish Folklore” (Literature), and “Humans and Animals” (elective). However, there were also more specialized courses for those further along in their programs. The class structure in the U.K is a bit different than at Cal Lutheran: there are fewer assignments, each counting for a larger portion of the final grade. Even though that took some adjustment, I appreciated being pushed to learn in new ways.

I loved living so close to a safe city and being able to enjoy many aspects of Aberdeen by walking. My favorite memory (which I 100% suggest) was a weekend trip farther north to Inverness,
Scotland, home of the (famous but never seen) Loch Ness monster. I and some friends took a 12-
hour bus trip around Inverness the Isle of Skye. Not only was the scenery breathtaking but we
got to feed hairy “coos”, view castles, eat fish and chips, and explore the beautiful coutrysides. From Aberdeen it is simple to visit other locations in Europe, and I took short trips to Milan, Italy and Budapest, Hungary. That said, I would have been just as happy exploring friendly, beautiful Scotland!

Aberdeen Specifically
1. Groceries: Lidl grocery store is right down the hill from the dorms and quite reasonable.
2. Fish! For fish lovers, Scotland is home to inexpensive and fresh salmon!
3. Bedding and clothes: In Aberdeen city, Primark has bedding and other room necessities at decent prices. For Californians who do not have winter wear, this is also a good spot.
4. Phone plan: I went to the Aberdeen mall and chose the cheapest phone plan I found: 20GB a month for 15 pounds.
5. Finances: I did not get a European bank account; instead, I used a Capital One Student Journey card (just look for a credit card that does NOT have foreign transaction fees because those add up!) I also suggest (if possible) getting a credit card with the tap feature because it easier for buses.
6. What to pack: I recommend bringing no toiletries (except of course necessary medicine). Most toiletries can be easily purchased at pharmacies such as Boots.
7. Sundays: Most establishments are closed on Sundays (in Aberdeen and throughout Europe).

General Thoughts for Anyone Going Abroad
1. Go alone → you WILL make new friends (everyone abroad is looking for friends. Push
yourself and get ready to meet new friends who will become best friends very quickly). Traveling with someone from your home university can limit your outreach to new people.
2. Budget! → Money WILL go fast. Budgeting will help you stay on track. That said, allow yourself to budget for fun activities too 🙂 Live like the Europeans and buy food for one or two days only so none goes to waste. Also, spend money on experiences and not stuff.
3. Explore your host country → I regret not venturing into Scotland more; I hope to return one day and finish my journey
4. It is possible financially Don’t rule out studying abroad because you are afraid of the cost. Cal Lutheran’s Office of Education Abroad can help with resources and guidance.

It will be the BEST decision you ever made. Thereare many people who look back years later and are sorry they never studied abroad in college. BE the person who took the chance!

By: Kristina McGee

Obtaining A Social Security Number

As exciting as applying for an on-campus or off-campus job is, the process of being authorized to work and being able to get paid can be equally distressing. However, as an international student who just began working on campus, I’m going to try and make this part of your college journey as easy as possible by breaking down the entire process for obtaining a social security number. 

What is a Social Security Number?

Before I get into the methodical process it’s good to know what a SSN is.  A Social Security number is assigned to all US citizens at birth and  is used for employment purposes in the United States and is used to track earnings. It’s basically a form of identification and the card contains a unique number that many places will ask for to prove who you are. International students in F-1 status must apply for a SSN if they are employed while studying in the US. 

As you prepare to gather your documents the SSA will require that you prove your identity, age, immigration status, and eligibility to work. In addition, international or F-1 students must provide evidence of on-campus employment from the campus department and verification of enrollment status from the department that hired you. I will further explain the exact documents required but the first step for any international student should be to open an American bank account (for your paycheck to be deposited) which is a fairly easy process. You can find how to open an American bank account here- sites.callutheran.edu/global-engagement/2021/08/03/opening-a-bank-aaccount/. 

Documents required for scheduling an appointment

To apply for a social security number, you must first be offered a job and be given an employment offer letter and you can apply for a SSN upto 30 days before the start of your employment.

You will have to physically mail the following documents (listed below the mailing address) to your Local Social Security Administration Office. Once they have received your documents they will contact you regarding scheduling an interview.

As a student at CLU the Social Security Administration Office mailing address would be: 

The documents required to be mailed are: 

    1. The SS-5 (Social Security Application): Needs to be filled out by the applicant (it also mentions all the documents required to be included in your application). You can email Career Services for the form.
    2. Official letter of employment (a letter from the office that you are employed in stating your employment): You will have to send a request for this letter through the OISS student portal and on the student portal there should be a Letter Request option on the left. The letter will then be emailed to you.
    3. I-20 (most recent)
    4. I-94 (you can download your I-94 here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home and click on “Get most recent I-94” )
    5. Passport copy (including your F-1 Visa)

After mailing the documents

Once you have mailed the documents you should hear back from the SSA regarding scheduling an appointment. This usually takes about 2 weeks and if it takes more than 2 weeks you should contact them and check on your application. 


Once an interview is scheduled you will need to carry your original passport, a copy of your I-20 and I-94 (not required but it is always better to have a copy of both documents), your Student ID and Letter of Employment.

After the interview is completed your documents will either be verified immediately and you will receive a SSN after a day or two (not the physical card just the number) or usually it would take upto 4 weeks to verify your documents. In my opinion it usually takes 4 weeks and although this is a long process, to be able to start working right after your interview you need to ask for a receipt (during your interview) which shows your application has been approved. This receipt will allow you to work immediately on-campus however you will not be paid until you receive your SSN. After your application has been processed (which takes about 4 weeks) you should receive your SSN card in the mail and inform Career Services and the department that hired you.

Since this can be a lengthy process especially for students with an F-1 visa I would highly recommend submitting all the necessary documents a few weeks ahead of time in order to get an interview and receive your SSN in time. 

And that’s all there is to it. Obtaining a Social Security Number isn’t necessarily complicated, it’s just a very lengthy process with a lot of wait time but the experience of being able to work on campus and meet other students and staff definitely makes it worth it!

By: Malaika Nazim

Meet Naomi

I am Naomi Mbise, a sophomore and an International student from Tanzania. I am double majoring in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations and Theology and Christian Leadership.

I wanted to study at Cal Lutheran because I wanted to be a leader for a global society. One of Cal Lutheran’s missions was to do so. This was a huge inspiration to me to join Cal Lutheran.

My favorite part about studying at Cal Lutheran is the opportunity to engage in activities/programmes that build, support and facilitate my growth in my profession and communal life. This year I have been able to collaborate with my fellow African students to create the African Student association which enables us to engage in activities and opportunities to collaborate with the African diaspora and friends of Africa. I just recently got a fellowship to fund my summer research,a great opportunity to develop my future career. All these amongst many things are important compartments to build me as a leader to serve a global community. Forever thankful.

By: Naomi Mbise

Meet Rama

My name is Rama Youssef, from Damascus, Syria and I am studying Political Science.I fled the  Syrian civil war in 2012 and came to the United States with my mother. After a short trip, my mother had to leave me by myself in this big country to take a boat to Europe. I navigated life through high school and never thought of attending college because of the high expenses and lack of access to federal funding and student loans because of my immigration status. My only shot was applying to private colleges and California Lutheran University took me in with open arms only to open more doors for me.

During my stay at CLU, I learned how to create a life I love for myself; I’m now a pre-law student and publishing my first book called “Arose from War” in August 2021. Attending college changed my perspective on life and California Lutheran University helped with that.

My favorite part about studying at CalLu is the people. Someone on this campus will care about you and you always find your allies. Additionally, the Global Leaders Community (GLC)  in Kramer Court. I got the precious chance to lead as its Resident Assistant and create for this hall. The GLC makes you feel at home especially if you’re not from here. Kramer court is like a small family of residents that know each other on a personal level. 

By: Rama Youssef

Meet Dmitrii

Hi! My name is Dmitrii Tabala and I am a Music Major with emphasis in Violin Performance and Music Technology. I was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia. I came to the US 6 years ago to Idyllwild Arts Academy for high school. After graduating I got admitted to CLU for class of 23′. The main reason I went to CLU is because of the great faculty. The music staff of CLU is truly spectacular and they are the main reason I am attending CLU. Their professionalism and experience in the music industry gives me opportunities to learn more and more. Also the size of the school allows for more personalized learning experience and I really appreciate that as well.

The community and the positive atmosphere. CalLu is the place where I am able to truly improve and work without as much stress as in any other place. CalLu is the place where I can reach out to any professor or student and get a positive response, where I can collaborate with students from different areas and truly learn by doing, where I can be myself.

The main difference is the people. In the US it is much easier to connect with people, to reach out for help and make connections. People are much more positive (I think this is a more California thing though) and life just feels more optimistic. Seems like I do the same things in both countries: talk to people, work, study, buy groceries, etc. However in Russia each of these aspects incorporates certain stress (getting yelled at the store, getting, ruining your shoes, being scammed by the employer), and in the US even though I do the same things it feels much more smooth and easy going.

By: Dmitrii Tabala

Advice from Tamar

You’re reading this because you’re like me. You love studying abroad! I mean who doesn’t? It’s a different, new, and adventurous experience. You either hit rock bottom or you live the best moments of your life. Don’t worry. In most cases, you’re living the time of your life. Yes, you’re away from your home, your comfort zone, and you’re likely thrown into a culture shock. I clearly remember my first time in the US. I was fascinated by American public bathroom doors. If you look inside them, you might be able to see the person using the toilet! CRAZY! But despite the tough times, it’s definitely worth it.

Here are 4 advice from a baddie who published her first book and founded her non-profit as a CLU student:

1- Use available resources. CLU has a lot of resources that many students don’t take advantage of. Please, use them. For example, when will you ever go to a therapist without paying them? Your tuition covers such services. Use the chapel’s pantry with many food options. In times of struggle, the pantry was a savior. Go to events on campus. They usually have food trucks. Don’t we all love food trucks? Even outside CLU, being a student comes with benefits. Students in the US get a lot of discounts like in movie theaters. Even Spotify and Hulu offer student discounts. Also, the city of Thousand Oaks has a free transportation system within Thousand Oaks. Don’t waste your money on Ubers and Lyfts. So, always do your research. It can save you a lot of money.

2- Network, network, network. Making connections got me jobs on campus. Applying to jobs hasn’t. Making connections got me to travel to different states for conferences and events at least once a month pre COVID. Be out there.

3- Use your time wisely. I got to publish my book, “The Future of Palestine: How Discrimination Hinders Change” while studying and having a part-time job. A few months later, I started my non-profit, Yalla – Palestinian Student Leaders. Know how to manage your time.

4- Make friends and have fun. Orientation week is a golden week. That’s where I made friends for life who shared my cultural and ethnic background. Clubs, programs, and classes are also great places to make new friends. Working hard for a successful future is important but sustaining your relationships and having fun is as important, especially for your mental health. Go to Tarantula Hill and then to Tipsy Goat across the street for a typical Thousand Oaks fun night. The Oaks mall is amazing for shopping. Split gas with a friend who has a car and do fun stuff in LA or nearby areas. You are in a new country. Enjoy it.

You are here to learn, grow and have fun. If you need anything, know that you’re not alone. The international office is a place to go to when in need.

By: Tamar Haddad

Traveling for the First Time?

Hello! If you are an international student that has never flown internationally or are unsure about the flight process, I am here to help! We will all be coming from different airports, but we will all end up in LAX. I will do my best to walk you through the process! First let me list all the documents you will need for your travels. Make sure you keep these documents in your CARRY ON.

  1. I-20
  2. Passport
  3. Visa
  4. I-94 (If you have travelled to the US before, if not you will print it once you arrive)
  5. Proof of Negative Covid Test
  6. Class schedule

Once you have prepared all of this, you are set. When you get to the airport you are departing from, they will most likely ask for your passport & covid test. This process is usually quick, you will check in your bags, go though airport security and will be ready to go to your gate. You will receive a CBP Traveler Entry Form once you are on the plane, fill this in anytime during your flight. 

Once you get to LAX, you will go through immigration, where you will show all the documents listed above. They will ask a couple questions and will ask to see your passport and I-20. You will also need the CBP Traveler Entry Form you received on the plane. You will then grab your bags and hand the CBP Form to the officers at the exit. You will then go to either the pick up spot, wait for a shuttle bus (if you have reserved it), or get onto a bus to go to the uber pick up area. 

IF you have a layover, you will go through immigration there, in which you will show all your documents then. You will show the documents listed above, along with the CBP Traveler Entry Form to the immigration agent. Note that sometimes you will need to get your bags and drop them off in a designated area. You will need to hand the CBP Form to leave. You will then be able to go to the gate for your next flight. 

When you get to LAX after a layover in the US, you will not need to go through immigration. You will go to pick up your bags and you will be able to leave LAX as soon as you have your belongings. That’s about it! Sometimes they can take you in for a second screening, but as long as you have all your documents you should be all good. Safe Travels!

By: Emma Kohara

Say Hi to Your Peer Mentor!

As an incoming international student, we are all assigned an international peer mentor! They are students who will help you get acclimated to life in the US and will answer all your questions and concerns about CLU. Peer mentors consist of international students, study abroad alumni, and global ambassadors. 

If you are an incoming international student, you should be getting an email directly from your peer mentor a week or two before orientation. Feel free to ask them any questions or advice on any topic because they were once in your shoes! They are here to help. Once you arrive on campus, the international orientation will take place before regular orientation. This will give you a chance to learn about your responsibilities as an F1 visa holder. The peer mentors will lead orientation and will be a part of the information session. Here you will meet your mentor and have a chance to talk and spend some time with them. Don’t worry there will also be food, fun activities and an international social where you can meet other students! 

I had a peer mentor my first year who studied abroad in Japan, where I am from. This gave us a great chance to bond over both our experiences. She helped me so much from finding a job on campus, choosing classes, using the myclu portal all before I stepped onto campus. All the peer mentors my freshman year were incredibly supportive and kind and we were able to create a small community within the CGE. This helped me immensely with getting comfortable in the US, which is why I applied to become a peer mentor as well. You can apply before the start of the new year by contacting Lara from the CGE, her email is lraynaud@callutheran.edu.

I’ve had the honor of meeting amazing people from all over the world through this program. I recommend dedicating your time to getting to know your mentors, mentees, and anyone in the global community because it’s such a unique experience you cannot get elsewhere on campus.

By: Emma Kohara