Monday, May 10, 2010

Studying abroad is equal seclusion

While the number of students who choose to study abroad either as an exchange student or placing a semester abroad when they are studying at the universities has declined mostly based on the torment Camilla Broe was exposed of before she was cleared of all charges, still some students make the decision to leave Denmark for a period.

In such a case it is important to remember that other countries have rather odd customs when we are talking of remembering relationships and a Danish student fell victim of odd foreign customs. We are talking about the case at Yale in the United States where a Danish student, who was studying at Yale made a video film of him and his girlfriend as it is quite common in our culture.

In Denmark it isn't illegal to do it without one of persons knowledge unless it is published in the public without consent of both persons. In fact a lot of movies exist in private.

But he was not in the civilized country of Denmark. He was abroad. He should have chosen seclusion and not to engage in relationships before he returns to Denmark. Sites like Exchange Student Information phrases it very precise:

Don't change or influence anything in the local culture. Just as it is known in Star Trek as the prime directive it is not your job to influence the local citizens by testimony or other kind of statement. As an Exchange student you are there to study the native population, not to change it or help it.

The Danish student simply forgot where he was. It was not a criminal offense in a developed country like Denmark, but it turned out to be in the country he had chosen to study in. The police raided the students apartment, found the movie and charged him in an act of lack of respect of other cultures in a student enviroment where many foregin students are encouraged to study.

The sentence was an act of xenophobia against the Dane. While he of course should have recognized that he was staying in a place where the culture was not as developed as in Denmark, the court should have recognized that they encourage an international student environment and it has it costs to let people from many countries live to close together. Near Copenhagen we have a part of the city called Taastrupgaard where people from 20 nations live. If you ask the local police they have to let a lot of things pass just to make the life in this part of the town go on.

The lesson learned is that Danish students who choose to study abroad must avoid relationships when they cannot act out Danish customs while being a part of them. A more general conclusion must be that this case as well as the Italian case against an American student Amanda Knox show that the time where young people can study abroad without being harassed is over.

Judge sentences Desfeux to probation, Yale Daily News
Dansk sexskandale på USA's eliteuniversitet, by Mikkel Selin, Ekstra Bladet, September 21, 2007