We can’t just live off the earth - we have to live with it 

"The programme is in the start-up phase, but I think it is very well thought through", says Emelie Öhlander. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Earth Science from Stockholms Universitet and among the first ones attending the new programme in Climate Change.

Master of Science in Climate Change at University of Copenhagen

Why did you choose Climate Change? 

In fact I didn’t find any master programme in Sweden that I found interesting. My sister said, why don’t you look at University of Copenhagen? So I looked around at the website, and then I found this master programme. 

What exactly were you looking for? 

I studied Earth Science (Geoscience) in Stockholm, but I lack knowledge in chemistry for instance, and that limits the possibilities a bit. So I was looking for a combination of science and politics. And I think Climate Change has a good interdisciplinary science.

I can read the courses and do a good job, even though I lack some of the basic knowledge in chemistry for instance. You can learn it along the way. And as I haven’t studied so much politics, here you can address such subjects as economic impacts and how governments work, and I think that’s crucial as well, when you are working with climate change. 

You can choose between a series of courses, can’t you? 

We have 14 courses to choose from in the Climate Change programme. And on top of that we can have some elective courses to choose from in Denmark, or in the rest of the world, as well. 

And the combination defines what kind of graduate you end up being? 

Yes, we have three profiles. You can have a general one if you can’t decide, a natural science profile which is more based in natural subjects, like what is happening to the elements, and then you have the social science profile where you focus more on economics and political views on climate change. 

One of the reasons I started to study science was that I saw that environmental problems would be more severe in the future. It was worrying. I think we humans need to wake up and be responsible for our actions. We can’t just live off the earth, we have to live with it and have a sustainable society. Now I know a lot of the processes, so I can start to specialise more in climate change and learn more about that. 

How is the workload? 

It’s different from the bachelor. Here you start quite smoothly, but now it starts to build up. They anticipate that you do more than on the bachelor – and that’s how it should be. For this semester it is more group work than individual assignments. And then you have to read too of course. 

How many hours a week?

I think I do more than 40 hours – definitely. I had a student job in Stockholm for every other weekend, and I’m so relieved I don’t have to work here, because I feel I don’t have the time. A lot of Danes are studying and working at the same time, they seem to manage, but I think it’s nice to have one day off in the week. But you have an evenly distributed workload over the year. 

What do you think of the university and the facilities? 

I think it’s really good. It’s nice the libraries are distributed all over Copenhagen, so you don’t have to go so far to find one. The facilities at the libraries are really nice. At Frederiksberg Campus for example, you have free copy prints, and that’s really good for the students. 

What do you think of the city? 

I love it. Except for London I’ve never loved a city that much as Copenhagen. I like the biking culture. The people actually care here. It seems like the Copenhageners are quite aware of climate changes, and Denmark as a whole do a lot of things for research and adaptation measures. And the people here are really nice and friendly. The main problem here is the Danish … 

The Danish people? 

Haha … no, the Danish language. I’m starting to learn. I’ve applied for a Danish course for Scandinavians, so I can learn it faster. 

You come from a foreign country and have to learn to know a lot of new people very fast. How’s the social life going? 

We had two weeks introduction for internationals in the end of august, where you had classes on “how to be a Dane” … learning how to get the CPR-number (personal registration number) and bank account etc. During these weeks we met each other, we had a round tour of the university, and a treasure hunt with the programme.

That was really good because then you get to know somebody. I actually still see some of the students I met at the course. So the international students got to know each other before we started the actual course. 

So you were ahead of the Danish students when you started?  

Definitely. I think they went like “Oh, they already know each other!” Haha … But the class is really nice and because we are so relatively few, everyone is talking to everyone and we do stuff together all the time. We often have weekly meet-ups  with partying or with international dinners.

I’ve never been to a programme where the students has acclimatised so fast. Everyone here is like “Oh, you are new here. Call me if you want to ask something, or …” They are really helpful. 

What kind of job would you like to end up having? 

My main goal? To work at the UN with climate change issues like adaptation - or trying to address what is going to happen and try to educate people. Policy making or campaigns – that’s what I have been seeing myself doing. I would like to work globally. 

After graduation Emelie worked as a consultant on sustainable development at NIRAS in Denmark. She now works as a Climate Action Program Manager at Ericsson in Sweden.