Read testimonials from students and graduates from the Master of Science Programme (MSc) in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics.
Jan Graversen was doing a master’s degree in Environmental and Resource Management at the University of Southern Denmark in Esbjerg. But a girlfriend and the chance to study Environmental and Natural Resource Economics lured him to Copenhagen.
Why did you choose Environmental and Natural Resource Economics?
In upper secondary school, I was fascinated by both the natural and social sciences, and I was very interested in the links between the two. In relation to my studies, I found the economics courses really interesting – especially the link to the ecological perspective.
Environmental issues have interested me ever since my time in upper secondary school. It’s interesting because they affect all parts of society, and many disciplines work with it.
So I decided to do Environmental and Natural Resource Economics because it combines the natural and social sciences, even though the main focus is on economics.
Why did you choose the University of Copenhagen?
I wanted to move from Esbjerg, and my former girlfriend, an American, was due to come to Copenhagen to study for a semester at that time.
And, of course, University of Copenhagen had the degree programme that I was interested in. It was either Aarhus or Copenhagen – but Aarhus University’s profile was a bit too agricultural for me. I wanted more of a focus on economics.
Has the degree programme in Copenhagen met your expectations?
Absolutely. It was a little more theoretical than I expected. But I really liked it. I just had to get used to all the mathematics. We looked at financial regulation and analysis in much greater depth than on the bachelor’s programme.
It’s an international programme. What do you think of the fact that all the classes are taught in English?
I studied for six months in Florida during my bachelor’s programme, so that worked wonders for my proficiency in English. You just have to get used to expressing yourself in English, and not being afraid to make mistakes. For many people, this takes some getting used to.
A lot of international students do not have English as their first language either. It’s important not to switch to Danish all the time, because that excludes the foreign students and stops them being integrated into the social life.
What options are there for studying abroad?
It’s possible to do a semester abroad. I spent six months at Cornell University in Ithaca, in New York state, and loved it.
Have you had a student job?
Yes. Many students on the programme have a job alongside their studies. It’s fairly easy to find one. I had a job with WWF as a student assistant. There are also lots of opportunities to get involved in social and academic activities. That sort of thing looks good on your CV later.
What opportunities does the master’s programme offer you?
Environmental economics gives you a better analytical toolset in relation to analysing the economic effects of projects and environmental regulation, and to drafting proposals for how to best implement regulation.
Where can you get a job?
I dream of working with environmental issues for an NGO. But other typical jobs are in government ministries, consultancy firms and special interest organisations. Some of my friends from the degree programme have taken a completely different direction and specialised in financing. I don’t know much about that, but it’s great that you can specialise.
Have any of your fellow students already got a job?
One of the international students has a job at the French embassy, where she works with agricultural policy. And some of my fellow students have also had student jobs with Ørsted, Ramboll or COWI, and have now landed full-time jobs there. The job prospects are generally good.
How would you sum up your experience of the degree programme?
Overall, it has been really good. Copenhagen is a great city for students, and there are a lot of wonderful people. It has a lot of great things to offer, but is not so large that you feel lost. You can easily find your way around. I love Copenhagen and especially the district of Vesterbro.
The profile and idea behind the degree programme are really interesting. There’s a lot of heavy-duty theory and mathematics on the first semester, which can make you feel slightly ‘disconnected from the real world’. But you soon come to appreciate the practical applicability of everything you’ve learned.
Frederik Møller Laugesen works with transport and energy solutions for COWI Consult in Lyngby.“It’s very exciting and challenging. The pace is faster than it was at the university, and the work is very varied, compared to being a research assistant,” he notes.
Why did you do your master’s degree in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics?
I had a BSc degree in Natural Resources, so it was an obvious choice for me. What appealed to me about the programme was the combination of environment and economics. I like the careful argumentation of economics, and the environmental dimension makes it very meaningful. You also work with international issues, making it even more interesting.
Did the master’s programme meet your expectations?
Yes, definitely. The programme has been really good and informative. I did not do a semester abroad, but I did attend a summer course in Sussex in the UK. I did my master’s thesis on economics in relation to biogas production.
Did you have a student job during your studies?
I worked as a student assistant at the Department of Food and Resource Economics for three years – and also as a student assistant at Ramboll. This was definitely a good thing to have in my CV when I started applying for jobs. It has been all-important.
Was it difficult to find a job?
Not really. Right after finishing my studies, I was employed as a research assistant for six months – and then I joined COWI. I wanted to get out into the private sector and try something new. As a consultant, you are faced with many new challenges. I work with socio-economic analyses in the areas of climate, transport and energy.
As an Environmental and Natural Resource Economics graduate, where do you typically get a job?
We usually work in public institutions, financial institutions or consultancy firms. The salary is very similar to what you get in the public sector. We might be paid a bit more, but our breaks are unpaid. And my working week is 45 hours. This is quite normal in the industry.
What is the job like?
It’s very exciting and challenging. I have to bring new customers on board and also sell myself to my colleagues – in other words, I have to make myself attractive in relation to the projects they are working on.
The pace is faster than it was at the university, and the work is very varied, compared to being a research assistant. Since we are involved in international projects, the job is very varied. If the opportunity arises, it would be fun to work abroad.
Egle Zukauskaite comes from Lithuania. After studying economics for four years at the Vilnius University, she decided to go abroad to study for her master’s degree. “I found it a very liberal environment here, very equal and democratic,” says Egle.
Why did you choose this programme?
Back in Lithuania I worked for a year in a electricity company, and we focused very much on Lithuania becoming more sustainable in energy production and so on. So I thought I would like to relate my studies to this.
I wanted to take my masters abroad, and I didn’t want just a master in economics. I wanted more specific energy economics, environmental or resource economics.
Why did you choose Denmark?
That was because of my network and friends. They were either in Holland or in Denmark. And I knew that education here is for free for EU citizens, and that is a big advantage.
I’d heard about this programme in Denmark that was a bit more into science, and I thought, oh, it might be interesting to get more of a science perspective as well – not just the economic perspective. In Holland I couldn’t really find a master’s programme like that.
In what exactly are you specialising?
We don’t really specialise – only when we are taking electives or core courses. I have been focusing on management and entrepreneurship. I have all these compulsory courses in cost benefit analysis, economic relations, environmental policies … and in my electives I went more in the direction of business development, innovation, technology assessment and entrepreneurship courses. Focussing on how to innovate in this field.
Do you know what your thesis will be about?
Not yet. But I really want to relate it to innovation. . I would like to do the thesis with a start-up company or a growing company which is innovating something and sort of help them. It would be very good if it could be as practical as possible, and at the same time benefit a company which is innovative in this area and is developing at the moment. I don’t want to go to Maersk or Dong Energy and get some routine task. I want to be more involved.
Does the programme live up to your expectations?
When I came here, I found it a very liberal environment, very equal and democratic, I would say. The teachers are at the same level as the students, and you just call each other by name.
You have lots of opportunities to study here – either here at the university library or at the central library – and maybe that makes me want to study more. Because it feels like it’s your job, it’s your profession.
In terms of studies, it was pretty demanding at first. We had econometrics of which I knew very little from my background – quite complicated stuff. And that’s the first thing you meet when you come!
So I studied very hard and finally got a good grade, and I think I got the idea about econometrics … haha. So … one should be prepared that it’s quite a tough start on this programme.
How about your living conditions?
When we moved here, we were a bit challenged to find a place, because the prices are so high compared to what we are used to.
Now we have an apartment that we actually got through a class mate – we were very lucky. It’s a very good place in Vanløse and it’s very cheap. For a lot of students it’s not very easy – they have to change apartment every 6 months because they are subletting.
Do you have a student job?
It’s very expensive here, especially when you come from Lithuania and don’t have any savings. You just have to find a job straight away. I found work in a clothes store. It’s very well paid, actually. Now I’m only working weekends but in the beginning I was working 3-4 evenings a week.
What do you want to do?
I want to be an entrepreneur, initiating projects with starting companies. Maybe as an independent consultant, maybe as an employee. I’m not that much into theoretical models and calculating things – I’m more like having the vision, understanding the concept, the situation etc. I’m interested in waste management – food waste and recycling, that’s my main interests.
Haein Lee took a chance when she pulled up her stakes and moved to Copenhagen to study Environmental and Natural Resource Economics. In Denmark, she has found the perfect combination of happiness, ambition, high academic standards and job-related courses which all bring her closer to her dream career: Working with environmental politics at the Danish government.
Environmental and Economic Interests Combined
In the heart of Copenhagen’s city center, surrounded by parked bikes in a rainbow of colours, we meet Haein Lee for a morning coffee at the local library. A ray of sun has found its way through the large windows illuminating the spot where she is sitting: "Denmark has changed my life" she says with a smile.
Although moving to a new country was challenging to begin with, Haein Lee does not regret for one moment that she chose Denmark and the Faculty of Science as her destination. She lived in Denmark two years before entering the MSc programme, and her learning experience has been quite different from what she was used to back home in Korea:
"It has been a great experience studying in Denmark, but it was tough to begin with. I had to get used to the Scandinavian block structure, the long hours in class and the vast amount of reading material."
Haein Lee always had a great interest in environmental issues and a strong wish to pursue a career within environmental sciences. The MSc programme at University of Copenhagen was unique because she could combine her degree in Economics from Korea with her interest in Natural Resources and Sustainability:
"I was interested in environment, and wanted it to be related to economics. So in that sense, it was the perfect programme for me. I was ready to try something new."
"It is really nice to learn that there can be a different approach to teaching and learning"
Real Life Cases – A Glimpse Of the Future
One of the things that Haein Lee likes most is the close connection between the programme and the job market which is reflected through the many exercise hours incorporated in the courses. These practical elements give her the opportunity to apply her knowledge to real life cases – something she has been searching for as a student. At University of Copenhagen, there is a lot of emphasis on working with different companies’ environmental cases and policies throughout the programme:
"In Korea, we learn advanced mathematics, but students do not really know how to utilize this knowledge in real life. Here, it sometimes feels simple, but that is important as well – knowing how to use your knowledge in a simple matter. It is really nice to learn that there can be a different approach to teaching and learning”.
Moreover, her experience is that the Danish teaching environment gives her a realistic picture of her future work-life as the students are encouraged to use their competencies early on in their studies:
"During the programme, we will, among other things, have the course "Introduction to Consultancy". Here, we will work on environmental and economic case studies with either companies, organizations, research institutes or the government. When dealing with these cases, we have to understand how to assess the different policies and regulations on environment, and how we can create policies which will bring us closer to our environmental goals." she tells us enthusiastically.
Flat Structure Fosters Learning
Danish universities are often known for their flat structure and small distance between students and professors.
"I am not afraid of asking questions anymore. If there is anything I am in doubt about, I can simply ask the professor. In Korea, I would have gone home and tried to figure it out myself. But by asking questions immediately during class, I can check up on what I am curious about, and sometimes, these questions lead me to some extra information which is really important in order for me to truly connect with what I have read in the material."
The students here are very focused on their studies. But instead of competing against each other, they cooperate. It creates an atmosphere where people can be ambitious without feeling hyper tensioned.
The informal relationship between teachers and students does not only foster a better learning experience for Haein Lee. She believes that the relaxed approach explains some of the reasons why Denmark is the happiest nation in the world:
"Danish students do not feel the need to dress up in suits and wear heavy makeup all the time. Neither do they feel the need to have a Louis Vuitton bag. If a Dane wants a hotdog instead of eating at a fancy restaurant like Noma, they are perfectly happy with that. In Korea, I felt a peer pressure to look like everyone else. Here in Denmark, I feel at home. Danes are quite realistic".
However, Haein Lee emphasizes that this does not mean that students are less ambitious. In her experience, the students here have a very cooperative approach to their studies:
"The students here are very focused on their studies. But instead of competing against each other, they cooperate. It creates an atmosphere where people can be ambitious without feeling hyper tensioned."
Hard As A Coconut – Soft As A Peach
Often, international students worry that Danes might seem too cold and difficult to get to know. Haein Lee recognizes the thought, but explains that northern Europeans can be compared with coconuts – they are difficult to get through at first, but once you get to know them, you have a friend for life:
"Someone told me about the Coconut Theory where he compared northern Europeans, specifically Danes, with coconuts, and southern European people with peaches.
With peaches, you can get through the flesh very easily, but once you get to the core, you cannot go inside of it. It is a hard core which is only allowed for very close people. They easily become friends with strangers, they are very friendly, warm, and welcoming to other people, but once you get to that core, you are not allowed to go any further.
Coconuts on the other hand have a very hard shell, but if you knock on it many times with the right tools, you can get through. And once you get through, you can just go all the way through – even to the core."
Career Opportunities in Denmark
For Haein Lee, several things have made her want to stay in Denmark after her graduation, including the Danish work-life balance, the job opportunities within environmental sciences, and the content atmosphere:
"My dream at the moment would be to work at the government with their environmental policies. I am interested in the regulation side of it: to create good regulations for the market failure, and choose the environmental and economic goals at the same time. It may sound idealistic, but that is what I want to do."
However, Haein Lee’s motivation for studying and learning more has also increased during her MSc programme. This has made her consider applying for a PhD at the faculty:
"So far, I have enjoyed studying, which I did not expect. I worked for 12 years before I entered the MSc programme. When you have a job, you use your knowledge. With education, you use dedicated hours to add up new knowledge. I really enjoy this learning experience I have had during my MSc programme, and therefore, I am considering applying for a PhD."
Finally, it is not only the career opportunities that make Haein Lee want to stay in Denmark. She is also attracted to the Danish view on life:
"People here are content. They find happiness from small things. If the sun is shining and the weather is beautiful, they go for a walk in the nature, and that makes them happy. And I actually enjoy that very much."
The teachers are enthusiastic, they care about the students, we have a very close connection with the professors, and the programme is well structured.
Choosing University of Copenhagen
Haein Lee is not in doubt when it comes to recommending the University of Copenhagen to other international students:
“The teachers are enthusiastic, they care about the students, we have a very close connection with the professors, and the programme is well structured. I also really like the facilities”.
Although it can be difficult to move to a new country, and get used to a different way of studying, Haein Lee feels it all pays off in the end:
“In the beginning it was stressful, but now, I feel like my courses are all closely related, and when combined, they make sense. The knowledge I have gained here is not isolated, it is applicable. I feel that the MSc programme has widened my opportunities. ”