Charting a new course: How Whittier College’s study abroad changed Karen Eisenhut ’08

February 28, 2024

One trip set Karen Eisenhut ’08 entirely on a fresh path — living and teaching in Denmark.

Eisenhut grew up outside of Princeton, New Jersey, but she had little desire to stay on the East Coast. The seed of out-of-state education was planted when her older sister went to Oregon for college. Influenced by vacationing in California and a high school visit to the campus, Eisenhut chose Whittier College because of its small size and personable feel.

“College is a great chance to explore something totally different,” Eisenhut said.

Thanks to Whittier College’s international opportunities, Karen Eisenhut ’08 lives and teaches in Denmark. The college’s Global Poet Scholarship awards $2,000 to every student who studies abroad through the Whittier College Office of International Programs.That passion for exploration is a theme of Eisenhut’s journey. Instead of double majoring in education and sociology, she combined the two fields with the Whittier Scholars Program for a unique learning experience researching inequalities in school systems. She saw the contrast firsthand when working at the Boys & Girls Club of Whittier with the Fifth Dimension team.

Eisenhut wasn’t very familiar with Denmark when she chose to study abroad and observe more diverse school systems. However, Whittier College’s longstanding history with the Danish program DIS and its courses intrigued her.

“​​Not many study abroad programs have a practicum where you get to work in a preschool in Denmark,” Eisenhut said. “That was a huge highlight for me.”

The experience had a lasting effect, and Eisenhut focused her Whittier Scholars Program senior research project on KonTiKi Children's School in Hillerød, Denmark. She returned for the project to study how much children influence day-to-day teaching practices and the overall curriculum.

After college, Eisenhut went on to work as a study abroad advisor at various institutions, recruiting students to study internationally. Yet returning to Denmark again always lingered in the back of her mind. Eventually, KonTiKi offered a teaching position for Eisenhut in 2018 that has turned into a career. Now, married with a child, Eisenhut is still in Hillerød, where she teaches English to six different grades and immerses herself in the school’s experiential learning.

“I’m able to really get to know all the kids at my school,” Eisenhut said.

Karen Eisenhut ’08 teaches at KonTiKi Children's School in Hillerød, Denmark. Eisenhut researched the school as part of her Whittier Scholars Program senior program.Students interested in life-changing studying abroad experiences like Eisenhut’s are encouraged to explore Whittier College’s offerings as well as the Global Poet Scholarship, which awards $2,000 to every student who studies abroad through the Whittier College Office of International Programs.

“I think every student should take advantage of it during their studies because it can open a lot of doors,” Eisenhut said.

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