Hello from Copenhagen! If you’re like me, the thought of being in a new country without your friends or family is just daunting, Nej Tak! But alas I write to you after a lovely night of hygge with my lovely friends from all around the world sipping mulled wine and nibbling on hummus and rye bread, talking about our dreams to touch every corner of the earth. I made sure to sign up for any orientation activities so my first week in Denmark consisted of figuring out how to pronounce my own kollegiet and a bunch of cringe worthy ice-breakers, which turned out to be totally worth it. Speaking of ice, Denmark is cold, VERY cold. After spending 17 years of my life in humid Hong Kong and hiding from the Sydney sun in UTS building 5, the negative degree Celsius weather took a bit of getting used too. It’s especially funny when I walk into a heated room, cheeks bright pink and the top part of my hair frozen and lumpy from bike riding in the snow.
I’ll be honest, I’m not the most confident bike rider. I used to giggle when that one guy on the electric scooter zoomed past me whilst walking through south concourse, but I take it all back especially when I’m sweating though a thermal and two jumpers as I push through third gear on a slight incline. But after a month and a half I can coolly flick my wrist to indicate and mount and dismount my skinny red bike in one fluid motion (with trial and error of course) and I’ve learnt to always ride with both hands, especially after an incident involving a pedestrian crossing, not-so-sensitive foot breaks and a large soy latte.
But if bike riding isn’t your forte, the transport system here is phenomenal. Buses that are on time? What!? Monthly public transport passes? Sounds like total fiction to anyone living in Sydney. Just don’t get caught without a pass though, it’s a hefty 750 kr on the spot fine. On the topic of money, students have it really good here. From discounted bus tickets to Germany or free admission to museums, I’ve felt the love from Copenhagen. There’s no shortage of book launches or start-up events where you’ll have a chance to grab a free tinny. But in my opinion, when it comes to eating out, there is not much variation in prices, everything is a bit expensive.
Classes on the other hand have been… interesting, to say the least. I was lucky enough to be able to take four electives across different faculties and can (try my best to) tell you about anthropological approaches to medicine and economic policies to reduce environmental impact by a firm. However, I would recommend to future exchange students to do something really unique to their host university, for example there are a bunch of masters and bachelor classes that are super specific to this region such as arctic mammal biology or Nordic mythology.
My living situation has been really great. I found a studio through the Copenhagen housing foundation and everything has been perfect. I live about fifteen minutes on bike from the science campus and about twenty minutes from the central business district in Nørreport. There are many other kollegiums available, I would probably recommend a place called “Basecamp” which is a converted army barracks super close to the CBD and in between the 3 main campuses. It’s full of other exchange students and someone is always throwing a birthday party in the basement.
In the meantime, I have taken up film photography and joined one of the many gyms full of beautiful Danish men and women. There are many sports teams and opportunities to become part of a community here in Copenhagen. It definitely helps to be spontaneous and open minded about new experiences as you never know what you’ll be doing and who you’ll be with in a week. My messenger inbox is littered with group chats discussing travel plans and dinner dates with people who were strangers like me only two months ago. Overall Denmark is quite spectacular and I highly recommend it as a place to come for exchange. I am even looking into coming back to do a masters in global health in 2019 or 2020!
University of Copenhagen