Why Copenhagen? Many have asked me this question, both before I left and whilst in Denmark. Initially it was due to my fascination of all things Scandinavian and the fact I could study my law subjects in English, whilst being immersed in a totally different cultural experience. But as my time in Copenhagen went on, my answer changed dramatically and warped into so much more. Copenhagen is one of the most beautiful, most lively and easiest cities to live in. The lifestyle is great, with working hours less and more of a focus on family, socialising and generally enjoying life. The city is rich in history, with every street, park or lake being unbelievably picturesque. But most importantly, Danes are awesome. They are so warm, fun, easy-going and not to mention, incredibly good-looking. You will walk down the street and be dumbfounded by the beauty of the Danes. But they aren’t just pretty faces – they are all so switched on, have a great sense of humour, love to have a good time and from my experience, Danes and Australians get on so well. Not only did I want to get to know Danish culture, but they were just as intrigued with Australia. I made so many lifelong friends from all over the globe, who truly made my experience memorable.
I went on exchange (Semester 1 & 2 of 2015) for my full 5th year studying dual bachelor of business and law. Whilst in Copenhagen I studied mostly law subjects: Media Law, Health and Human Rights, Refugee law, Psychology for lawyers, Gender & Legal Culture and one non-law subject of Danish culture. I found the workload a lot easier than QUT, with only one piece of assessment per subject. This is usually either in the form of a take home exam or a 20-minute oral exam with your tutor based on an essay you have written on a chosen topic. Although it initially sounds daunting, it is a lot easier than I expected and the tutors are all so kind and encouraging. It also helped that you only have to pass and the standard is not high at all (when compared to QUT). Lectures are only a maximum of around 30 students so the learning environment is more intimate and interactive. The lecturers are from all over Europe and highly accredited and qualified and I always found them engaging, interesting and professional. I even had a lecturer who flew in from Belgium every week for our Media Law lecture. One thing about KU though, they are sticklers for rules – so make sure you are 100% on the subjects you have chosen as you are unable to change once semester starts. Also, steer clear of striclty EU law subjects (like European Environmental Law) as it can be a struggle without any background in the EU legal systems. Without the knowledge of the fundamentals of how EU law works, it can leave you at a disadvantage right from the get-go.
Danes speak perfect English (probably better than mine) so you don’t have to worry about whether you can speak the language. You will rarely find a Dane in Copenhagen that can’t speak English, and they will always try and accommodate. However, I found that they do appreciate when you give it a try and know some basics (they love laughing at your expense also). I did the pre-semester Danish course, which I really recommend doing. I met some of my closest friends during those 3 weeks and ended up experiencing the full year with 2 of the girls I met.
As for expenses, you’ve probably heard that it is expensive in Denmark (which it comparatively is to other exchange locations) but so is Australia. The cost of living in Copenhagen is extremely similar to Brisbane (if not less for alcohol and food at supermarkets). Eating out and coffee is pretty expensive but when you do go to restaurants – it’s always a true experience and worth the little splurge. To compensate, Danes usually host dinner parties and get-togethers where you would all cook together, drink together, and spend a ‘hygellig’ night in. There are also great food markets, where you can choose from a huge array of cuisines and enjoy with a beer in the sun or cosy together in the winter. Go to Paperion Island and the Kodbyen food markets in summer. I do recommend budgeting and saving as much as possible before you go so you have room to spend. You also don’t have to worry about paying for public transport or taxis as you will ride a bike everywhere. As soon as you get to Copenhagen, get a bike! It is your ticket to getting around Copenhagen and will basically become another appendage of your body. It is so easy to get around the city by bike and some of my fondest memories are of riding around Copenhagen and taking in all its beauty. Once you get a bike, you feel like a true local but always make sure you lock it. Bike theft is a thing!
As for accommodation, I spent my first semester at Tietgenkollegiet which is a dormitory known for its famous architecture and amazing facilities. I lived with predominately Danish people and was the only international student in my shared kitchen of 12. The rooms, common areas and facilities were all perfection and the people I lived with quickly became my family in Copenhagen. There is a real sense of community and always someone there to chat with, cook with or party with. Although, I loved my time in Tietgen, I craved living more centrally (out of Amager) and a true ‘Copenhagen experience’ rather than college dorm life. So for semester 2, I decided to move to shared living in central Copenhagen but this proved to be much more difficult to find than expected. The KU housing foundation is not very helpful and extremely expensive – I would try to find something without them. But if not, they are a good option to rent through. I ended up living in a huge flat with 5 other young roommates from all over Europe in Norrebro and absolutely loved it. Norrebro is a great trendy neighbourhood with lots of cute little cafes, shops, great bars and clubs. If you can, try find a place in Norrebro, Vesterbro, Kobenhavn K or inner Frederiksberg – that’s where most of the life is. But there aren’t many colleges there. Osterbro is beautiful but a bit more for families and professionals. Don’t be disappointed if you aren’t able to get in these locations though – Copenhagen is so compact that you can get everywhere in 15 minutes by bike. When you get to Copenhagen, definitely get your residence permit and CPR number – it means you can get a Danish bank account, gym membership and even free healthcare if anything happens.
The best decision I made was going on exchange for the full year – I not only got to travel all over Europe but I was able to truly make Copenhagen my home and set down solid roots. I was able to form strong friendships and not miss out on or have to rush through any Danish experiences. I got to travel for 2 months during the summer break where I saw a lot of Southern Europe and even Morocco. During semesters, it is so easy to pop over to another country for an extended weekend, without missing anything at uni. I was lucky enough to visit Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Sweden, England, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and even New York. However, if you can only do one semester on exchange, do it during QUT’s semester 1. It was the longest semester and also the best time to be in Copenhagen for the lead up to summer. It went from the colder months of winter, to the longer sunnier days of summer. The change is utterly beautiful and you have a greater appreciation for it. The whole city comes alive and Danes get so excited about the approaching summer – hosting many free events and festivals. You definitely need to go to the free Distortion festival and Roskilde music festival in June – both were absolute highlights.
I cannot recommend Copenhagen enough – the way of life is better, the people are better and it will give you a truly memorable and rewarding experience. I’m already planning my return to the ‘happiest nation on earth!’