Zachary - University of Copenhagen

B Science/Arts
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

I had a few hiccups in finalizing my subjects, as after attempting some Masters Level Science Courses (such as The Human Microbiome) and finding the content both too difficult and too far removed from what I had been learning in UQ, I decided to stick to mostly Psychology Courses. The courses I did included:
The pre-semester language course
Culture, Communications and Learning
Psychology of Morality
Psychology of Competitive Sports.


The pre-semester course was challenging and fun, and would highly recommend doing so. The next two were from the School of Psychology and were highly interesting and taught in an entirely different way than at UQ. It seemed that overall in Denmark, tertiary environments highly value individual opinion and expression, and consequently our small (30 person) class allowed a variety of discussion and unconventional learning techniques to occur. There was not a huge focus on pumping out assessments, rather the focus was on the content, and engaging with it. I found this method to be thoroughly refreshing, albeit sometimes hard to stay on track as the only motivations I had to learn were self-derived rather than to do well on the assessment. The final course was from the Health Science Faculty, and was a new subject so was unstructured and not very enjoyable. I would recommend against diverting from courses which are not from your faculty unless you have electives. Enrolment and registrations were a bit more convoluted and harder than at UQ, but nothing too tricky.

Personal experience

As cliche as it sounds, I have no doubts that my time abroad was one of the best times of my life. As I had travelled for 6 weeks before arriving in Copenhagen across Europe and had an incredible time, I was unsure if the people and times I would have during the following months would compare. What followed, however, was unimaginably fun, thrilling and life-changing. I met an incredible group of friends from across the globe who I quickly realized would be friends for life. Of course it was not because of Copenhagen itself that I met these friends, but it was the time spent in Copenhagen, sunbathing near the lakes, biking through the parks, going to the enormous amount of fun cultural events like free jazz and gallery openings, or just playing board games that made my time there so much better.

Danes, which are stereotyped to be cold and hard to crack, were not like that at all- they were incredibly friendly, welcoming and charming. However as the international student crowd was much more eager to make friends, the majority of close friends I met through the pre semester course in Danish language which I highly recommend doing. 

 I traveled during my semester as well with these friends from places like Aarhus to Edinborough to Barcelona and Poland which was delightful and contained moments I will never forget. Observing the Danish Culture and seeing why they have consistently been at the top of Worlds Most happiest Countries was extremely beneficial in my own personal development, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning and replicating the intricacies of Danish life. Furthermore, the freedom from beginning fresh in a brand new city on your own was an opportunity I appreciated and really took advantage of, pursuing hobbies and experiences I would not have as much back in Brisbane.

Accommodation

I lived at Signalhuset Kollegiet and had the misfortune, like many others, to accomplish this through the Housing Foundation. Booking a place to say was a dreadful "si-net course race" esque affair involving waiting for hours in a queue, and the housing foundation were unaccommodating in most affairs as they have a monopoly on student housing. Furthermore, they are notorious for severely overcharging students for "cleaning fees" after they leave for things such as specks of dust left on lights so make sure you clean thoroughly. I had a few friends who sorted out things on their own accord however only attempt this if you are the type of person who can handle a few hiccups and denials, although I will say the non-student houses were much nicer and cheaper. 

Signalhuset was fine, I was expecting a lot more of a social environment, which was not really the case, it was only good as people I had met lived there, but the place itself is not conducive to the Dorm-like lifestyle present at other accommodations. The room was nice, you share a kitchen and 2 bathrooms with 3 other people, however the location is both quite far away from the city (25 min cycle) and even further from the north and frederiksberg campus. It is 10 mins away from south campus, so if you have classes there it should be fine, but biking 40 mins in snow at 7:20 am might await students from STEM subjects who are not on South Campus. The other aspect is Signal is in a very new and developing suburb of Copenhagen, so it doesn't really have the soul and charm that the rest of Copenhagen has, instead it has "The biggest shopping mall in Scandinavia" and a myriad of office blocks. But the price was very fair and I enjoyed my time there.

Costs

It is well known that Copenhagen is super expensive. I could not tell you how much I spent just in Copenhagen as I also traveled before and after but definitely try and have above 8 thousand minimum to be able to properly enjoy your time there. 

That being said, there are things you can do to minimize costs:

Get a bike, metro is expensive. 

Danes are very into things like food sharing (food that would be thrown away by stores are given away free) or community dinners ( that food is cooked up and served and you donate to get a tasty usually vegetarian meal). If you want to travel look at flights from Malmo which is an hour bus or train away in Sweden and has cheaper connections.nDifferent grocery stores have different prices but also different qualities, most of us were loyal to Netto as it is everywhere, is super cheap and the mascot is a cute dog

I very rarely ate out apart from Falafel Kebabs which were cheap ish, a restaurant will cost minimum 100dkk (~20$) so I would recommend saving your money and flying somewhere cheap and treating yourself there. 
Cans and bottles can be recycled at grocery stores for money, and if you're smart you can obtain sizable amounts of money from collecting and handing in cans, it's pretty fun and good for the environment as well but prepare to smell like old beer.
Also free events are happening all the time, more so in the warmer months but also in winter.

Challenge

The biggest challenge was when my Phone was stolen in the second week, leaving me stranded as I was not familiar with the city yet. This was easily overcome as I just heavily relied on others to help direct/ sort of affairs until I got a new phone. By the time that happened however, I was pleasantly surprised at how little I actually needed a phone, and the change in dependency on technology was beneficial in me soaking up more that Copenhagen had to offer.

Professional Development

Discovering the variation in learning, teaching and lifestyle within Denmark has been profoundly beneficial in both my professional and private development. Attending courses which value different skillsets and educate in a novel manner have allowed to expand my worldview and develop skills I had been neglecting. Living alone in a city which highly values the environment, as well as the citizens and their wellbeing, allowed me to become not only more independent but also considerate and conscious of the impact small things can have on one's life. The Danes dedication to a harmonious work/life balance was an aspect i thoroughly enjoyed and hope to further replicate in future.

Highlight

Quite hard to pinpoint a single moment as a highlight, even the more relaxed afternoons drinking hot chocolate while it snowed outside were a blessing. However, I very fondly remember the trip my friends and I made to a small beachside cottage in Aarhus, spending the days in between the forest and the beach having a superbly lovely time. Essentially, the highlight was the people I met which made the incredible moments that much better.

Top tips

Make the most of the winter months just as much as you make the most of the summer, don't be afraid to cycle if its a bit cold!!
Experiment with some more abstract courses, but try not to hyperfocus on academia and maintain an even balance with what you spend your time doing
Try and make at least one Danish friend, they have a lot to offer
Explore your own city as well as others- as fun as traveling to other cities are, there is so much going on in and around Copenhagen which is just as exciting and thrilling if you know where to look. Especially considering that Copenhagen is #1 on Lonely planets top places to see in 2019. 
Although the Tivoli is super expensive, I found it worth the price if you go for the whole day, make the most of it!!