Thomas - Technical University of Denmark

B Engineering/ B Commerce
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

At DTU, each semester is split into two parts: a thirteen week period, followed by a three week, intensive study period. The majority of full-time students study 25 ECTS in the thirteen week period, and 5 ECTS in the intensive period (after a short holiday). I, however, took five courses in the first part of the semester, which totalled 32.5 ECTS. I did this so I could have an extended holiday at the end of the year, but the trade-off was that I didn't have much spare time during that thirteen week period.

DTU doesn't offer any timetable flexibility, so although it may be possible to find UQ-approved courses that are taught in English, it is important to check their compatibility before signing-on to them. I had to amend my study plan because certain courses were scheduled for exactly the same time each week.

Classes at DTU are typically four hours long and are usually some combination of lecture and tutorial. However, four-hour lectures are not unheard of, and they're as tedious as you'd expect. I also found that the academic staff rarely offered feedback, even on assignments and mid-semester exams. It's hard to know exactly where you stand when you go into the exam period, especially since the weighting of each piece of assessment seems to be determined by how the lecturer is feeling on any given day.

The work itself is similar to what is expected at UQ, except for the fact that a lot of courses require you to give presentations, and there is less emphasis on practical work.

Personal experience

DTU accepts many international students and has a well-organised orientation week. Upon arrival, you are placed in a group with other exchange students and are assigned a mentor (who is usually a postgraduate student at DTU). During this orientation phase, we were given a tour of the Lyngby campus, we visited some of the tourist attractions in the centre of Copenhagen, and we had plenty of time to get to know some of the other students. Quite a few parties were also held around this time of year to welcome new students and celebrate the end of summer, before the cold and dark set in.

The Lyngby-Taarbæk Kommune (in which DTU is located) and the surrounding areas are quaint and worth exploring by bike on a day off, particularly around Furesø (a lake immediately west of the Lyngby Campus) and Jægersborg Dyrehave (a deer park to the east). I studied all of my courses at the Lyngby campus, which is a 20-minute walk to the Lyngby town centre, then another 25 minutes by train to the city proper (i.e. Copenhagen).

I found Copenhagen to be a very picturesque, classy and convenient city. A lot of the popular tourist and social spots are within walking distance of each other, and the train network is easily accessible. The city also lights up over the holidays and becomes quite lively. The Danes are proud of their heritage, and it is well preserved throughout the city, but since I wasn't overly familiar with their history, a lot of it was lost on me.

The majority of Danes speak reasonable English, so I didn't pick up much Danish beyond what I needed for grocery shopping and basic manners, such as 'please', 'sorry' and 'thank you'.

Due to the heavy workload, I didn't travel much during the semester, but I was still able to visit Sweden, Luxembourg and Spain. Then, after the thirteen week period finished, I went on an extended holiday in which I visited Norway, Sweden (again), Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. It's true that Europe is easy to travel around, but if I was studying in any other country, I would have found it a lot more difficult to visit both Scandinavia and Central Europe.

Accommodation

I lived on Lyngby campus, at Kampsax Kollegiet. My room was basic, but very conveniently located; it would never take me more than ten minutes to get to a class, and Netto (where I did most of my grocery shopping) was only 200 metres away. My floor mainly housed older Danish Masters students, who always knew of things going on around campus, and who you could talk to about courses of yours that they may have already taken.

I found that most of the Danes were very personable, but when they were in groups, they had a habit of reverting to speaking Danish and leaving you behind in the conversation, unless you were constantly talking - in order to keep up.

Budget

Before I left Australia, I had heard that Denmark was one of the more expensive European countries, but I actually found prices comparable to home. The only things that I found to be more expensive than what I was used to were public transport and cafés/restaurants (for the same quality).

How much you save for exchange will largely depend on how much you plan to travel. I had aimed to spend no more than $18,000 while on exchange, but I came nowhere near this mark and had plenty left in savings when I got back to Australia.

Professional development and employability

Over the course of my exchange, I was able to talk t and get advice from representatives of several North Sea oil companies, and a pharmaceutical company (both massive industries in Denmark). I was also able to work on group projects with people from various engineering disciplines and other degrees. Not only did this give me exposure to new schools of thought, it also helped me to develop my patience.

Highlights

  1. I was fortunate to take an entire laboratory course in the DTU Pilot Plant, where I conducted several experiments, and worked with industrial equipment that I don't normally have access to.
  2. Visiting Norwegian Lapland, and the Italian cities of Venice and Florence were incredibly different experiences, yet equally spectacular in their own rights. They both take a long time to get to from Copenhagen, but they are worth the effort.
  3. Not to be overlooked is the Danish port town of Frederikshavn, which became the picture of Christmas in December. The ferry from there to Oslo is also the most convenient way to get into Norway.

It wouldn't do the exchange justice to label a single moment as 'the best'. The entire experience was memorable, and I'm grateful for the support of UQ Abroad, and for the hospitality of DTU.

Top Tips 

  • Make sure you have a serviceable laptop, because many exam papers are answered in word documents or on the internet, on your own computer, but under exam conditions.
  • Don't worry too much about getting a Danish SIM card for your phone. DTU provided a good one for free to all exchange students.
  • Arrange to visit the Lyngby Citizen Service Office almost immediately to get your CPR number.
  • Riccos Kaffebar is a little known secret on campus, and is good place for a coffee after a long night.
  • People suggest that you have to get a bike, but you don't. It does make life easier for a couple of months, but by winter, I had practically given up riding due to the cold.
Thomas - Technical University of Denmark (DTU)