Kirsty - University of Copenhagen

B Science
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

Copenhagen has an odd system wherein the semester is split into two "blocks". They also offer a Danish course before and/or during the semester which counts for 7.5 ECTS. I studied the Danish course before the semester started, which was really good and a great way to meet people. In the first block, I studied two masters' courses: Evolutionary Medicine, and Chronic Inflammation and Autoimmunity. They were really interesting courses, and in comparison with my UQ experiences, they were really really easy. The workload was much lighter with only one exam each as the only assessment.

The educational system is much more self-directed and learning-based rather than assessment-based, which I really enjoyed. Each of those courses were 7.5 ECTS, and I studied a Danish Culture Course in Gender and Sexuality studies, which lasted from February through to the first week of May, was worth 15 ECTS, and was only 2 hours per week. So, overall, I completed more than 30 ECTS, but had a much lighter workload than I would at UQ. My two main courses had exams in early April, and as my gender studies course didn't take up much time, I was basically free to travel from mid-April until I had to come home in July. Part of the reason I chose the University of Copenhagen was the flexibility of their scheduling, which I knew would leave me a lot of time to travel.

Personal experience

I made a lot of new friends from all over the world, which was wonderful. I also learned the beginnings of Danish, which is a weird and hilarious language but is amazing to learn. As this was my second experience as an exchange student, I wasn't particularly concerned, but for anyone who is worried about the challenge, all of the Danes spoke perfect English. It was ridiculous. At one point, an ancient old lady on a bus at midnight heard us speaking English and came over to remind us to put on our gloves before we got off so that our hands wouldn't freeze. It was very sweet. However, the excitement of seeing the language around, and hearing it and speaking it, even just to the cashier at a shop, is so incredible. It's incomparable. Getting to know the city and feeling like a local is worth every effort it takes to learn the language.

I travelled a lot, mostly outside of Denmark. Between leaving Australia and returning, I went on 22 flights, which was expensive in some cases (Iceland) and inexpensive in others (Berlin in Winter, Budapest). It was so great to be able to go away for a couple of days and come back to my apartment without the stress of going from city to city or dragging around ridiculous amounts of luggage. Occasionally I did 2 cities one after the other (Amsterdam and Oslo, London and Paris), but the best thing was the flexibility to do whatever I wanted.


The University of Copenhagen has 4 campuses, none of which have on-campus accommodation. The housing foundation, which helps exchange students find housing in the student 'kollegiums' around the city, is a straight-up nightmare. It's possible to find accommodation in the city yourself, but it's definitely worth exploring your options well ahead of time. I lived in Bispebjerg Kollegiet, which I loved. I had my own tiny apartment with my own bathroom and kitchen. We lived next to a train station with a bus stop out the front, which would take us in or out of the city centre every 4 minutes during the day, and every 20 minutes all through the night. Not that we used it, as the first thing you must do in Copenhagen is to buy a bike. The second is to buy a good bike lock. Bike theft is a thing with which I became well acquainted. The kollegium is in outer Norrebro, which is a really lively student part of the city and is probably 15 minutes bike ride away from Norreport, the centre of the city.

The only drawbacks were that it is quite difficult to meet people in Bispebjerg. The hallways are outside, which means that in winter, there is absolutely zero chance of anyone leaving their door open to welcome in their neighbours. Most people there are quite solitary, so if you think you might get lonely, then it's not for you.


I wouldn't lie: Copenhagen is expensive. Really expensive. My rent was about $1100 AUD per month, and I was locked into my contract until mid-July, even though I left in early June (thanks, housing foundation). Public transport costs about $75 AUD per month if you buy a monthly pass, but once you buy a bike, you need never spend another cent. And honestly, biking was by far the best thing about Copenhagen. Riding down the deserted streets with your friends on the way home from a party at 3 am when the temperature is perfect, is just indescribably amazing. Going where you want whenever you want is so amazing, and the city is literally completely flat, so you can ride for hours and not sweat a drop or get even the slightest bit tired. On food, I probably spent $60 or $70 a week, which was not too bad. Eating out is super expensive in most cases, as are drinks in bars, so do it sparingly. It's a shame because part of what makes Copenhagen so expensive is the insane number of amazing places to eat out. As for travel, it really depends on you. You can get a $10 flight to Berlin in winter, no problem, and the accommodation at a really nice hostel might also only be about $10/night. On the other hand, countries like Iceland are very very expensive no matter what you do.

Some countries, like Spain, are cheap most of the year, but very expensive at occasional times (My friends decided we needed to go in Easter, which made me want to cry it was so expensive). I would recommend budgeting at least $10,000 for the semester and keeping careful track of your funds throughout the semester.

Professional development and employability 

This was my second exchange, but was much different than the first. During both exchanges, I learned things that I don't think I could have learned anywhere else. You very quickly learn to manage yourself in any environment, familiar or unfamiliar. You learn to communicate with people whose language you don't speak, and how to be respectful and get along with everyone you meet. If you travel, you'll learn to navigate any city with the bare minimum of resources. You'll learn that enjoying any situation comes down to the attitude you go into it with. Of course, your experiences will vary, and so will the things that you will learn. Many changes, you won't even notice at first, but they'll all assist you over and over in ways you won't expect, for the rest of your life.


My highlight was probably travelling alone in Europe. There is none of the stress of travelling with others. If you miss a train, it doesn't matter: catch the next one, no one's waiting. There's none of the stress of conflict between other group members about what to eat or where to go. You can adhere to your own budget and change your plans on a whim. Most importantly, you learn a lot about yourself, and you can see so much more about the places you visit. You can feel their atmosphere and observe the locals, which is difficult to do in a group of foreigners. It's a difficult experience to describe, but it was enjoyable for every moment.

Top Tips 

Just do it. I've done it twice now. Both times, I've had problems and a lot of difficulties, but I've never once regretted either exchange. I've never met any exchange student who didn't enjoy their exchange, or who wouldn't do it again given half the chance. Anything else can wait 6 months, but exchange is a once-in-a-lifetime chance which you'll never forget. It's a bit of a clique, but when you're old and retired, you probably won't remember or be excited about just another semester at uni, or anything else you could do during that 6 months, but your exchange will be a stand-out experience for the rest of your life. It's refreshing, it's fun, it's honestly an experience I can recommend to everyone.



Kirsty - University of Copenhagen