Daisy - Technical University of Denmark

Semester 2, 2015
B Engineering (Chemical/Environmental)

Academic Experience

After my exchange at DTU, I honestly thought the university itself was an engineering students' dream. It is a technical university so it only consists of engineering students. This allowed me to meet many like-minded people who embraced the quirky engineering culture. It also meant that there were many courses which were very specialised and you could therefore find many electives that would suit very specific interests. The university culture is very relaxed and everyone just wants to do well and have a good time. A few other pro's of DTU's academic system included the small class sizes which allowed me to get to know my professors, teaching assistants and peers really well, the casual and relaxed atmosphere in the classroom and the large exposure to group work.

I attended DTU during the fall semester which was 13 weeks long with a mid-semester break, just like at UQ. It was common amongst most domestic and Masters students to only take 75% of their courses during the 13 week semester and then complete 1 course over a 3 week period in January. I had arranged my course work in the same way as this gave me more time to travel and explore Copenhagen during the 13 week semester. Most exchange students did not stay for the January period so it was easy just to focus on the course work during this time. This did not make January a lonely month, however, as we would often have cosy movie nights in Skylab (a really awesome chill-out space on campus where you can watch movies, play fussball and play Xbox), bake together and still manage to go out on the weekend with those who remained in January. The atmosphere between the 13 week period and January period was different, yes, but it just changed from being really socially intense to really cosy.

In the Fall semester, I took one Bachelors course and two Masters courses. This is because the undergraduate engineering degree in Denmark is only 3 years and mostly all students continue on to do 2 more years of Masters afterwards. Since I was at the end of my third year when I went on exchange, I was eligible to do some Masters courses. Don't be too worried if the only subjects you can match in your study plan are Masters courses - I thought that the Masters courses were easier than the Bachelors courses I took! Also, most of the courses are taught entirely in English so there were never any language issues.

There were a few challenges which I encountered at DTU due to its different academic system. The thing I struggled to get my head around the most was the marking system. The only possible marks you could achieve for a course were -03, 00, 02, 4, 7, 10 and 12 of which the two former were a fail. We were often not provided with a criteria sheet which made the marking seem a little more subjective than what I was used to at UQ. Additionally, the final examinations often consisted of oral exams (in which you would draw a question out of a hat and answer it verbally in front of a panel) and 4 hour written exams which had to be submitted digitally using a laptop you could bring into the exam. Very different, right?

Personal Experience

Even though I competed my semester abroad in Denmark, I mostly interacted with other exchange students and international Masters students as they were in the same boat as I was. This was probably my favourite part of exchange as I was exposed to so many different cultures and I just loved learning new things about them. I hung out with Americans who taught us how to do Thanksgiving and Halloween, Italians who gave us a lesson in pasta and pizza making and Spaniards who taught us how to make paella. There were also quite a few Australians who we were living with and we often stuck together and taught others some true blue Aussie slang.

I made some incredible friends, particularly with people who I was living with. The closest friendship group I made included about 11 people and we did everything together. From going out, to cooking, to studying, to going to the local football, to travelling. Some of the places we traveled to as a group included Lithuania, Berlin, Hallstatt, Salzburg, Florence, Rome, London and Iceland. A few of us also went on a cruise from Stockholm to Tallinn organised by the Erasmus Student Network group which was incredibly fun. It felt like they had become a family away from home. The friendships I made were invaluable and now I will always have a place to stay if I travel to the US, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Iceland and even other parts of Australia.

Accommodation 

During my exchange, I stayed on-campus at a dorm called 'Campus Village'. Each dorm consisted of 9 bedrooms, a communal bathroom, laundry area and kitchen. The building itself was very cool as it had previously been a shipping container that had been retrofitted into student housing. The facilities were really good, the kitchen well equipped and the rooms were warm during winter. I loved staying at Campus Village as it had a really nice community feel. We often had BBQs and bonfires in our garden, even if it was freezing outside. The only thing I didn't like is that when I moved in, the kitchen was quite dirty as previous tenants had not cleaned it when they had moved out. Cleaning up after them was definitely not the way I wanted to start my exchange!

While living on-campus was really fun, the DTU campus is located approximately 15 km from Copenhagen or approximately 30-40 minutes by public transport. This could be somewhat irritating when you wanted to head out into the city. Having said that, there is a really great social life on-campus and there was always an event on in one of the 6 uni bars, dorms or student houses in nearby areas. We never got bored!

I was really lucky to have become such good friends with the people I was living with at Campus Village. I think living together with others was definitely a great way of meeting people but at times, it could be challenging. As long as you're open and compromising to other people's habits and love being surrounded by people all the time, Campus Village would definitely be something for you!

Budget

Contrary to most of Europe, Denmark is relatively expensive. Here is a list of some of my expenses:

  • On-campus accommodation: 600 AUD a month
  • Groceries: 80-120 AUD a week
  • Flights and travel insurance: 3000 AUD
  • Commuting to and from Copenhagen to DTU Campus by public transport: 10 AUD round trip
  • Residence permit application: 800 AUD

Obviously there were more expenses which involved going out and travelling, however, this depends on what you want to do while you live on exchange. I anticipated to do a lot of travel on weekends while I was in Denmark so I budgeted about $15,000. One of my friends who had come on exchange with me from UQ only spent about $9000 while he was abroad. What you spend depends entirely on what you want to get out of the experience and you should adjust your budget to your wants and needs accordingly.

Professional Development & Employability

One of the major skills I developed while on exchange was the ability to be open-minded and flexible. I mostly befriended people who I was living with at Campus Village and a lot of them were very different to the friends I had back home. Since I was living with them and around them all the time, I had to become very tolerable to their habits and their differing opinions. At times, this was difficult but being around such different people made me reflect on my own beliefs and thoughts. In some ways, this made me strengthen my own ideologies while in others, it expanded my knowledge and completely changed my view on things. If I had never gone on exchange, I would never have been exposed to such different people and would like to think that my views now are more balanced. I think this will help me work better with people throughout my career as an engineer.

Additionally, travelling a lot definitely improved my organisation and time management skills which I can definitely use back home. I have also become more self-confident, independent and balanced.

Highlights 

It is very difficult to pick the highlight of my experience. I loved the university, the on-campus culture, the people I lived with, the travelling I did and the courses I studied. In my case, I would definitely say that the people I befriended had a huge impact on how my exchange went. I was really lucky to have made a big group of friends who all gelled really well together. If it wasn't for them, I think my experience may have been quite different.

Top Tips

For students studying engineering, I would 100% recommend going on exchange to DTU in Denmark. The university is really fun, relaxed, intellectually challenging and has great connections with industry as well. You'll definitely need to invest in some thermals and a windproof jacket if you plan to be there over December, January and February. Make sure to invest in a bicycle while you're over there. Denmark is super bike friendly and it's a really great way of getting around. Also, get a rejsekort for public transport use as this will reduce the cost of travel. The canteen at DTU is super good and I would recommend having lunch there everyday. Check out Copenhagen Street Food, the Meatpacking District and the kebab place with the red sign at Norreport station. The best and cheapest student feeds in Copenhagen!

In general, you should also ensure that you budget well and start putting money aside early on. Don't stress too much if you cannot take part in the subjects you had planned to study once you arrive at your host university - UQ will allow you to alter your study plan while you're overseas.

Definitely consider going on exchange! You will get to know yourself in so many different ways you had never imagined and will make friends all over the world. Do it! Do it! Do it!