Dominique - University of Copenhagen

Bachelor of Science
Semester 1, 2018
I learned so much from my exchange in Copenhagen and met so many wonderful people from all over the world.

Academic experience

During my exchange, I completed four science subjects in the field of biology. I completed my exchange during Semester 1 of my 3rd and final year of Science so I completed subjects which were compulsory for me to complete for my Genetics major. Science at the University of Copenhagen has a different layout of subjects where the semester is split up into 2 blocks and where you complete 2 subjects per block. For example, I completed 2 subjects In the first 7 weeks of the semester, sat my final exam, and then after the mid-semester break I completed my other 2 chosen courses. So basically, I only had to focus on 2 subjects at a time, as opposed to 4 – so the work load felt a lot lighter.

The subjects I completed included Microbial Biotechnology (Bachelor, block 3), Evolutionary Medicine (Master, block 3), Mammalian Genomics (Bachelor, block 4) and Plant Molecular Biology (Bachelor, block 4), all of which were worth 7.5 WTCs. I found it very easy to sign onto and drop courses using their online system. The classes were much smaller than at UQ with only about 15-40 students in each of my classes. Because of this I found they were more like a discussion or tutorial, especially my maters course, which expected a lot of in class participation. The classes were usually 2-3 hours long but with a 15-minute break every hour so they didn’t seem too bad. I had no language problems at all during my exchange, all of the Dane’s are extremely good at communicating in English.

The biggest difference between my semester at KU was the type of exam I completed. It was not a heavy workload during the blocks, only a final assessment piece which was worth 100% of my grade. In all of my courses except Plant Molecular Biology I had to perform an oral exam which lasted for about 20 minutes and consisted of the lecturers leading the discussion, asking me questions about the course content. This was quite nerve racking for me as I have never completed assessment like this before, but it was over quicker than a written exam!

Personal experience

I learned so much from my exchange in Copenhagen and met so many wonderful people from all over the world. The University of Copenhagen had a really good welcome program for International Science students which I signed up for (and strongly recommend), so this is where I made most of my friends. It was a really good way to meet people in the same position as me: in another country and looking to make friends. Unfortunately, I only learned the very basics of Danish, it is a very quirky and difficult language to learn but I wish I became more familiar with it. I definitely had no trouble getting around because almost everyone speaks amazing English.

It was my first time ever living alone, or even living out of my parent’s house so it was a big change for me. I developed a lot of personal skills from this experience and I absolutely loved it.  At first it was a bit strange having to be fully independent but it was a really amazing life skill to learn and I’m glad I was able to experience it, especially in a totally foreign country. 

I traveled before, during and after my exchange. Prior to commencing my exchange, I was really looking forward to traveling as much as possible whenever I could during my semester, because in Europe it is so cheap and easy to travel around. I traveled to a few places during my semester including Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Sweden and Spain. However, towards the end of my exchange I really just wanted to stay in Copenhagen and explore the wonderful city I was living in, especially when the weather was warmer!

Accommodation

The University of Copenhagen has many campuses spread throughout the whole city, each one built for a specific faulty. This means that the accommodation that the university offered was also spread around the whole city. They had some accommodation which was explicitly for students, however I stayed in an apartment complex located in Frederiksberg. In the complex that I lived in, the university housing foundation owned around 40 of the 60 dorm rooms. In my room, I had my own kitchenette (stove top, fridge, bench etc.), bathroom, bed and balcony. Although it was quite small I had plenty of space, and it also meant it was nice and warm during winter. 

I loved the suburb that I lived in because it was only a 10-15-minute bike ride to my campuses which were located in Frederiksberg and Nørrebro. Frederiksberg is a very suburban area which meant there are many nice cafes, bars and shops around. I never really had to travel to far for anything I needed and there was a supermarket right at the base of my building. A lot of my friends lived in Nørrebro which is also a super nice and convenient place to live, it was only about a 5-minute bike ride from my house meaning I never had the opportunity to feel lonely. Nørrebro was also a neighborhood that my friends and I would commonly hang out in, even my friends who lived on the other side of the city, so I was super happy that it was fairly close to me.

Before picking accommodation in Copenhagen I would strongly recommend you try and research which campus your faculty is on because it could be the difference between a 5-minute commute or a 45-minute commute to classes. I can say that I certainly miss riding a bike to my classes because there was no traffic or parking issues

Costs

Europe is commonly known for their cheap prices but unfortunately Copenhagen does not sit within this category. Denmark is quite an expensive country to live in; eating out at restaurants and bars is not cheap and you’re looking at prices quite similar to Brisbane in respect food and drink. In saying that, the supermarkets are quite cheap and because I cooked most of my own meals I found it very convenient, in doing this I saved a lot of money. Alcohol is also sold at supermarkets at really cheap prices (especially compared to Australia), so it is definitely manageable to live here on a budget. I didn’t really keep to a set budget per week because I shopped for groceries as I needed them, meaning the amount I spent on groceries would change every week, but I say I definitely spent less then $100 on food a week. 

The main mode of transport in Copenhagen is by bike in rain, snow or shine, so of course this is what I did. I bought a second-hand bike off a Facebook group at the start of my exchange for about $150 and I literally rode my bike everywhere. The great thing about this city is it is completely flat and there are bike lanes absolutely everywhere making it super easy to get around. By doing this I saved a lot of money on public transport and I never had to catch a cab anywhere, even going to the airport because there is a metro stop inside. The public transport included buses, trains and metros which run extremely frequently all throughout the day. Another great thing was the buses and metros ran 24/7 meaning I never found myself in a situation where I was unable to get home (if I didn’t have my bike). 

It is definitely possible to live in Copenhagen on a budget but if you are planning on travelling a lot I would recommend saving up quite a bit of money, so you are able to experience the things you want to. It was also nice to have a bit of extra money aside for activities around the Copenhagen (castles, boat tours etc.), so I could really get to know the place.

Professional Development

Going to a university where I did not know anyone in my classes was definitely a foreign concept to me because at UQ I have always seen familiar faces. At first this was quite challenging but I learned very quickly how to manage this and it taught me how to interact and socialize with such a diverse group of people. Because I studied science subjects it was really exciting to be able to sit in a different country and learn about jobs and degrees that were offered overseas which weren’t available in Australia. My exchange it has taught me that there is so much to experience outside of Australia which has made me want to see and explore as much of the world as I can.

Highlight

It is really hard to say what the highlight of my exchange because every single aspect was better than I ever could have imagined. I guess the highlight was the fact that I was given an opportunity to live and study overseas and be completely independent in Copenhagen. Being able to travel virtually anywhere in Europe so easily and so spontaneously is an experience you just can’t get in Australia.

Top tips

I would strongly recommend signing up to the mentor/buddy program that Copenhagen has to offer because my mentor helped me so much to settle into my apartment. He picked up my keys and guided me to my dorm room to help me get settled in. 
Although I didn’t do it, I would really recommend trying to learn a little bit of Danish even though it is hard. And if you could say even a few sentences in Danish i know all the Danes would be super impressed! 
Definitely look for places which are close relatively to your campus and to the city because this will save you so much traveling time and money, meaning it’ll be easier to do activities with your friends. 
It may seem like a never-ending application process but I can guarantee once you are there you will be so thankful that you spent all those hours researching/filling out applications and you definitely won’t regret it.