What’s it like to be an exchange student in Denmark?
Amelia from Herne Hill in London, tells us why she chose to take a year out from her BA in history at the University of Leeds and go to Denmark on an exchange programme.
Why did you choose to study in Denmark?
I had become obsessed with Danish television and was intrigued about the place that produced them. I knew very little about Copenhagen before I came so it was a bit of a risk but it turned out to be the best thing I have ever done.
What was the application process like?
Very easy, my university have a great study abroad department, which was very helpful. My adviser was also great in talking me through the logistics and application process.
How did your family and friends react to the news?
Great although about 90% of the people I told had no idea where Copenhagen was. My family, friends and boyfriend were incredibly supportive. My parents in particular thought it was great, they are originally from New Zealand and so we have the traveller’s bug. They thought it was a fantastic opportunity for many reasons (social, academic, cultural) and my Dad was happy that he could come and visit the famous Oresund Bridge.
Were you comparing Denmark with another country when you were considering your study options?
I was. I had originally chosen California — when you think of a year abroad you automatically go to the big popular places that are really far away such as America or Australia and Europe can get overlooked. But what I love so much about Copenhagen is that is accessible, easy, balanced and only 1 hour and 25 minutes from London. I think it is so important that you can get on a plane and travel for that amount of time and be somewhere so totally different. After hearing people’s experiences in America or Australia it does not sound that different to their hometown, everyone speaks the same language and they pretty much do what they did at their home university. When you come to Copenhagen there are so many differences: the language, food, design, ‘hygge’, lifestyle, fashion etc. You do not need to go halfway across the world to have a unique, special and fulfilling study abroad experience.
How did the fees in Denmark compare to what you would have paid in the UK?
I do not pay for this year abroad as it is funded by the Erasmus program, which is incredible. Danish students also have seven years of free education.
What about the cost of living?
After a summer of being told how expensive Scandinavia was I was pleasantly surprised with the cost of living in Denmark. It is the same as living in London. A student loan does not cover expenses but I had a job before I came and saved money to be able to travel and live comfortably. With a strict budget anyone could live here, it is not as bad as assumed.
How are you finding the experience of living and studying in Denmark?
I absolutely love living in Denmark, I don’t want to leave. I will have to be dragged back to Leeds next year. It is so interesting how many different experiences I have had since living here. I arrived in August and spent three weeks doing an intensive language course. During this time I met some lovely people who have formed my friendship group here. It was so nice coming at that time and the weather was warm and Copenhagen was so open and sociable. People swam in the harbour and drank beer at Nyhavn. Since then things have changed, noticeably the weather (one of Copenhagen’s down points) but the great experiences have kept coming.
Studying has been an interesting experience; there are not many BA courses taught in English so I have taken a Masters Political Science module and BA course on South East Asia. The two have been so different; the first is extremely engaging, my lecturer is one of the leading academics in the field and the structure is completely different to anything in Leeds. You have 2-3 hour lectures, which allow you to really get into the topics you are studying. Student participation is also encouraged. My second course was very basic and felt a little like being back at secondary school. I haven’t really enjoyed it to be honest but that is personal opinion as it was just very different to how a history course is taught in England. I also later found out it was for first year students so I can’t be too harsh.
What do you plan to do after your course is finished?
I have joined the Youth Goodwill Ambassador Corps while in Copenhagen and this has really influenced my thinking about what to do after I finish my degree. I love studying and living here and am considering coming back to study a Masters in Political Science as these programs are so interesting, engaging and at the forefront of this field. It is also free as I live in the EU.
Are there any things you are finding difficult about living in Denmark?
One thing I find difficult is finding an apartment. I am currently looking to move into the city and it is not easy. This is something I knew before I moved here but I was lucky to be given somewhere by the university in a kollegium. However, it is 20 minutes from Copenhagen city centre and I would like to be more central.
Also, I have given up trying to speak Danish to people here as the pronunciation is so difficult and Danes are so unused to hearing people try to speak their language that they don’t really try to understand you. This can get a bit disheartening so I just speak English as everyone here is fluent.
How do you think your experience of studying abroad will be viewed by employers and was this something that was a factor in your decision?
It definitely was a factor in my decision but not the only reason. I have learnt so many things from studying abroad and it really helps you to put your life and experiences into perspective and opens you up to so many incredible opportunities. You meet people from all over the world, learn how to live on your own independently and deal with different circumstances and challenges on a daily basis. I think that you learn essential skills from these experiences and also basic life lessons that are important when going into the working world and I think that these will be recognised by employers.