It was the end of August when I left to Copenhagen to hopefully live a memorable exchange experience. I was excited, but at the same time, I was worried about Scandinavian coldness and expensive lifestyle. But, once I started living there, I realized how wrong I was.
Danish weather is not so bad, at least the one I was lucky to have. Fall, our November temperatures, started as soon as I got there and lasted until the end of October. Winter was «mild», even though I won’t deny that some days cold was freezing. It didn’t rain that much; in fact, it was likely to be sunny; the only problem was the strong wind that often blew. But if I survived, that I’m always cold, I assure you that you can. You just need to wear layers and layers and let your gloves and your hat become your best friends!
Danish culture is based on sharing, which explain why Danes are open-minded and friendly: they’ll ask you to treat them by their first name, they’ll have common tables in most cafés and restaurants, and they’ll behave in the changing room as if they were in their own house. Danish language, however, is hard to learn and even more difficult to understand. Apparently, there’s a huge difference between how it’s written and how it’s pronounced, but, no worries, with no problem they’ll switch to English so you don’t feel as a foreigner. To be honest, I survived my almost four months in Denmark just knowing «hej» = «hello», «hej, hej» = «goodbye» (original, right), and «tak» = «thanks».
Danish way of life is very different compared to the one in southern countries. Days get shorter and shorter as winter approaches and, in December, is already dark at 4 pm. You’ll have accomplished your plans for the day at 8 pm the latest, and then you’ll ask yourself «what do I do next?» Play cards; start pre-drinking to go out at 11 pm; plan trips; sit, chat and laugh until late night. Do anything, but go to bed early!
Prices also make the difference; as we all know, Denmark is not a cheap place to live. Supermarkets have quite reasonable prices and you can find the same or very similar products to the ones back home. Restaurants are expensive, true, but every now and then you can treat yourself a good meal: meat lovers, you’ll find frankfurt stands everywhere and excellent burgers in the Street Food; and veggies, don’t worry because there are plenty of green options for us. Cafés are quaint, but I’m sorry coffeeholics, just once a week if you want to make ends meet. Once there, however, make sure you don’t forget to order a cinnamon roll!
What makes the whole experience are the people you meet / Photo: Judith Massagué
So, now that you can forget about these preconceived ideas, let’s talk about Copenhagen itself. The city is small, clean, organized and safe and you’ll easily feel comfortable living there. Biking becomes your life, you’ll bike everywhere and every time, even when you go partying to the city centre and you’ve already pre-drank (maybe too much) at the dorm. And obviously, if you cannot say you’ve fallen off your bike, you cannot say you’ve lived a real Danish exchange experience. Streets are wide and air is pure thanks to the big parks you’ll find around the city, so you’ll never feel oppressed. Besides, there are infinity of events organized around the city that won’t let you get bored.
But, just in case, it’s also interesting to know that flights are quite cheap from Copenhagen Airport, and therefore it’s easy to get to know other European cities and cultures. Travelling gets easy when you study at Copenhagen Business School (CBS): classes are not mandatory, there are only a few hours of class per week and there is just a final exam per course. In fact, if you plan your exchange wisely (choose home-assignments) and you regularly do your readings, you can enjoy your days without stressing out about deadlines. There are two remarkable aspects about CBS, apart from the incredible library, that make it a good exchange university choice. Most of the courses invite several guest lecturers that bring real insights about their job or company and exams, regardless of the type, are case based, so the theory is made practical and unconsciously you learn much more than you imagine.
But, let’s be honest, what makes the whole experience are the people you meet, people from all around the world that become your shoulder to cry on when you feel lonely and your friends to laugh with when it’s 8 pm and you’ve already had dinner. With this new family you travel, you study, you play, you cook, you party, you workout, you discover, you grow up and you enjoy the journeys that you’re going to remember for a lifetime.