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Copenhagen – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

By Devora Velinov

Hey guys, I’m gonna share my 4 month venture in the city of Copenhagen. This destination was my first choice and in retrospect I wouldn’t have it any other way.

General Remarks – The University

The University of Copenhagen (KU) is ranked significantly higher than RUG, however I’m sorry to inform you that rankings do not mirror quality as such. Don’t get me wrong, the university was well organized, but then again not better then RUG. KU has several campuses which are located 4-5km from the center. These campuses are new, and equipped with the best technology. Fortunately for me, the law faculty was scattered around several buildings in the very center, and I actually walked to university both for my classes and for my exams. From January 2017 the law faculty has moved in specialized new facilities close to the airport, therefore exchange students from this year and on will be studying in an environment completely different than the one I had, but unfortunately I cannot give much information on it apart from the fact that it has an affordable canteen with food of good quality.

IT Faculty (Below)

The Courses

The autumn semester at the University of Copenhagen starts at the very beginning of September, however the introduction week might be in the last week of August. At KU exchange students can only take courses on Master (LLM) level. This is one of the reasons the exchange office in Groningen is very selective when it comes to choosing which candidate to nominate. To be honest the workload of the courses I took there, was much less demanding than the workload I’ve already had here in Groningen. In spite of the fact that officially only 1 spot was available, 2 people form the LLB got to go. That’s why you shouldn’t let course difficulty or potential competition discourage you.

I took 3 courses, namely Health and Human Rights, EU Health and Medical Law, Corporate and Social Responsibility, each being 10 ECTS. I had each once a week for 3 hours, with 2 breaks in between. None of the lectures had mandatory attendance, so you could basically only show up on the exam (if you feel like you already know everything they are teaching, I doubt it though). I attended all the classes and still had plenty of free time. The classes were smaller than the ones in Groningen, and therefore their structure was sort of a mixture between lectures and working groups. They were mixed between exchange students and Danish master students, but everything was completely in English. Also, there was no noticeable difference in level of knowledge in spite of the fact that some students were doing their masters and others were still in their bachelors. I purposely chose to take courses with oral exams, and I didn’t regret it. The best part of orals is that you get your grade 5min after your exam, and therefore you can properly prepare for a resit (if needed) or just enjoy your post-exam time without being on the edge about your grade. Keep in mind that exchange students don’t have it easier on the exams, than Danish students. My experience is actually quite the opposite, they gave the highest mark to Danish students with less rigid questioning. They award the highest possible grade and generally high grades often to students who do the work and are confident speakers. I would definitely recommend taking the courses I took if you have an interest in health law or human rights in general.

Law Firm Visit (below)

Finances

Denmark has a very high living standard and everything is expensive. If one wants to spend less money on exchange than in Groningen, then this is definitely the last place to choose. The Erasmus grant (270 euros per month) does not cover much, and living here on a student budget is not comfortable. Maybe that is the reason I was given a working permit (20h per week), which I made use of. Minimum wage is 20euros per hour, therefore earning some extra money is possible, but saving it is unlikely. One of the biggest problems was actually that they have their own currency (Danish krone), facilitates loosing track of your spending.

All coins have a heart on them which is kinda cute, but also symbolic because you get a mini heart attack with every coin you spend.

Additionally, paying by card might be subjected to conversion fees. Supermarket prices are quite similar to prices in Albert Heijn, sometimes more expensive. Most of the time I brought food from home, because buying it outside can add to the monthly costs fast. My costs per month (not including rent) were about 500 euros. Biking is as big in Copenhagen as it is in Groningen, but consider that the prices for a 2nd hand bike (60-100 euros) are not the same as the ones in Groningen (30-70 euros). Cook at home for the most part, pre-drink before going out (everyone does that just like in Groningen) and you could even splurge on a restaurant meal or a 15euro cocktail once a month.

Public transport is good, but trains can cost up to 100 euros for a return ticket, within Denmark. There are cheap flights to Sweden, Norway, Finland, but also for around Europe if booked in advance. Malmo is 1h away by train, and the train ticket is affordable. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent to group ticket in the NL.

Food

Denmark is known for its cinnamon rolls, and there are many versions thereof.

There are several bagel and pizza slice places about 7 euros a peace, which is the cheap option. Otherwise a starting price for a restaurant meal and paper island is 14 euros. Paper Island is a place not far from the center that has food stands form over 40 different countries. All stands are generic, work every day, and have amazing quality. It is the perfect place to visit with a large group of people because everyone can satisfy their taste and you can eat together at the same time.

Moroccan Food Stand (Below)

Traditional Danish Food (Below)

The food at an average restaurant is of good quality, same goes for cocktail bars. Bar 7 (which is 5 mins from the old law library) has both amazing interior and mind-blowing cocktails (15 euros though). The cheapest cocktail bar I found is called Mexi Bar, there one cocktail was about 7 euros.

Student Life

The KU Faculty of Law has a very organized introduction week, so definitely don’t miss it. For 300kr (around 40 euros) we were provided with plenty of activities (Christiania tour, pub crawls, canal tour on a boat, drinks, pub quiz night) These events were the best way to meet people, which for me ended up being the time I met the friends I was closest to for the whole exchange period.

After intro week there was plenty of time to explore all of Cph’s hotspots and hidden gems. Copenhagen is perfect for a city lover, rather than a nature lover. The temperatures from October are similar to Groningen, but there is much less rain. All of its finest is always only a bike ride away. Keep in mind though, that biking someone in the back is illegal and often fined with (700krone=95 euros). In the center, most touristy stuff are at a walking distance form each-other. I wouldn’t say that there are tourist traps, which you have to pay for, Maybe Tivoli (oldest amusement park in Europe) might not be wort to some for the price of the ticket (54 euros), but all exchange students didn’t regret going there once.

Tivoli (below)

There are many museums and historical buildings to visit. Cph will leave any architecture enthusiast at an awe. There is modern architecture at every corner and art in all forms is significantly respected.

There are 4 main universities in Cph and therefore there is a huge student population. A thing that might need some getting used to, the drinking culture. Alcohol is not cheap, but it is heavily consumed by people 15-25 years of age. Also, drinking on the streets is not regulated, hence very commonly practiced. Last September was the warmest one they’ve ever had. This meant that everyone had beer on them at all times and every free spot in the sun was turned into a picnic destination. A lot of people went to the beaches nearby or just tanned in bikinis in the parks.

It has a compact center and sort of suburbs. If you live in the suburbs you will probably bike to the going out destinations. Even if biking back is not an option, the metro runs all night, so maybe look for accommodation along the metro line. The center at night on weekdays is quite empty, not much different than Groningen. This took me by surprise, considering that Copenhagen is the capital. That didn’t mean that I felt unsafe though. One thing that is different is that there are more options for snacking after midnight. There is a 7eleven at every corner, which is open 24h and so is MC Donald’s. On the weekends the city is crowded and there is even more choice.

Student discounts are an unknown concept, apart from one café (studentehuset) that sometimes works as a bar at night, and you get a discount only if you are a KU student and you show your student card.

No matter what kind of parties’ suit you, Copenhagen will not disappoint. There is everything from clubs playing commercial music, trance parties, to jazz clubs. Additionally, there are many events you could go to, such as concerts, soccer matches…

An extremely important thing to note (something I had no knowledge of before coming to Copenhagen), there is a network that operates in the central area, which specializes in stealing bags. Therefore, never leave your bag unattended (not even under the table if you are sitting in a café or restaurant). I personally know dozen people (myself included) that had their bags stolen during the course of my exchange. They steal them even if you are biking so be very careful because the police will not do anything unless you are physically injured. Other than that Copenhagen is rather safe (because apart from robberies, more major crimes do not occur).

Accommodation

To say that housing is a major issue in Copenhagen, it’s an understatement. It was insane. 3 days before I was to leave for Copenhagen I still didn’t have a place to live. That is when I decided to take an option form the Housing Foundation. My monthly rent was 1000 euros inclusive, which meant that I needed to have about 7000 euros at my disposal to take the option under the conditions they offered. That was beyond unreasonable, but at least my house was as central as they come. Since the law faculty was in the very center at the time I was a 5min walk away from my classes. On one side there was the national gallery (SMK) and on the other Rosenborg Castle. The room itself was 30m2, which was quite alright. Additionally, there were 2 common rooms and a gym in the complex which residents could use free of charge. Because none of the basic facilities were shared it was not that easy to meet people, but the complex itself organized some events which was very helpful. My house was called Solvegrade Kaserne (aka Base Camp). But since the law faculty has moved to new facilities in the south of Copenhagen, you are probably better off looking for accommodation in that area since it is cheaper and will be more convenient.

View from my house (below)

Got to experience Cph life enough to enjoy all the perks and some of the less attractive attributes. Danes generally were very nice, friendly, and always willing to help. I had a good time there in general, but also that I wouldn’t return for a 2 year masters.

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