Denmark consists of the main land Jutland and many islands with the largest being Zealand, North Jutlandic Island and Funen. Copenhagen is located on the east coast on the island of Zealand and has over one million inhabitants within the Capital Region. Copenhagen attracts visitors due to its city harbor, cultural sights, and restaurants. Especially, during the Christmas time the city was packed with tourists. The campus of DTU is located 15 km north from the Copenhagen in the north part of the city of Lyngby. DTU is founded in 1829 and ranked among the Europe’s leading engineering universities. It has nearly 30 different departments and 20 research centers. The solid foundation of teaching, the good reputation in environmental engineering and the large variety in selectable courses were reasons I chose DTU as my exchange destination. In addition, the closeness to Finland and that DTU receives hundreds of exchange students over the world attracted me. Also, some reasons for choosing Denmark was, that local people know how to speak English and most of the master’s studies were taught in English.
Practicalities before exchange
The application process was rather simple to DTU. The application was submitted in the exchange online system and only attachments were the Learning Agreement and transcript of grades. No special language test was needed, but the Aalto English language center course had to be completed. The Learning Agreement was easy to fill out, because DTU’s course database was clear and all relevant information was stated in the course descriptions (e.g. language, content). After this, another online application form had to be sent in DTU’s own system with the same attachments as for the Aalto exchange application.
The approval of my application came early, leaving me time for searching an accommodation. DTU has its own Accommodation Office, where you can apply for a room, but they do not unfortunately guarantee an accommodation. Although, I received a room in a separate house owned by an older couple.
I received grants for my exchange from Sven Hallen Research Foundation sr, Maa- ja vesitekniikan tuki ry (Land and Water Technology Foundation), and the Water Department of Aalto. In addition, all exchange students receive a scholarship from Aalto University. All the received financial support was needed, since the price level in Denmark is generally higher compared to Finland.
Practicalities in Denmark and DTU
When arriving to Denmark first thing is to buy an ”Anonymous Rejsekort” from the airport. With this card, travelling with the metro and bus will be cheaper. If you are staying a longer time or you are living further away from the campus, a seasonal travel card could be an even cheaper option. Also, a CPR-number is needed, which can be claimed from the local citizen service office, to receive medical care in Denmark. For Nordic citizens only, a signed rental agreement needs to be shown to get the number.
One week before the semester starts, in DTU there is the ”Introduction week”, during which everybody is assigned to a group, which is led by a ”Buddy”. The buddies are DTU students, who introduced us to the ”Danish” culture and also helped us in settling in the academic and social networks. The Introduction Week was full on fun activities, where I got to know lots of international students, study customs and Copenhagen.
Another thing to do in Copenhagen, is to get a bike. Biking is a good way to get around in Denmark, because the bus connections are not always guaranteed, and the distances are not long from place to another. There are a few options in getting a bike, for instance buying a used bike or renting. Used bikes can be bought through a website called DBA (similar to the Finnish Tori.fi), and they cost about 1000 kr (140 €). Renting bikes is usually a bit more expensive, but the quality of the bike is better secured.
After one month of my exchange, it turned out that there was mold in the accommodation I was staying in. I informed the Accommodation Office about the mold and they offered me straight away a new room on campus, where I could move the next day. I was in luck not only in receiving a much nicer room, but also my rent decreased a bit, to 3600 kr (500 €) a month. My second accommodation was in the Hemple Kolligiet, which was a newly built residential facility. The facility consists of six buildings and each building has three floors. Each floor has 12 individual rooms and a communal kitchen and study area. As in autumn 2017 we were the first residents, all furniture and spaces were new and clean. Also, the rooms had their own toilets and showers, which made the stay really convenient.
On campus there are many canteens, but also street food trucks and cafes. The food in the canteens are served in a buffet and they have large variety of different salads, warm food and smorre brod. Smorre brod is bread with different kinds of toppings including cold cuts, spreads, and vegetables. The price of the food was determined by weight, thus being more expensive than in Finnish universities, about 5 €. The street food was even more expensive, about 10 €, but the quality was really good.
Many of the students at DTU at first select more courses than they are planning to complete during the semester and then drop the least interesting courses after vising the first lectures. I decided to so, because I was a bit overwhelmed of the large number of courses in DTU. I ended up with taking 25 credits, which was in my opinion the right amount, leaving me some free-time in the weekends. I mainly studied courses from the Department of Environmental Engineering (4/5). The descriptions of each course, that I completed are presented in the table below. Overall, the courses were well-organized, staff were helpful and easily approachable. Compared to the studies in Aalto the courses were a bit more theoretical and there were more content to study for the exams due to the 13-week semesters. The lectures were held once a week in each course and they were 4-hour sessions. Usually, the sessions consisted of two hours of lecture and then the last part was either exercises, where questions could be asked or group work.
From Lyngby, where DTU’s campus is located, you can get to Copenhagen by bus or train. The travel time is about 30-45 min. Copenhagen is a larger city compared to Helsinki offering a large number of places to visit like museums, churches, towers and districts. For example, Tivoli, the amusement park located in the heart of Copenhagen, is worth visiting due to its changing themes depending on the season. Especially, the Christmas market in Tivoli was magical and many events, like concerts, are held in Tivoli, which were entertaining. Besides the main attractions (e.g. Tivoli, Nyhavn, Little mermaid, Amalienborg), in the city there are nice parks, cafes, shops and food markets. There are several food markets in Copenhagen for instance Torvehallerne, the meatpacking district and the paper island. The food markets consist of restaurants, street food carts, deli-shops and bars. They were places where people gathered during the day or to enjoy the night.
During the autumn break me and one friend made a road trip from Copenhagen. The first stop was in Odense, which is the largest city on the Funen island. The city was cute due to its small houses and it is the birth place of the famous author Hans Christian Andersen. To get to the island we had to cross a bridge, which cost more than we expected, 260 kr (35 €) per one way. Other cities where we stopped were Aarhus and Aalborg, which are the second and third largest cities in Denmark, respectively. In Aarhus we visited the Aros art gallery, which had a unique rainbow panorama at the top, where the whole city’s skyline could be seen. The ticket to the gallery was 150 kr (20 €), so if you are not an art-enthusiastic the price for only the panorama was a bit too expensive, in my opinion.
Our main destination on the trip was Skagen, the northernmost town in Denmark. The town, where all houses were yellow, was small but compared to its size there were many restaurants and shops. Skagen attracts about 2 million tourists due to its beautiful dunes, beaches and nature. A must-see in Skagen is Grenen, the place where the North Sea and Baltic Sea meet. A clear borderline can be seen due to the seas’ different densities. From the parking place, there is about a 15 min walk to the tip of the peninsula depending on the route. There can be also seen different species of birds and seals in the sea. Also, in Grenen there is a bird museum and with the museum ticket you can enter the Light House of Skagen. The museum is interesting due to the research on the large number of mitigation birds, which fly through Skagen, and the view from the lighthouse is spectacular. Not far from Skagen, there is Råbjerg Mile, which is a migrating coastal dune. Walking on the dunes is a bit challenging, but on the top of them, you will experience a stunning view. Another, stunning view is close to Råbjerg Mile on the shore, in Kandestederne. On a clear day, you can see an endless cost of white sand.
From Copenhagen, Malmo can be easily visited during the day by train or bus. The fees to Malmo are quite cheap and the “Rejsekort” can be used at least when traveling by train. The travel time is only about 30 min from the Copenhagen’s center. Malmo is nice and a bit cheaper city than Copenhagen, but one day is, in my opinion, enough for exploring it. From Lyngby, 20 km north, in Hillerod, the Frederisborg Castle is located, which is a place also worth visiting.
There are quite many big parties and events in DTU, but mostly bachelor students attend them. So, usually I hang out with friends during the weekends in the city or at somebody’s place. This is something in the Danish culture call “hygge”, which can be translated as coziness or togetherness. Also, with the “Buddy group” we had dinners and lunch meetings. In addition, on Fridays it was usual that people stayed after class on campus for a couple of beers.
Overall, the experience was eye-opening in many ways. I got to know new people from different countries and learned new things from them. Especially, the experience helped me to develop my social and communication skills. These skills will come in use in my working life, which I will enter soon, after I have completed my master’s thesis. Also, getting to know a new study environment and international students from my field of interest, really motivated me proceeding in my studies. In addition, group works during courses with always different people, broadened my social networks and developed my teamwork skills. During the exchange, I was living for the first time by myself, which taught me to be more independent. For me maybe the most important thing I learned was, to be more open. If you are going abroad by yourself without any contacts, you need to be open for new ideas, to get to know different kinds of people, to try new things that you are not used to do, and to tell about yourself. I feel I succeed in these, which gave me great experience and, on the way, I learn about myself.