Student life in Copenhagen
January 1, 1970
by Jirka Mauritz
Student life is always a great period of your life, but it can be very different from university to university. I live ordinary student life in Brno, Czech Republic, and moved to Copenhagen for half a year to compare. I know all that 80 percent of people in Denmark attending university could tell the story much better than me. But I don’t really think they realize, what makes the living and studying in Copenhagen extraordinary until they try to do it somewhere else. That’s why I’ll present what I’ve found interesting in comparison with the Czech Republic student life.
First of all, the cost of living for a student in Denmark partially explains the high number of them. In some countries, the school is very expensive (GB), somewhere you don’t have to pay at all (CZ) and there are those countries (yes, you guessed it right) where students get money while studying. Thanks to that, students use their free time to participate in numerous fellowships, clubs and organizations. During my stay, I found many events happening each day in Copenhagen initiated by the fellowships. Specifically: flea markets, food trucks in the streets, parties in the streets or gardens, volunteering (35% of people in Denmark do some volunteer work!), exercises for free, collective running, movies projection, dancing … I’ve never been sure if I’m missing those events in Brno or there are none. Anyway, I’m going to describe some places to go in Copenhagen and the events I was lucky to participate in.
Places to go in Copenhagen
“First place to go in Copenhagen should be the Lakes.”
It’s the long bar of water looking like chopped off river dividing the center of the city from the other parts. The Lakes have no particular utilization but, for me, it is the most beautiful part of the city. It’s sad that overseas tourists with giant cameras take a picture of The Little Mermaid surrounded by other tourists, but they miss the Lakes. One day, I was coming from the city by the sunset along the Lakes. It was one of those early spring still pretty cold evenings. The bridge between Saint George’s Lake and Student Lake (yes, one of them belongs to students) was full of people. They were leaning over the edges of the bridge and sitting at the lakes on the grass from both sides. I had no idea what is going on, maybe fireworks? Eclipse of the sun? Or celebrity is coming? But all the ideas were killed by the fact that the people were turned in various directions. I ran to a group of young people and asked. The answer made me very happy, that I’m in Copenhagen: “It’s the sun”. Then they placed a beer in my hand and asked me to stay with them. I’ll never forget the view of hundreds of people gathered just like that because the sun is shining. There are no events at the Lakes, but if you come by, especially during the weekend, try to absorb the atmosphere of the local relaxed people.
School as your home
“We learn to take the university as our second home.”
Attend it not only for the lectures but for working on projects, eating, meeting people etc. In Denmark, this is shifted to a higher level.
Morning: You can spend the morning in one of the cafes placed in every school or around. The North Campus of Kobenhavn University possesses of a great cafe called Cafeen, where you get free coffee as a member and you can play one of the many board games they have.
Noon: Some faculties are equipped with a kitchen for students — very good idea. I was bringing the ingredients with me to the school and cooking on the stove, in the microwave and oven. If you are missing something, you can always put some change in the bowl next to the fruit, bread, tea, etc. and take it.
Afternoon: The gardens of the university are full of students in the afternoon. If you’d like to study in a quiet environment, you can go to silent rooms of libraries or lock yourself in the small studying room.
Evening: Every faculty has its own Friday bar — the greatest parties are held at the very end of a working week. I was lucky to explore CSS (City campus) and Frederiksberg campus student bar. The alcohol is strictly prohibited in any part of my faculty in the Czech Republic and even if we want to have a grill party in the garden, we need to ask for permission. So you can imagine my face when I saw dancing floors with loud music, bars full of people and concerts on the gardens of the school. CSS sometimes require an entrance fee and it is full of people dancing on EDM, sitting on sticky couches and playing table football. I liked more the Friday bar in the Frederiksberg – no entrance fee, nice girls in the wardrobe room dancing on their own music, beer for 10 DKK and, of course, table football. Sometimes there is a dancing event on the first floor, where students put their own music on smartphones. However, when there is a huge event, the mess is incredible: cans and bottles are everywhere, drunk people are throwing up in the basement of the school. Wonder who cleans it all.
“Definitely, the best place to hang out for a student is the Studenterhuset (Student House).”
The staff is completely manned by volunteers and they offer very good discounts for students (beer 26 DKK, coffee 7 DKK). You can listen to a local musician for free every Thursday and support him or her by buying a CD. On Tuesdays, try swing dancing and don’t worry — there will be always someone to dance with, you don’t have to be paired. On Wednesdays, go to Meet&Eat dinner where you pay 25 DKK and eat whatever you want with possibly new friends. The most astonishing series of events for me was the low-budget cinema in the first floor, just above the bar. You can watch a movie (such as Ironman or Batman) in the comfortable sofas and have a coffee with popcorn. Everything for free. This could never work in the Czech Republic. The list of activities of SH is endless, so I’ll name few more here: studying, language practicing with strangers, silent disco, board games, flea markets and much more.
“One of the most popular places in Copenhagen with the controversial history full of alternative open-minded people.”
I’m not going to write about the history (even though it’s very interesting), you can find it on the Wikipedia. That’s because I don’t want you to go there as tourists but as locals. I had some friends over in Copenhagen, who were afraid to visit Christiania, which is very strange since the peace is part of the religion of the local people. Anyway, pick a sunny day, go to Christiania, buy a beer (or one gram if you smoke) and find some quiet place near the water to chill out. Then go deeper into the Christiania to discover the unrestrained architecture of local houses, the groups of musicians playing for themselves and feel the freedom. Try their own brewed beer and grown food. If you are lucky to be in Copenhagen around Christmas, you should visit markets in Christiania and listen to the life music there.
“Denmark people like to dance. Any kind of dance. Everywhere.”
If you like Latin dance, you can go to Swing dancing in SH as I mentioned. We danced the Samba and other Latin American dances in few cafes, for example, Café Cadeau. If you want to dance outside, try the dance floor (Dansepladsen) in the park of Østerbro called Fæledparken. For those, who enjoy moving your arms and legs in a disoriented manner to electronic dance music, there are plenty of night clubs, for example, Hive. However, Meatpacking district is the place you want to go to live the nightlife in Copenhagen. It is a little bit fancier than student bars and, of course, more expensive. The Meatpacking district used to be meat industry factory, but now it is filled with nice bars, restaurants and one brewery (WarPigs – recommended). Other great dancing events must be beach parties on the Amager beach, but I missed them all because they are held only over the summer :(.
Parties, festivals and events
How to be informed about all the events? Just add anybody you will meet in Copenhagen on Facebook and check the events page. Everything is on Facebook, even the events organized by the school, like public lectures or Student Talk (TED by students). Other communication channels could be MeetUp app on smartphones or UniversityPost.dk.
“Imagine your city neighborhood turns into crazy party place with loud music for 5 days.”
I believe the local older people are not having as good time as the participants of Distortion. According to the Wikipedia, it is one of the largest annual gatherings in Europe with 100 000 guests per day. It is always the first week of June. There are two or three stages in every street, each of them is playing a different style of music, so you can choose. The party is in different neighborhoods every day. I experienced Nørrebro, which was the craziest from what I heard.
1st of May
The largest park in Copenhagen — Fæledparken — hosts the festival on 1st of May to celebrate the beginning of spring. Despite the political talks between concerts, the atmosphere is full of happiness of the end of the cold winter.
In the beginning of July, you can visit more than 1300 jazz concerts in 120 venues all over Copenhagen. Some of them are for free, some of them are for small change, but all of them are worth it. One of the venues happens to be our beloved Studenterhuset.
This festival is not in Copenhagen but truth is, that a lot of young people from Copenhagen travel to Roskilde to enjoy a week full of music played by famous artists. The price is too high for students, but the organizers offer volunteer work in the festival as an exchange for an attendance. Great stars like Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Fatboy Slim, and The Prodigy appear on the stages.
The studying is also part of the student life, I have to admit. However, in comparison with my Czech university, I didn’t have to go to the school very often. With my load of 30 ECTS and four courses, I went to school three days in a week. The semester is divided into two blocks, so I had two courses at a time. The lectures are interactive and the teacher is talking with students a lot. Also, the teacher often gives us five minutes to talk with the student next to about some question. Exercises are very much about working on the project and teacher only answers questions if there are some. The teachers have usually very close relationships with the students and learning is a discussion more than one directional handing the knowledge over.
The Danes are curious about everything. I bet that whatever creepy deviation you have, there’s a club engaged in it. Try shooting pigeons or water polo on boats. The sports association USG provides cheap sports for students and the offer is very wide. You can try all crazy things like ice climbing, sailing course or running in the forest. I was personally interested in Parkour lessons because support of this sport in the Czech Republic is poor.
According to some surveys, Denmark is the happiest nation in the world. I haven’t figured out why but I was able to feel it. If you get a chance to live in Copenhagen, even just for a while, don’t hesitate. They take very good care about any foreigner coming to their land: there is so-called International House that holds lectures and discussions how to get a job or start studying. Moreover, the lectures of Danish language are free for foreigners. There are not so many cities where they welcome you into their community as in Copenhagen.