Based on the recommendations of previous exchange students I decided to go on exchange for 2 semesters. Although the idea of going for one year might seem a little daunting, I definitely suggest doing the same as it allows you time to really settle into your life overseas (although it might make it harder to come home) plus it feels as though you get two summer holidays in one year.

At DTU the undergraduate course is taught in Danish and the Masters are in English however you shouldn’t be put off by this because in Denmark they have a three year Bachelor and two year Masters so many of the Masters classes are of a similar level to what UQ students do in the third and fourth year of their Bachelors. I’m quite interested in Transport, an area which DTU had a whole Department dedicated to, so I took a number of electives in this as well as bridge structures, advanced steel, building renovation and probabilistic modelling. The level of English was great and the majority of these courses were well organised with small classes that meant I got to know the lecturers (it helps that everyone is on a first name basis) which was really nice. Group work is seen as an important part of learning at DTU which, as always, can be good if you have a good group or terrible if you don’t – I experienced both equally. Also many of my subjects had oral exams which are much better than a written exam when you’re just sitting with lecturers and discussing a project but much worse when you have to do calculations on a blackboard in front of the lecturer and someone from industry.

During my year I was lucky enough to live in two places. For my first six months I lived in a college known as Kampsax which is the biggest of the colleges on the DTU campus. At Kampsax you get your own bedroom and bathroom and share a corridor and kitchen with about 16 other people (normally two of these are exchange students and the rest are Danes). I’ve heard that the experience at Kampsax can be a bit unpredictable as it all depends on the people who share your kitchen, I think I ended up with a pretty good kitchen in which I got to know about half of the people in my kitchen really well (four of us even went on a trip to Iceland together) while the remainder were pretty anti-social. The biggest drawbacks with Kampsax are that it’s at DTU which is located in the municipality of Lyngby (two big shopping centres and a cinema etc. but it’s more for old people) which is 12km from Copenhagen city centre (direct cycle paths and a really frequent buses which take 20-25 minutes) and that you’ll only really meet engineering students. After 6 months I thought it could be fun to try living in the city so I applied and was accepted into Egmont Kollegium which is perfect for getting to DTU as it’s on the North side of the city and the bus stops right outside. Egmont is a tower block type college where 20 people share a hallway and kitchen and if you’re looking for a social experience Egmont is pretty famous for delivering this. My time there was really fantastic and it’s a really great way to experience a college life which we don’t really have much of in Queensland. The only possible downside is that because there’s always something to do indoors you might not bother to venture into the city so much (particularly when the weather is bad which is 90% of the time). Because of where I was living I felt like I was more friends with Danes than I was friends with the other international students but I think this situation would have been reversed if I’d lived in one of the other two places that most exchange students seem to end up at when studying at DTU (Campus Village and Tingbjerg Kollegiet).

The cost of living is pretty similar to Australia, I found that rent and beers were cheaper, groceries were pretty similar and public transport (as an exchange student you can’t get student discounts) and eating out was quite a bit more expensive – overall I spent less money than I’d expected to. Obviously you can save a lot of money on transport by immediately buying a bike and experiencing the brilliance that is their cycling infrastructure.

I found the Danish language very difficult, I successfully completed the first language course module (about 6 hours per week for 10 or so weeks, paid for by the government) but I didn’t go back in the second semester. Even after a year of living with Danes, although I could read a little I could barely understand anything and although it would have been nice to be able to join in all of the conversations this wasn’t much of a barrier to making friends as people are for the most part quite happy to stick to English (particularly when you’re talking in a smaller groups). I made a lot of really great friends in Copenhagen, I found people to be really relaxed and open and I was very sad to leave. I thoroughly recommend it and look forward to visiting everyone there again soon.
 

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