International Programs students enroll in special programs conducted in English through DIS, Denmark's International Study Program. DIS is a specialized institution of higher education affiliated with the University of Copenhagen. Classes at DIS are held at the DIS facility or classrooms conveniently located to DIS and the center of Copenhagen.
Though there is no IP Resident Director in Denmark, there are DIS staff members available at all times to answer questions, in particular to Housing Coordinator, who is also your CSU liaison.
Arrival and the First Ten Days (Top)
We arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark filled with all the emotions that one could have. The flight was long (14 hours). DIS was waiting for us at the airport and we didn’t have to call them. We got our bags, and headed for customs. At customs they looked at our visas and sent us on our way. (Everyone I talked to said they didn’t have to go through Customs and I didn’t. I was so shocked to have just walked out of the airport without being searched or anything. When we arrived at the meeting spot, (The meeting spot was at the airport right after you leave the baggage claim. We didn’t have to take a taxi or anything. DIS provided us with transportation to Copenhagen University). we were welcomed by DIS staff and were surrounded by Americans who had come here to study like us. The DIS staff person handed us our packet of information. The packet contained info about basically everything we needed to know. Then, depending on our housing situation, we were taken home with our host family or taken by bus to the dorms (kolleguim).
Orientation consists of meetings with all the students, meetings by your specific department, tours of the city, and three days of a crash course in Danish (not an easy language!). Also, they give you your books during orientation week. It is important to be on time and to be nice. DIS has a small staff and a lot of them do two or three different jobs. You will run into these people all the time. You might be talking to the head of your department (VIP) and not even realize it! Orientation isn't all work, you have plenty of time to meet other people, check out the city (i.e. cheap eats, clubs, bars, sight seeing stuff, etc., etc.), and do what you want to do. They even throw you a great welcome party!
During your first few days (3-6 depending on person and situation), you may feel lost. But you will quickly get into the swing of things and start thinking of Copenhagen as your home!
DIS is a program that takes its academics very seriously and the workload is the proof. Much emphasis is placed on your schoolwork and assignments are very challenging. I had friends in all programs offered there, and we all agreed that the workload was as hard or harder than what we where used too. In other words, if you are looking for an international study program to just hang out in for a while, then DIS is definitely not for you. Just as you must adjust to a new school and home life, you must also adjust to a new academic structure. The most important thing will be to remain open-minded, flexible and communicative with instructors and DIS administrators.
With that said, although the program is challenging, it is very rewarding and offers many advantages that you could not get if studying in the CSU system. One of these advantages is what DIS refers to as field studies. Field studies are when you actually go and visit a company or several companies and do research work on the presentations and materials given to you. All majors have different types of field studies and actually they are a very crucial part of academic life at DIS. While many other study abroad programs aren’t as consistently challenging, at DIS we work hard and we play hard. The three weeks of traveling per semester is very unique to this program. My friends in other countries don’t work as hard, but they don’t get as long of a break either.
You will find a difference between the professors at DIS and the professors at the CSU. Teaching is a second job for almost all of the professors, and most have a full-time job in their area of expertise. Even though textbooks are used, the professors have a fundamental grasp of current topics in the subject that they are teaching and this enriches the quality of education at DIS. All professors insist on being addressed by their first names and there are no TA's in any classes. All contact is through the actual professor and the classes are never any larger than 40 students. For the older students (I am 30 years old) you will find that you are the same age as most of your professors. This aspect takes a little getting used to, and one tends to fall into the trap of feeling that the professors are their friends rather than their teachers. The teachers are there to grade your performance and will do so regardless of their personal feelings for you.
The main difference that you will find in studying in Denmark is that there is no central campus. DIS does have a building where a library, computer labs, and classes are taught, but the remainder of your classes will be throughout different parts of the city in classrooms that are a part of other universities. This also takes a little getting used to, especially if you are used to hanging out on the quad and checking people out. DIS is a very large study abroad program (usually around 500 participants) so just be aware that because of the large size and lack of on campus culture you have to work a little harder to maintain relationships but it is definitely worth it. At DIS you are right in the heart of the city when you are at school. While the program is challenging, it is very rewarding and the schedule is setup with plenty of time for you to check out the city, go out with your new friends and travel throughout Europe.
DIS maintains its own library with English language reference books on Danish art, architecture, literature, politics, social conditions, etc. Also, the DIS library subscribes to the International Herald Tribune, Newsweek, Time, and The Economist magazines.
Not all libraries have "open stacks." The best library for architecture students is located at the Royal Danish Art Academy (called the Bygningsteknisk StudieArkiv Laboratorium). The people there are very helpful and the library has the most complete set of books in the city. Figure drawing instruction is also available each evening of the week (except weekends) at the Art Academy. Also helpful is the library of the American Embassy on Dag Hammkerskjolds Allé. DNLB is the science/medical library.
Student Housing and Meals (Top)
About 80% of the students attending DIS live with Danish families within the greater Copenhagen area. These families are carefully selected by DIS, taking into account both the student's and the family's likes and dislikes. Students are welcomed into the Danish home as members of the family, and students have the same responsibility to their Danish family as they would to their own family at home. Be very specific on your letter about your likes/dislikes and your habits.
Due to the limited housing in the center of Copenhagen, some students may live some distance from their classrooms. This may mean transportation time of from 20 minutes to 1 1/2 hour each way, including buses, trains, and walking. DIS reimburses you for the cost of a local train/bus pass from your Danish home to downtown Copenhagen, where DIS is located. Don't be disappointed if your family lives way out of the city. You'll be in the city almost everyday. Living out in the suburbs will give you a greater opportunity to see more of Denmark and how the Danes live. Public transportation is a huge part of life for many Danes and the commute can be quite enjoyable (I study, read, or just relax to music!) It is impossible to tell you exactly where you will be living, but rest assured that DIS tries very hard to match students with a suitable family. They do a pretty good job. People I know are very happy.
Students are not charged for housing during Christmas, Easter, and mid-semester break, and DURING THESE PERIODS THEY MUST LEAVE THEIR FAMILIES. Most students travel during these periods but, if you choose to remain in Denmark, you must make arrangements for other accommodations. Students are not entitled to reimbursements if they leave their Danish homes for weekends or other travel during the semester. You should make arrangements with your host family or DIS for storage of personal belongings during the winter travel break.
DIS places you with a family based on information you provide on DIS Form l. This form is also made available to your Danish host family - this is NOT the place to be too frank. This form is very brief so, if you are concerned about being well matched with your Danish family, you are welcome to write supplementary confidential information on another sheet-even if your needs are not all that confidential. Offer details about yourself and your personality. Be honest when you fill out the form-it can make all the difference in the world in your family life for the coming year. If you hate dogs and children, say so. If you can't eat fish, say so. If you refuse to share your room with anyone, if you study after midnight, if you work long hours in lab, if you study only before daybreak, if you're allergic to milk, if you object to traveling long distances on trains each day...put it all down. Many Danes smoke so be very honest about your feelings on this subject.
Adjusting to living with a family takes a lot of time and effort, especially for students who have been living on their own prior to coming to Denmark. DIS is aware of this, and has alerted host families, who carefully refrain from imposing undue restrictions. The relationship you maintain with your family is a two-way street. Common courtesy, reasonable consideration, and flexibility help. For example:
Ask in advance if the family will permit you to invite a guest home for dinner. Danish families have been exceedingly generous in opening their homes to American students, and the fee paid for your room and board, in almost all instances, does not fully cover their costs.
Ask before using the phone. Calls are extremely expensive and are not itemized on the phone bill. Even local calls are expensive; so don't spend a lot of time on the phone.
Notify them ahead of time if you will not be home for dinner.
Don't leave your belongings all over the house.
Do make your own bed and pick up your own clothes.
Offer to help with some of the other household chores.
Students will be moved to a new family after the Christmas recesses unless the student and the family want to continue the relationship. If the student and the family feel that they do not match, the student may be moved to a new family.
The first two weeks of the semester are, however, normally regarded as a period of adjustment during which time students will not be moved except in very extraordinary situations.
Meals are provided by the family with whom you are housed, sometimes including a box lunch (which everybody carries in Denmark). The food, of course, will vary from family to family, but foodstuffs are Denmark's principal industry and the food is generally good. Danes excel in dairy products, especially cheeses, yogurt, pastries, and what are called smørrebrød. These are a chapter by themselves-delicious open-faced sandwiches spread with shrimp, herring, beef, anything and everything from salami to chocolate, with more than two hundred varieties boasted. The student cafeterias serve beverages and are accustomed to students bringing home-packed lunches to eat there. Coffee, curiously, usually costs more than tea, and the milk is delicious. All beer in Denmark is in returnable bottles, and costs about DK 6 plus DK 1.50 deposit. Food is expensive-some items are two to three times more expensive than in the U.S. But living with a host family seems to save students a lot of money in the food department!
The typical Danish breakfast consists of coffee or tea and an assortment of breads served with butter, cheese, jam, and yogurt (excellent!). Danish pastries and bakery goods are plentiful and not too expensive.
Seafood, a common dish in Denmark can be expensive and includes such delicacies as fried plaice (European flatfish), boiled cod, fried eel, herrings, and fried codfish eggs. Other typically Danish dishes served for dinner are Pølse (hot dogs), Frikadeller (meat balls), Bøf med Løg (steak with onions), and pork chops. Beef is more expensive than in the United States so pork is served more often. The Danes eat a lot of potatoes. Frozen foods are extremely expensive and seldom used. Danes eat more fried food, more starches, and more fat (especially butter) than you are probably used to, but this does depend on your family. Try everything at least once, you'd be surprised how good most of it is.
Restaurants are expensive ($8-9 for a whopper, coke, and fries at Burger King), and students rarely eat out except as a special treat. Among Danish specialties you should sample, however, at least once or twice during your stay, are the restaurant cold buffets for lunch, where an enormous assortment of boiled, pickled, fried, or roasted fish, cold meat or fowl are heaped on a table, from which you concoct your own smørrebrød. Danes are equally famous for their beer, and there are at least half a dozen varieties, the most popular of which are Carlsberg and Tuborg. The "national drink" is akvavit (similar to vodka), but look out!
Middle Eastern food is the most abundant in the city. Falafels, shawarmas, and kabobs are quick, cheap, and delicious. Kabobs are the burritos of Europe and amazing!
DIS can place you in a kollegium (kind of like a dormitory), but there are a very limited number of rooms available. You will have your own room and bathroom and share a kitchen and cleaning responsibilities with about 15 other students, mostly Danish. In a few cases you may share a flat with a bathroom and kitchen. The kolleguim stay does not cover meals; therefore it's more expensive than the family stays. They do not have cafeterias or a meal plans, you will do your own cooking. Students have the option the second semester of either living with a family or moving into the Kollegium. For older students (25 +) and students who have been on their own for a few years, this may be a good alternative. Don't be afraid to make the decision to move the second semester if you don't feel completely comfortable with your situation the first semester. If you do decide to move, however, be sure to notify your family and DIS in plenty of time so your family can have another student the second semester, if they wish.
The newest, most apartment like kolleguim. It consists of individual buildings that house about 20-25 people called blocks. In each room there is a bed, desk, sheets, towels, a desk lamp, a pillow, a lounge chair, basically everything you needed to get settled. Also a small bathroom in the room.
Each block has a TV room with a VCR, stereo, and couches, a bar room with couches and a fully stocked bar (not free though, but cheap), and two kitchens. You are placed in one of the kitchens and get your own cupboard that locks with your room key, a small fridge that they give you a padlock for, and two shelves in one of the two freezers. All pots, pans, utensils, etc. are provided.
Albertslund has a sauna, discotec, and laundry room on the premises. This would be a good time to put a really important note in. NOT ALL KOLLEGIUMS ARE THE SAME! Most are dorm style with the convenience of being closer to the city. PLACEMENT IN THE KOLLEGIUMS' IS TOTALLY RANDOM! You won't know which one you get until you get here.
Kollegium phones work kind of like prepaid minutes on cellular phones. You go to the post office and put down money. When the money is up, they send you a letter reminding you that you have to go put more money on the phone. It takes three or four days to turn your phone on again, so it's good to estimate when your money is close to running out, and go to the post office and put more money down. When your phone account has no money in it (i.e. phone off), you can't receive or make calls. DIS had put money (50 Kroner) on our phones so that we could call our family and friends when we got here.
Keep in mind that if you are in the Albertslund Kollegium you are on your own. You will receive a refund from DIS if you do decide to move, but you will also have to pay a $200 deposit before your arrival (refundable at the end of the semester). You will have to buy your own food and cleaning supplies (for your bathroom). Train fare from the Kollegium to Copenhagen is currently $75 (approximate) per month, DIS reimburses for this. The trains do run often and only take about 15 minutes (fast train) to 25 minutes (regular train). The train station is only a five minute walk from the Kollegium.
There are also three other Kollegiums. Two are closer to Copenhagen and can be reached by bus; the third is halfway between Copenhagen and Albertslund. Passes and transit times vary.
Money and Banking (Top)
Denmark is one of three countries that doesn't participate in the EU's common currency, the Euro (the other countries are the UK and Sweden). Denmark's national currency is the Danish Kroner ($ DKK), everybody calls them Crowns though. Danish currency is based on the decimal system, and the monetary unit is the krone (plural: kroner). Each krone has 100 øre. As of January 2007, the exchange rate was 5.74 DKK for every $1 USD, but this goes up and down quite a bit. Paper money comes in 50, 100, 500, and 1000 kroner; coins are issued in 1, 2, 5, and 10 and 20 krones and 50 øre.
When you arrive, DIS will have already set up a bank account for you at Dansk Bank. It is a savings account that comes with an ATM card. You will be able to deposit or withdraw money either at the bank or by using an ATM machine. Also, you can withdraw money from ATM machines all over Europe with credit cards or debit cards; the only thing is that you must have a 4-digit PIN number. Your Dansk Bank account is just like any other bank account. Anyone can electronically transfer money into this account if you provide the routing number. Furthermore, if you write or receive a personal check, DIS will endorse the check. With DIS's endorsement, Dansk Bank only puts a 24-hour hold on it. This is actually a good way of doing things, and I myself used this method most of the time. At the beginning of the month, I would write a check for cash from my U.S. checking account, which I left open, and then deposit it into my Dansk bank account. In recent years, because of the growing number of students at DIS, they do not set up the bank account for you. DIS has a partnership with Jyske Bank and there are options to set up a bank account with them for free or very cheap. The general consensus has been, depending on your bank account back home, that it is easier just to simply withdraw money from the United States bank account using a debit card. Sometimes it is such a hassle to open a bank account and transfer money into it.
The cost of living in Copenhagen is pretty much the same as in any large American city. In other words it is expensive to live and costs of products (food, drinks, cigarettes, clothes, eating out, etc.) are about the same as they would be in San Francisco or Los Angeles. In recent years, Copenhagen has been deemed as one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. Also, you will find that the money just doesn't seem real to you at first, almost like it is play monopoly money or something and that you are spending a lot in the beginning of your stay. Don't be alarmed; this happens to everyone. It takes time to get used to the new money and the best thing that you can do is just not to carry a lot of money on you and to set up your bank account so that you can start taking out the equivalent of $20 here and there. Before you know it, all this financial stuff will make sense.
Familiarize yourself with the exchange rates, as you may not want to convert all your money at once. Exchange rates can have sizable fluctuations over a short period of time. Beware: You must cash your checks within a 60 day turnaround time to the United States. Do not hang on to checks, especially financial aid ones, as they will have to be reissued if obsolete.
We don't recommend travelers checks because they are so expensive to exchange. We would recommend an ATM card with Visa or MasterCard symbol. If traveling to the Eastern countries (Russia), bring some U.S. $1 dollar bills. You can go to exchange offices or banks to change cash into Kroner. FDRX may have the best exchange rates.
Copenhagen has one of the best public transportation systems that I have ever seen. First, there is an amazing train system. It services the inner city of Copenhagen and the surrounding suburbs and the outer towns as well. You can travel to all parts of Europe on the Euro-Rail from Copenhagen main station. The S-trains (inner city and suburbs) and the regional trains (outer towns) start running at 5:00 a.m. and stop at 1:00 a.m., depending on the destination. Not only is there a great train system, but there is also a very extensive bus system that will take you wherever you need to go. Plus, there are very affordable taxis all over the city. The Danes are very accustomed to commuting everywhere, and this is a daily part of life for them. Furthermore, the Danes ride their bikes everywhere and in all kinds of weather conditions. There are bike lanes everywhere in Denmark. If you have to commute to school, DIS will pay for your train pass and this pass can also be used on all busses. Even if DIS doesn't purchase a pass for you, this is the most affordable way to pay for public transportation, and passes can be purchased for any length of time.
Local telephone calls are 1 kr. Direct phone calls to the United States cost DK 7 per minute, DK 5 per minute all weekend. Operator assisted calls are DK l3 per minute (approximately $2.25). Information is available from the operator. The emergency police, ambulance, or fire service can be reached anywhere in Denmark by dialing 112. It's a good idea to carry an address book with local telephone numbers in your pocket or purse at all times. Coin-operated phones do not refund money, but you can make as many calls possible for the 1 kr. charge within the allotted one minute. You can also use an American telephone credit card to call the States not within Europe. International calling cards such as "Global One" DK100, can be purchased at the post office and most kiosks, offer excellent rates to the U.S. and worldwide.
Cellular phones (bought at DIS) are also a good idea. The Piccells are not high quality phones, but you don’t need much more than the phones that you can order from DIS. They have text messaging, call waiting, number storage, voicemail, and are capable of calling any country. It is free to rent the phone as long as you send one text message or make a phone call every thirty days to keep your account activated. You only pay for what you use and all incoming calls and texts are free. It is very expensive, however, to use these cell phones in other countries and you will be charged for all incoming and outgoing calls!
Postal Services (Top)
Post - Airmail takes five to ten days to reach California, but surface mail takes as much as six to eight weeks. The postage for airmail is about DK 5.00 up to 20 grams, 14.00 kr. if over 20 grams. It may be cheaper to send two short letters instead of one long letter. You can also mail through DIS, which is cheaper. See notice in the office.
Post offices are open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Post boxes are red and have postbrevkasse printed on the mail slot.
Though the average student budget doesn't allow much leeway for luxury souvenir shopping, it should be noted that Denmark is considered one of the great shopping capitals of the world, and that the Danes are rightly famed for their superb workmanship and modern design, especially in the arts and crafts. You may not be able to take home a set of Danish hand wrought silver this time around, but you certainly ought to plan some time for browsing. Other famous Danish products are porcelain and ceramics, modern furniture, faience and glass, fabrics, boldly designed wallpaper, and highly imaginative wooden toys. A large selection of the finest handwork in the country can be seen at Illums Bollighus on Strøget.
On a more mundane level, department stores recommended by former students are Magasin (Denmark's largest department store and moderately priced), and Illium. Try H & M for clothes (like Gap or Old Navy in U.S.). More than one hundred stores of all types are located along the beautiful pedestrian street, Strøget, known as the Walking Street. Arnold Busch supplies a variety of architecture books in their basement. Get off Strøget to find better bargains. Trendy secondhand stores such as UFF and Rogers have good bargains-especially leather jackets.
Føtex, Irma, Super Brugsen, Netto, Prima are some of many chain supermarkets. For hard-to-find spices or American imports, the food department in Magasin is recommended. Shops are usually open on Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. All stores are closed on Sunday, except for a few bakeries and candy shops. Legal holidays are New Year's Day, Maundy Thursday through Easter Monday, fourth Friday after Easter (Store Bededag), Ascension Day, Whit Monday, Constitution Day (June 5), Christmas and December 26.
Following is a brief glossary of various types of stores, and what they are called in Denmark:
Facilities are excellent but expensive. Self-service automats are located throughout the city and cost approximately U.S. $3.50 per load.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the established religion, but there is complete religious tolerance, guaranteed by the Constitution of 1849 Services in the Lutheran Churches are in Danish, and are held on Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and at 4:30 p.m. Churches of most other denominations are located throughout Denmark, and services are conducted in English at the American Interdenominational Church of the American Embassy, the American Lutheran Congregation of the Seamen's Church, the Church of England at St. Alban's Church, and the Roman Catholic Our Lady's Chapel and the International Church of Copenhagen.
Most medical services are free with your yellow Sygesikringskort, "Community Health Card," valid after six weeks residence in Denmark. It was so easy for me to go to the doctor! No need for insurance cards, phone calls to companies, or anything J Pharmacies are called Apotek, and carry American or equivalent European products. A doctor's prescription, however, is necessary for most medications, and it is advisable to bring a supply of any normally prescribed medicine, as some American medicines are not available in Denmark.
You may wonder about safety. I myself come from San Francisco and know that there are areas of the city that I tend to avoid or feel very uncomfortable in all by myself. Furthermore, I would never walk the length of the city at 2:00 a.m. from one club to the next. Copenhagen is the complete opposite of this. I felt safe walking around the city at night. You see people walking around at all hours of the night. Even the so-called "red-light" district is safe and probably a lot tamer than what you would expect. While I felt safe traveling around the city at all hours, it is still a city, and you should use the same common sense that you would use in an American city. If you do this, then you will be just fine and Copenhagen should prove to be a very exciting and fun place for you.
Helpful Hints (Top)
Entry Regulations - Duty-free imports include 400 cigarettes (two cartons) or 500 grams of other tobacco (a little over one pound), and up to two liters of wine for persons over 17 years of age. Cigarettes are prohibitively expensive in Denmark-almost $5.00 a pack! Yet lots of Danes smoke, and most drink. Liquor, dry California wines, and cigarettes make popular gifts. Most Danes prefer red wine.
Electrical Current - Electric current is principally 220 volts, A.C., 50 cycles, and many American appliances will require transformers. Electric outlets also are designed for the European standard round-prong type plug; even an appliance, which will operate on 220, will need an adapter. One suggestion is to buy appliances (i.e., hairdryers, curling irons) in Denmark to avoid having to carry adapters and transformers. Some families have such appliances that you may use. It is helpful to buy an adapter/converter set to use in your travels throughout Europe during the study breaks. And you will probably want to buy the converter/adapters in the US if possible! Its not fun to get here and have to go searching for one in the rush of the beginning of the semester just so you can charge your camera…
Weights, Measures, and Temperatures - Denmark uses the metric system of kilograms, meters, and liters for weights and measures, and the Centigrade scale, rather than the Fahrenheit, to measure degrees of temperature.
Time - Denmark time is 9 hours later than Pacific Standard Time, and is measured on a 24-hour clock (1200 to 2400 is p.m.). The half-hour also is half of the next hour, rather than half past the hour; i.e., 6:30 is called "half-seven."
It's always difficult to give an estimate of money you will spend but plan on spending $550 per month on the average. Some of us managed on $300, others splurged on $800. Remember that it takes a while to adjust to Danish money and at first it may seem like "monopoly" money but with careful accounting, you can live well without excess. Those of you that depend on financial aid should know that checks arrive later than normal over here and you never really know when they will arrive. Don't count on any arriving before November.
You might want to make a deal with your family members not to send Christmas presents. Postage is very expensive for packages (a tiny one can cost $10.00 or more). Promise to bring souvenirs when you return at the end of the year. Remember to budget for stamps, aerograms, shipping costs, and souvenirs. Setting aside a portion of money for winter clothing is a good idea too. During the time you are participating in DIS study tours, you should budget extra spending money for the cost of eating out and possible souvenir shopping (this cannot be emphasized enough).
Tipping - Tips are included in the prices quoted by restaurants and taxis. All prices in Denmark include a 25% purchase tax. If you wish to send gifts home, 18% of the purchase price will be deducted if the shop sends the parcel for you; however, this varies depending on the cost of the item you are buying.
Useful Addresses - American Embassy, Dag Hammerskjolds Allé 24; American Express Company, Amager Torv 18 (on the Strøget); Thomas Cook, Vesterbrogade; the Danish Tourist Board, Vesterbrogade 6D; and The Danish Society of Arts and Crafts and Industrial Design, Bredgade 58.
Like most places in Europe, water isn’t free when eating out and you will be charged extra for ordering water so be weary! When in doubt specifically ask for tap water (the water here is fine to drink) and they will tell you if they offer it or not. Sometimes you will just have to pay but its always nice to ask…
Social Life (Top)
Copenhagen is a world-class city, with all that a metropolitan city has to offer; theater, plays, live music, cafes, busy streets filled with people, and nightlife is no exception. The first thing that most students will notice about Denmark is that there is no drinking age. For the most part this is true (actually the drinking age is 13 and to get into a bar or club it is 16), therefore the Danes have been going out on the town since a very early age and enjoy this aspect of their culture. Furthermore, the Danes love to drink and a lot of social activities are based around sharing a øle (beer in Danish) with friends and family. Also, most of us are used to going out and having bars close at 2:00 a.m. This is not the case in Denmark, as most places stay open until 5:00 a.m., and there are even clubs that stay open until 10:00 a.m. While the Danes love to have a good time, they can hold their alcohol well since they have been drinking from a young age and their main objective of the night is not to get completely wasted, so you will stand out if you and your friends act like you are at a frat party (as fun as that is…) when walking down the street!
Another aspect of nightlife that one will notice right away is the way that the Danes dress. When the Danes go out and even during a usual day, the Danes dress up, this is in relation to how underdressed Americans usually are. Guys are usually in slacks and nice shoes and women are almost always in skirts and nice shoes or boots. Furthermore, there are a lot of clubs in Copenhagen that have a very strict dress code, and even if the club does not, you will definitely feel out of place with a pair of jeans and sneakers on. Once in the bar or club, you will notice that the Danes pretty much keep to themselves. While for the most part this is true, if you approach a Dane they are usually very friendly and will talk to you. But be careful, the Danes pride themselves on having a broad knowledge of topics, which can range from politics to pizza and everything in-between. Furthermore, most Danes have traveled quite a bit and enjoy talking about other countries. In other words, they are not much for small talk and really enjoy a good conversation.
Entertaining in Denmark is similar to that in the United States, especially evening parties. If you are invited to dinner in a private home, especially the first time, it is customary to bring flowers or wine and arrive on time. Danes may be difficult to meet at first but if you make the effort, you will find they are very kind and warm people. Meeting people is the best way to know the land and culture. Thanking the host the next day or the next time you see them is a must (Thank you card, e-mail, phone call).
Danes drink much more than Americans, and beer is acceptable at any time of the day. But a warning: drunken driving is severely punished here, and is virtually unheard of. If you drink, then take a train-if you can't take a train, take a taxi. DON'T DRIVE. With parties you either leave at 12:30 a.m. or stay until 5:00 a.m. due to public transportation (check for special night schedules). It is common and acceptable to stay the night if you attend a party. If you like to go out to clubs for entertainment, remember to bring extra money for such occasions as clubs are very expensive.
Many students' social lives center around family life and friends. A great deal of your free time will be spent traveling. DIS will also provide you with a publication, Copenhagen This Week.
Denmark, (as does all of Scandinavia), has a reputation of equality of the sexes, consequently, Scandinavian men do not feel obligated to offer women token courtesies, such as holding doors open for them or giving up seats on buses. Dates are almost always Dutch. Men are also not expected to pick their dates up at home, or deliver them home afterwards. Often, you may meet your date at your destination, a movie house for example. In Denmark a woman may take the midnight train home, by herself, without any qualms.
Another important thing to mention is the cultural difference between how Americans and Danes view sex. As Americans we are used to meeting someone at a club or bar and asking them back to our place to get to know them better and maybe asking them out for another date. This is not the case with the Danes. In their culture when a man asks a woman back to his place, it is to have sex. If that person agrees to go to the other person's home, sex is what is expected. In other words, be very careful when entering situations like this, both as a woman and a man. The culture is a little different in the fact that many Danes have been having sex since a young age and sex isn’t as tabooed here as it is back home.
Cultural Activities (Top)
A multitude of cultural activities is available in Denmark throughout the year-theater, music, ballet, movies, museums, etc. Ballet tickets can be purchased for as little as DK 40. Also on the first of May each year the famous Tivoli Gardens open for the summer.
Tivoli is considered to be one of the greatest shows in Europe. Its attractions include a pantomime theater, an ultramodern concert hall with three symphony concerts each evening, rides, games of chance, fountains, floodlit gardens, a lake, the famous Tivoli Boy Guard of toytown soldiers dressed in the uniform of the Queens' guard, and much more. Bakken is the other amusement park, near Klampenborg.
The Royal Danish Ballet is also outstanding, and celebrates a Ballet and Opera Festival from May 15-31 when the ballet alternates with opera performances in a particularly rich and varied program at the Royal Theater. There is a student (under 26 years old) Discount of 50% available at all Royal Theater performances, making this one of the least expensive forms of entertainment in the city. If you go the day of the performance you can also get cheap tickets that haven’t yet been sold!
The circus comes to Denmark in May, and performs daily throughout the summer in the World Cinema. The season reaches its climax on June 23 with Midsummer Eve, a night of outdoor dancing, singing, feasting, bonfires, and fireworks. The city can best be viewed along the sound where the unreal summer twilight is streaked with rockets and edged with a thousand flames.
The year-round offerings at the Royal Theater are also excellent. Not only ballet and opera, but a varied repertoire of plays, including the works of leading contemporary European and American dramatists as well as Danish, are regularly presented on the Theater's two stages. There are, in addition, some half-dozen other legitimate theaters in Denmark, as well as a number of small avant-garde theaters. Cinemas show principally British and American films with their original soundtracks and Danish subtitles. Be sure to budget extra money if you want to go to movies, Discos, concerts, etc., as they are expensive (movies $8-$10).
An excellent symphony also performs yearlong at the Denmark Concert Hall, presenting visiting artists or musical groups once a week. For jazz enthusiasts, there are the Jazzhus Montmartre, Tre Musketeerer, and Musikkaffeen (Huset).
Among the museums in Denmark, the following few may be considered among the most outstanding: the National Museum, the Arsenal, the Rosenborg Palace, the Kunstindustrimuseet, the Thorvaldsen Museum, The Louisianna Modern Art Museum, and the State Museum of Art. The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde is a must for architecture students along with the cathedral (Roskilde Domkirke).
Walking and riding the bus are good ways to discover Denmark. Also, the little motorboats that take the visitor through the canals of the city and the surrounding coastline provide a nice afternoon excursion. Welcoming visitors to the harbor, of course, is the statue of the Little Mermaid, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale. In Denmark one can also enjoy just an afternoon's walk around the city.
Almost all streets and canals in the city's heart meet and cross each other at fine old squares and marketplaces. One of the finest is the square at Amalienborg, the royal residence, actually four palaces in Rococo style encircling the equestrian statue of the Danish King Frederik V. When the Queen is in residence, the Changing of the Guard takes place each day at noon, followed by a concert.
Other particularly notable sights include Christiansborg Palace, which is the seat of Parliament, with the impressive Royal Reception Rooms open to visitors on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Børsen, built in the 17th Century, is the oldest stock exchange in the world. The Round Tower, built by the warrior-architect-scholar King Christian IV, as an astronomical observatory, has a curious inner spiral ascent to its top. The Church of Our Saviour and the Town Hall have spiral staircases that wind to the top outside their green and gold spires. It's a good idea to ascend to the top of the Round Tower and the church in Christianhavn shortly after you arrive in Denmark. The view is excellent and will help you orient yourself to the city.
Less than half an hour from Copenhagen by train is Dyrehaven, the deer park near Klampenborg where nearly 2,000 deer wander about freely. No cars are allowed there, and it is a great place for picnics. Horses and bikes are available for rent. Further up the coast, in Humlebaek, is a modern art museum called Louisiana. It has both a permanent collection and many temporary exhibits.
Denmark, of course, is a paradise for water sports in the summer: fishing, boating, and swimming. Tennis and horseback riding are the next most popular sports. Tennis courts, however, are available only through exclusive clubs that are expensive to join (about U.S. $150). Riding clubs are located throughout the country. There are several golf courses. Basketball and volleyball teams for interested students are available; however, to participate in most sports, you must join a club. (There is no such thing as a college gym). Big spectator sports are soccer, horse racing, bicycle racing, and tennis matches. Walking is also a sport here, with many special hours being spent hiking through the countryside and forests. Swimming is relatively inexpensive and convenient and there are many swim halls you can use year-round for less than DK 20. Bring warm jogging clothes, as it gets cold. You may be able to join a fitness club for as little as $100 for three months (limited hours) or $150 for three months (unlimited).
DIS sponsors a soccer team who plays in the local Danish leagues. DIS students are highly encouraged to join the team. The head coach is DIS faculty.
Vacations and Travel (Top)
Students in Denmark can travel during vacation periods and during the summer following their studies. STA Travel, Kilroy and Wasteels are the most popular student travel agencies to inquire about travel packages and where the best prices can be found (26 years or under). Note: Kilroy only accepts cash payments. They are all located downtown close to DIS. Architecture students might consider coordinating a trip to St. Petersburg along with their Finland/Sweden field trip. Remember that it takes time to get a Russian visa (one to two weeks and it's expensive!). Some countries such as France and England are more expensive to travel in; so, if you want to see them, be prepared for extra expenses compared to Spain, Greece, and Germany. If you are not a U.S. citizen check with consulates to see what countries you will need extra visas for.
Weekend travel throughout Denmark, and even to a number of neighboring countries, is easily possible, and students frequently visit Sweden, Norway, or Germany. Denmark's five hundred islands are like a fairy tale country come to life, and especially not to be missed is the sleepy island of Funen where Hans Christian Andersen lived and wrote. Another must is Helsingør where "Hamlet's Castle," Kronborg, is situated. Small steamers make the trip from island to island at reasonable rates. Other modes of transportation include air, rail, bus, and bicycle. The Danish State Railways cover practically the whole country with a close network of fast services. There is also an extensive network of coach and bus services. Bicycles may be rented on a daily or annual basis.
Bring or ship a few paperback books to read on the trains because books are more expensive in Denmark.
Bring US currency for traveling (especially in Russia and the Eastern countries). If it's a $20 bill or more, make sure it was issued after 1993. Russians will not exchange 1992 or older. Save your dollars for traveling.
Bring a backpack, they are a lot more convenient than suitcases.
A sleeping bag isn't needed for winter travel. Pensions and hostels are easy to find, inexpensive, and don't allow sleeping bags.
Travel light and try to wear the same clothing.
Small lock for your backpack or for use at youth hostels with locker facilities.
Small alarm clock.
Always leave an itinerary with DIS, your family in America, and a friend, roommate, or host family when traveling for safety’s purpose.
What to Bring (Top)
The Danes have great fashion sense, especially in the capital, Copenhagen. Since DIS is located in the heart of the city, you will constantly be exposed to the latest trends. People wear jeans, but not as often as in California. You will want black slacks or black jeans topped with a nice sweater. They make a perfect outfit except when there is an occasion such as a formal dinner or a ballet performance with a jacket/tie or a nice dress is expected. Except for a few weeks after arrival, cold, windy weather is the norm. The temperature is much colder than many of us were used to, but you probably won't need a lot of very heavy clothing if you learn to dress like the Danes. They have a way of "peeling" or layering their body with clothing removing or adding layers as dictated by the environment to maintain their comfort. In addition to a warm jacket, you will need a long winter topcoat and a trench coat (preferably with a zip in lining), umbrella, waterproof boots and rain gear. Ski wear and camping wear are not appropriate most of the time.
Clothing costs are similar to U.S. so you can buy some stuff here but bring most of what you need from home. Don't bring too much though. Shipping a trunk is probably unnecessary and very expensive. You can supplement a minimum wardrobe with after Christmas buys or second hand store bargains. Whatever you bring, remember that you will either ship it back or give it away. Bring only the basics. Avoid clothing that needs to be dry cleaned since it is very expensive and remember that most homes do not have a dryer. Your jeans and other heavy clothing may take one or two days just to dry.
Recommended for Women (Top)
Nice pants (black or gray), skirts and sweaters for everyday wear; jeans, but not for everyday. (something fashionable, weatherproof, and comfortable to walk in!)
A dress for evening wear and appropriate shoes.
A warm raincoat, lined boots and umbrella.
A very warm (down or wool) winter coat, hat, leather gloves, and long wool scarves.
Low heeled boots, sturdy shoes for walking and one "dressy" pair.
Thermal underwear, warm socks, nylons and thick tights.
Some lightweight summer clothing if you plan to travel in southern Europe during the summer. Don't bring light, cheap shirts and sweaters.
Recommended for Men (Top)
Jeans, slacks, turtlenecks, sweatshirts, and sweaters for everyday wear.
Supply of socks and underwear (regular and thermal).
Sturdy walking shoes, warm winter boots, and casual shoes. The Danes don't wear tennis shoes too often.
A warm jacket.
A warm winter coat/down jacket, hat, gloves, and scarves.
Long-sleeved permanent press shirts are recommended.
Suit or sport coat and slacks for study tours and business visits. Don't buy a suit if you do not already own one.
Supplies Students Should Bring (Top)
(The following items will be useful, and may be difficult to find or expensive in Denmark.)
Books are expensive in Denmark, and the selection in English, especially nonfiction, is limited. However, some good bargains can be found on sale. Don't ship over any architecture books, except books for your senior project. With the exception of graphic rendering books (not graphics standards, you will not need them. All work is done in the metric system and you may want conversion tables or books. Make use of local libraries--most have an English section and a card can be obtained with your yellow health card.
Architecture students should bring the architecture supplies such as sketch/tracing paper (lots of it), scale-metric, triangles, pencils (colored, drawing, sketching) mechanical pens, markers, felt pens, pastels, water colors, compass, knife, cutting board, straightedge (for models). DIS supplies T-squares. Bring all that you used regularly at home for everything is more expensive in Denmark.
All students will find that a small calculator will come in handy and will be useful for calculating exchange rates while traveling (or you can use your cell phone and save some space!)
Bring a small English thesaurus, dictionary, and reference books you find useful at home (but as the internet is so popular and common, I don’t think these are necessary. DIS does have reference books and much of this information can be found online now.)
It is a good idea to have a varied supply of music (the withdrawal pains are unbearable) and to bring a MP3 player, Walkman, CD player and your own CDs. Remember to bring an adapter and converter or rechargeable batteries. CD's can be extremely expensive to buy.
Alarm clock or travel alarm (not electric) and extra batteries!
Extra supplies of prescription drugs to which you are accustomed. Brand names are different, many drugs, which are nonprescription at home, may require a doctor's order in Denmark, and prescriptions from the U.S. are not refillable in Denmark. Cold tablets and antihistamines are not available without a prescription. Plan to bring them if you normally take them (remember how bad you feel without your Dristan, Bufferin, or Contac!). Be sure to bring a doctor's note describing any prescription drugs to enable you to pass customs inspection without difficulty. A warning for diabetics-bring enough insulin plus a note from your physician. Women taking birth control pills are advised to bring a year's supply. Contact lens supplies are readily available but more expensive.
Bring pictures and postcards from your family and home in the U.S.. Many Danes will want to see where you live and who your family is.
Supplies Students Should Not Bring (Top)
You don't NEED to bring a computer, but if you have a laptop, bring it. DIS has a computer lab, though it has limited hours. If you are living in the Kollegium, especially Albertslund, a computer/laptop is vital. Almost everyone has one. Many times the computer labs at DIS are full and the computer lab at Albertslund can be a hassle to get into (and out of) because you need to be let in and out. Networking is free making a computer very practical. Many Danish families pay per minute and it can get very costly for them. DIS has installed network ports throughout the lounge to allow access for laptops. You don't need a converter for a laptop, only an adaptor and an Ethernet cord. DIS has Ethernet outlets. Ethernet cords are very expensive here. DIS uses iMacs.
An iron (small travel irons come in handy, however), bed linens, towels; remember that you will be living with a family. A small towel for traveling, however, is a good idea. DIS will provide linens for students living at the Kollegium. You might want to bring linens if you are planning on traveling and staying in Hostels.
Electric appliances (except a battery operated radio or shaver). Electric current is principally 220 volts, AC and American appliances will require an adapter and converter. Buy a hairdryer in Denmark (about $12-$15 U.S.).
School supplies are readily available in Denmark so there is no need to bring any. However, architecture supplies are expensive and the selection is limited. School supplies can be expensive so if you do have extra room, a few of those really cheap notebooks for personal notes and a few pencils couldn’t hurt.
Do not bring three-ring binders or paper. Standard paper in Denmark is longer, narrower, and has four holes.
There will be times when you will wonder what you are doing here, especially when it is cold, dark, and windy and you just got your exam grades back! This is NOT a vacation, but it is worth it!! You are in one of the great cities of Europe. Enjoy the experience for you will probably never get such a wonderful opportunity again.
Finally, I want to comment on interacting with both the Danes and your fellow American students. Lets start with your new American friends. DIS is host to students from all over the United States. Most of the major universities are represented, and this is a great way to achieve a newfound insight on different parts of the United States. Furthermore, some students come from small colleges and some (such as SFSU) come from rather large institutions. The average age of the students is about 20 years old, with a few exceptions here and there. What you will find is that from the Ivy League to the state schools most students are pretty much the same in regards to the type of mentality that they have. In the beginning you might feel a little alone or isolated, but I assure you that before you know it you will make plenty of friends to spend your time with.
As far as the Danes go, I heard a good analogy once, " The Danes are like a bottle of new ketchup. At first you try and try and nothing seems to come out. Then all of a sudden, everything comes out. Even more than you wanted or expected." This seems to be very true of the Danes. They are very reserved at first and this will be obvious in the beginning. But after awhile, you will find that if you invest some time into making friends with the Danes, you have friends for life. The best way that I can suggest that you get to know a Dane is to first be open to their culture and try not to compare it to America. Secondly, make an attempt to speak Danish. All Danes speak English so there is no language barrier, but all of them really appreciate it when you make an attempt to converse in Danish. Other than that, just be yourself and all should work out.