Study abroad in Copenhagen deserves more recognition

Courtesy of Ben Fikhman/The Miscellany News: Nyhaven.

Inside this Issue: Read all about the study-abroad adventures of Opinions Editor Ben Fikhman!

 

When contemplating a stay in Europe, the first cities that come to mind are oftentimes London, Paris, Madrid or Rome, among other postcard destinations that evoke the most beautiful mental images. For students, four or five months in any of these places promises the experience of a lifetime, both socially and academically. Even those who did not or do not plan on studying abroad can understand that, expectedly bombarded with Instagram photos and reels of international adventures right as the spring semester of junior year rolls around. 

But while I preface with this understanding of the sheer majesty of these popular cities, it should be brought to attention just how wonderful, exciting and especially cozy it is to live and study in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark. Copenhagen does not necessarily promise the most intricate architecture, the most orgasmic dishes or the demonstrative might of a powerful European nation, but there are fundamental reasons for why the city brings such joy and comfort. 

View of the Nikolaj Contemporary Art Center and canal running along Parliament.

Copenhagen is a city of seemingly orchestral motion, as if a spiritual conductor dictates its smooth and calm daily lifestyle. Even on a muggy day, a plurality of Danish locals will be on their bikes commuting to and from work or school. The prevalence of minimalist fashion among the population expresses the society’s famous openness and kindness. One important value when it comes to Denmark is hygge, which The New Yorker claims is defined as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a contentment or well-being.” Whether on my daily routine or aimlessly wandering around Copenhagen, I felt hygge within me and saw it in front of my eyes. 

As Copenhagen maintains a reputation for its cozy yet effective lifestyle, activism and ecofriendliness are also vital characteristics of the city. Named the European Green Capital in 2014, according to the European Commission, Copenhagen witnesses locals and tourists swimming in its own canals and harbors, notably so during the winter. I myself winter-bathed with a friend by Islands Brygge, an activity that felt unique but also made me free and, for a moment, euphoric. Green recreational areas are plentiful, clean and peaceful, a great avenue for both decompression and exploration, particularly for students studying abroad. Most importantly, however, is the sustainable mindset that drives an unparalleled bicycle infrastructure. Rain or shine, heat or cold, the collective cycling mindset among a plurality of Copenhageners is a contributing factor to the city’s well-being and happiness.

View of Copenhagen from the top of Parliament.

My study abroad program in Copenhagen, DIS Copenhagen, offered me the greatest academic experience of my life. With professors whom I still hold very dear to my heart and whom I could call by first name, my classes taught me the history and politics of Denmark and the European Union in a manner that motivated my own exploration. Even as Russia invaded Ukraine during the former half of my study abroad semester, my professors skillfully altered their curricula in a manner that allowed Ukraine to become a top focus, while preserving the same intended passage of knowledge to all students. 

Milosz Jeromin Cordes is a Polish professor with DIS Copenhagen who is still a mentor and a friend to me. Getting to know about his career in politics, life journey and mastery of many languages was a privilege. Being able to call him by his first name, bike side-by-side with him on several occasions, share a texting basis of communication and drink beer during our class trip in Belgium while maintaining an effective teacher-student relationship in every class was something I would have never expected prior to my study abroad semester.

Biking with my classmate (left) and E.U. Politics professor (right).

Learning Danish was an exciting but bumpy experience. While the language is challenging to pronounce, DIS Copenhagen’s Danish Language and Culture curriculum taught me more about my surroundings, how to advance my proficiency in real-life conversation and the linguistic nuances Danish shares with other languages. Interestingly enough, however, Denmark’s particularly high education standards allow an understanding of English wide enough that getting around is famously easy. Copenhagen is an ideal destination for those who truly want to learn the basics of a new language while also avoiding language barriers that can complicate planning and getting around. 

In conversation, I could reminisce on Copenhagen for hours. The colorful bakeries tempting my daily visit, the sometimes unsuccessful but fun attempts of trying to pronounce Danish words in public, the freshness of the air even in the busiest areas, the magnificent cherry blossom season, the wide cobblestone shopping streets, the dreaminess of Nyhavn. But what also deserves the proper emphasis is Copenhagen’s centrality within the European Union, an economic and political bloc whose general infrastructure can boast faster trips and lower costs as a result of integration and the suspension of needlessly aggressive border controls. I spent an amazing weekend in Prague at the cost of a $47 round trip, and another weekend in Madrid at the cost of around $70. My overnight train to and from Berlin was also quite cheap and comfortable. It feels so casual and simple to bike to the Copenhagen airport only 45 minutes prior to my flight to another European Union member state. 

Copenhagen quickly became a second home to me, and it was not easy to leave the city. I dream of going back. I hope more students take advantage of the DIS Study Abroad program with enthusiastic and adventurous professors who genuinely care about their students and curricula in a city that taught me to find beauty in random small alleyways and the simple elegance of homes along clean streets. It is fair to want what is most grandiose, but to feel comfortable and at home, while still having the great flexibility and affordability to witness the most grandiose in Europe, Copenhagen is a phenomenal choice for student residence.

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