When will you ever be again so independent and flexible as when you are student? That's why my student exchange has been long planned for my Bachelor's studies. After the first attempt unfortunately failed because of in practice difficulties with the credit transfer, there was nothing holding me back at the end of my undergraduate studies. Why I made my choice for Copenhagen I can't really remember any longer. But in retrospect it was the dead right decision!
I will not go into detail with all the hassle and prearrangements you have to go through when you decide to go abroad for a year. Plenty needs to be coordinated between the universities, you have to clean out your flat, go through your financials, find a new place to life in a foreign country, you have to find your way around, socialize and integrate, and to learn a new language. The list is almost endless... But don't let that scare you off by any means!
I was lucky and got a room in a Students' Hall but I arrived couple weeks before in Copenhagen and needed a place to stay for this period. I found lovely people hosting me on the couch-surfing network. I highly recommend couch-surfing because it's a great opportunity to make your first new friends and to get introduced and shown around in the new city. And to be honest, no guide book can be as good as a local with your same interests! My host was Laila who I now count to my very close friends in Copenhagen. She gave me helpful advice at the beginning and showed me the city.
My first month ran by, it was impressive. I was so busy with administrative paper work, registrations and my pre-semester language course that I completely forgot to call my parents. A language course is also something I want to recommend because you make friends who are interested in integrating themselves and that will be important if you want to get more out of your ERASMUS year than partying with other international students.
I'm glade I had more than a month before the university started to enjoy the danish summer and explore the city. We've been so lucky with the weather that summer. We spend a lot time at the beach or at one of the pools in the harbour. Copenhagen by summer is great: everyone is on vacation and spends time outside in the cafes and there are plenty of festivals and events going on. Additionally, the entire capital area is well connected and taking the train to Helsigør or Malmö in Sweden is as easy as taking the S-train from Berlin to Potsdam.
I did my exchange year at the Bioinformatics Centre and I took classes in Bioinformatics and Genetics. I was very positive surprised by Copenhagen's University! Their system is totally different and I like it actually much more than the one at Humboldt University. The semester is divided into blocks and during one block of 6 weeks you have around 3-4 lectures per week of the same module. A block ends with a exam or other kind of evaluation. The idea at Copenhagen University is not to learn things by heart. Quite contrary, my exams has been home-assignments in which I had to write papers about certain topics or I had oral exams. I really like how Danish professors take so much time for their students and their teaching. We had external speakers and literature research sessions. The department of Bioinformatics is also well integrated with the department of Biology, Computer Science, Mathematics and the DTU in Lyngby.
For me as an exchange student it was also possible to get a position as a student assistant and I worked on the field of mircoRNAs and I'm very pleased with the working atmosphere at the department. That year was also study-related very inspiring and instructional.
That's a really good question and all I can contribute is that in fact everyone seems above-average happy and relaxed. The Danish mentality is different: we Germans are very organized, efficient and success orientated and we tend to forget to take time for ourselves, whereas Danes have a word called "hygge" which actually describes the differences but is unfortunately untranslatable. It stands for an entire life-style and cosy just doesn't all of that. Let's say, that everything you imagine as nice, beautiful, cosy and relaxed is "hygge" and Danes always try to make everything "hyggelig". They also have a high feeling of nationality and self-identity, and they are very international and open at the same time. Danes feel also very secure in their county and society, and most of the people I met haven't been afraid of unemployment or social comedown. And specially with some distance this seems to dominate German acting. Denmark offers everyone the same faire opportunities and people are more important than a reputation as export trade champion. But still this seems like comparing apples and oranges and I guess the only correct answer is: because it is Denmark! And please don't be fooled also Denmark isn't paradise.
Living in Copenhagen is not complete without a bicycle! Copenhagen has a strong cycling culture and it's a sight by itself. I loved my day-trips by bike to Roskilde, Hillerøde and around Amager. Also a must-see are Louisiana, a museum for modern art, which is more a concept of an all-round art experience by integrating the museum into the landscape and you can lay in their beautiful garden and even go for a swim in the Øresund. A trip to Møns Klint, Helsingør and Malmö are also worth it and you have to visit Tivoli on a Friday for the weekly Friday-concerts. Copenhagen has many canals and I took the grand canal-tour at least 10 times during this year - but you can also rent a boat and do the tour yourself!
Everyone should do an ERASMUS year, it will be the best time of your life! And sure I recommend you Copenhagen for your exchange. There was not even one moment when I regretted my stay abroad or in Copenhagen! I liked it so much that I even extended my stay and did my Master's in Copenhagen.
Vi ses snart i København!