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Hygge, Pastry and Colourful Houses: My Erasmus Semester in Denmark

Miriam spent an Erasmus semester in the Danish town of Roskilde. In this article she talks about her decision to go to Scandinavia, the experience of immersing herself in a completely new field of study, and the moments that made her time abroad special.

“August 15, 2018: I’m in line for the security check at Dusseldorf Airport, waving goodbye to my parents. With a last tear wiped from my cheek, the adventure begins – my time abroad in Denmark. For six months, I left friends and family behind and made my way from my home university in the Netherlands towards Scandinavia. Doei Enschede, and hej Copenhagen!

Going Abroad While Living Abroad

After I had finished high school, I knew fairly quickly that I wanted to pursue a higher education in a different country. Ultimately, I decided to move to Enschede, a Dutch student city, where I began my bachelor’s degree in Communication Science. I grew fond of studying in an international environment right away, leaving no doubts that I would take any opportunity to go abroad that came my way. Luckily for me, a mobility window (course free time to pursue an internship, minor or Erasmus semester) is integrated into my study’s curriculum.

There were two things I was absolutely sure of: I wanted to go up north, and I wanted to be in a major city. All the more disappointed was I to discover the slim list of partner universities of our considerably small social science faculty. My high expectations turned into nervousness and doubts creeped into my mind about whether my time abroad could ever live up to my (unrealistic) expectations.

In the end, I got accepted at Roskilde University in Denmark. Roskilde itself has about 80.000 inhabitants but is located only 30 kilometres away from Copenhagen. Although I remained sceptical towards Roskilde, my excitement was rising every week as well. Before I knew, mid-August had arrived, and it was time for me to take my two big suitcases to the airport and jump on a plane to Germany’s Nordic neighbour.

Arrival and Introduction

Being a campus university, Roskilde University provides on-campus housing for Erasmus students. Their dorms house around ten to 15 people on average, but I ended up being allotted to a flat shared by four, which I was quite happy with. I lived with three other international girls from the Netherlands, Poland and South Korea.

One week prior to the official start of the semester, an introduction week for all international master’s and Erasmus students took place. Through interesting presentations and fun activities, we were introduced to life on campus and explored Roskilde and Copenhagen.

This first week was all I needed to let go of the remaining worries I had about my decision: Roskilde has a genuine small-town charm, an impressive history and is located right next to a fjord. The university campus is surrounded by nature and even has its own little lake. Copenhagen and its countless treasures are only a short train ride away. And, above all, I was lucky to meet open-minded, fun and friendly people right away, with whom I could explore the area and become close friends.

Studying and Diving into a New Subject

Overall, I probably spent more time than most Erasmus students bent over books in the university library. This was due to the fact that I had decided to take classes of the “International Studies” programme, which vastly differed from what I was used to do at home. Thus, I had to try to keep up with the other students, who were already in their fifth semester, in courses like International Relations and Global Sociology.

Even though this was certainly challenging for me, I am pleased with my decision in hindsight and proud of myself for managing all of it. For example, I wrote a successful 60-page report on the topic of EU enlargement with my project group, proving myself that, with some determination and perseverance, I can learn the ropes of almost any topic.

Life in Denmark: Hygge, Parties, Travels

Even if I spent many hours trying to get the hang of political theory, time for fun activities and trips definitely didn’t fall short either. My new group of friends and I spent a lot of quality time together and visited a bunch of beautiful places. Here are some of my personal favorites:

1) Venskab og Hygge (Friendship and Hygge)

Hygge roughly translates to coziness and is very important to the Danes. Many things can be hygge, but it usually has something to do with the people around you, with good friendships and good conversations. It’s an integral part of life in Denmark. Consequently, the things I did in Denmark, I did with my friends: Together, we cooked a special dinner every Sunday, learned Danish for five hours a week, played Volleyball in a Danish club, danced through quite some nights and ate quite some cinnamon rolls (confirmed by a cavity in my tooth by the way). The people you spend a semester abroad with really do shape your experience more than anything else and I am extremely thankful for the girls that have now become my close friends.

2) Copenhagen!!!

For me, Copenhagen was absolute love at first sight: The architecture with its many towers and colorful houses, the seaside promenade, Copenhageners’ stylishness, the pastries, the bars in the meatpacking district, the street food market “Reffen” that you can only reach by water bus, the coolness of the Nørrebro district, the amusement park “Tivoli” or around one million other things – simply everything Copenhagen has to offer excited me. Even after five months of spending time there, I still felt butterflies walking through the streets of the city. I honestly have to keep myself from extending the list even further, but you get my point – I can only recommend for anyone to come and visit. Only downside: it’s expensive. Very expensive in fact. But wearing rose-colored glasses like I did, you probably won’t care.

3) Traveling through Scandinavia

There is a lot to discover in Scandinavia, making it impossible for me to even get close to exploring everything. Nonetheless, I was able to make some trips through the Northern countries. For example, I went over the Öresund bridge to Malmö (to a century-old sauna right by the sea), to Stavanger in Norway (to go hiking with my boyfriend), to Stockholm (which blew me away almost as much as Copenhagen did) and to Århus (for heaps of hygge with my friends).

Conclusions

It surely takes a bit of courage to go abroad for a longer period of time. However, if I had to make the decision again, I 100 percent would. You learn so much about the world and yourself and can build lifelong friendships. My love for the North has grown a whole lot, and I can well imagine ending up there once again in a few years. Tak for alt, Danmark – vi ses!”

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