For my final semester of my undergrad, I decided to study abroad at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) in Copenhagen, Denmark. I have been living in Copenhagen for almost a month now and don’t think I could have chosen a better place to be. The city is beautiful and the weather, while not warm or sunny by any means, is much nicer than in Wisconsin. However, my favorite part of being in Copenhagen is living among the Danes. I live in a special dorm called Egmont Kollegium. Egmont is considered one of the most social dorms in Copenhagen, and everyone who wants to live here must write applications that some of the current residents read. If they like what you had to say you get chosen and will get put on a wait list that can sometimes take over a year before you actually get in. As an exchange student, I am very lucky to be one of the four DIS students renting an Egmont room for the semester. Most Danish students here live in Egmont for three or more years, and I can already understand why they want to live in the same place for so long. Egmont is amazing. The dorm is divided into three pretty identical buildings New, Middle and Old that each has eight floors.
As soon as I moved into Old six I had to get used to many things. First, I had to meet and learn the names of 20 Danes between the ages of 21 and 27. Then I had to learn the meaning behind the spinning plate and “ordning.” There is a ceramic plate kept on the floor in the middle of the hallway. If you accidentally step on the plate and somebody hears you, you have to buy a beer for everyone. Whenever it is time for dinner the plate is spun in the hall, and the sounds signals it is time to eat. There is a fridge in the kitchen that is always stocked with beer and soda; whenever you want one you just have to put a mark next to your name, and you get billed at the end of the month. However, when you take your first sip of beer, if the beer doesn’t go below the sticker on the neck of the bottle, someone will shout “ordning!” and again you will have to buy a beer for everyone.
One of the best things about living at Egmont is food club. Once a month somebody in the hall will cook dinner for everyone else on the floor. It is a great system because you don’t have to cook your own meals all the time, and by splitting the grocery costs the meals are able to be really inexpensive, 25 kroner per person—which is less than $4! Hanging out in the kitchen and eating meals with everyone has been one of the greatest ways for me to get to know the Danes on my floor. Everyone is really great about speaking English to me, but I also really enjoy hearing Danish. Sometimes it can be awkward to sit at a table where 15 people around you are having conversations that you don’t understand, but I am starting to pick up some words, such as skål (cheers!) and tak (thanks)!
If you live at Egmont, I strongly recommend that you do not have early Friday morning classes. There is a very strong party and drinking culture here, and living at Egmont is so much fun that you don’t ever need to go outside to a bar to find a good time. Every Thursday of the semester there is a bar on our first floor that is open for “Thursday Café.” Additionally, every floor in the kollegium hosts a huge party once a year called “friends party” where around 150 people are invited. There are also many theme parties for different halls throughout the year, including Egmont Festival in the summer. When I first arrived it was still the “quiet period” for exams (and here the quiet period can still mean you will be listening to your neighbors blast music at 2 in the morning). This past weekend marked the end of quiet period and the return of Thursday Cafés with Marathon Café, a 48 hour drinking marathon from Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon with DJs, a dance floor, a breakfast buffet and drinking competitions between every floor. Needless to say, it was a great weekend.
As much as the Danish students drink and have fun, they are also still very dedicated students and very smart. Most Danes take one or two gap years after high school so they are a bit older when they enter college. Here the typical education is three years of bachelor plus two years of master. Danes often get a reputation of being hard to approach, but while they don’t seem to be outgoing in public, they are still very friendly and always willing to give directions or offer help if you ask. Living with Danes has shown me that they are actually very outgoing and interested in meeting new people and learning about new cultures. I am greatly looking forward to what the rest of the semester brings and getting to know the Danes I live with even better.