Here are some of the madness I have been through. My friend told me to write a book about being an active international student at University of Copenhagen :P I don't think I'll write a book, but I can surely blog something about it. Maybe I'll regret sharing my stupid thoughts with you when I wake up tomorrow morning, but nevertheless, let me know and here it goes:
Apartment and Dormitory
Reflecting back, I have realized that I have been through so much in Denmark, from living in a pent-apartment in central Copenhagen to a dorm-apartment, then to a far Sydhavn apartment to a dormitory, then homeless and finally dormitory again. I literally moved 5 times in Copenhagen in 2,5 years. Well, I never expected this apartment madness in my life.
Good dormitories have waiting list of 3-3.5 years, and I have no idea why it is like that since students get their bachelor degree in 3-3.5 years, and have masters for 2 years. Getting a spot at dormitory is tough! I also moved from 2-room apartment to a 1-room apartment in a same dormitory, and that alone took help from my 3 big guy-friends. I am an international, so I always assumed that I couldn't have that much stuff, but hell no, I have a lot of stuff - BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS, clothes (how on Earth, I have got so much clothes??? I came with only 2 suitcases), basic furniture, basic kitchen sets, etc. A person has, amazingly, a lot of shit!
A room in a dormitory costs approximately between 2,000DKK-4,000DKK (370-740USD) or maybe even more, depending on the location and the size of the room.
I used to bike for mere fun in my summer house in Mongolia til my mom gave away my bike to some lucky boy for free, because she thought it took too much space; nevertheless, it was definitely not for transporting myself to one place to another. Here in Copenhagen, bike is your best friend. Kids, drunk college students, businessmen and even grandparents bike and transport themselves around Copenhagen. Mothers and parents would even saddle one kid in the front of the bike and another on the back. My jaw dropped the first time I saw such mom, biking fearlessly with the crazy cyclists along with her kids.
One of the surprising questions I had was whether I had my bike insured or not. I was like what? It's because, apparently, half of the bikes in Denmark tend to get stolen :P Luckily, I have never experienced such a loss during my 2,5 years in Denmark. My bike is very faithful!
Partying and Drinking culture
Partying and Drinking culture
Denmark is home to the breweries of Carlsberg and Tuborg, and Danes are proud beer-drinkers. I was not a big drinker when I came to Copenhagen, and when I politely rejected a free offer to a beer, the person who was offering me a beer looked at me as if I was this weird, asocial and lifeless girl. My explanation of not wanting to get wasted did not do any justice either. Well, drinking culture is essential in student life. Most Danes tend to drink till they can't walk properly or unable to control their movement, hence the parties are wild and crazy.
But the most amazing thing about Danish culture is the fact that I have NEVER come across to a person who "agsan tavih"-ed. They handle alcohol well. Danes are simply HAPPY drunkards. They simply pass-out and sleep or just dance really funny. It really shows how happy Danish societies are, where in developing countries (especially former Soviet satellite 'vodka' countries) some drunk people would get aggressive, fight, and hurt other people.
Men and women are treated equally, hence this applies to a dating as well. For instance, on Valentines Day, I was surprised to see most of the girls at the restaurant paying the bills instead of the boys. Boys seemed not to mind either. I used to think how miserable these girls were in Denmark. But as I lived longer in Copenhagen, I have understood that girls LIKE that, and they would feel insulted if their guy kept paying for every bill, as if she couldn't handle some bills... I was just wow-ed.
The typical guy courting girl style is also not the case - both do it. Girls are extremely "manly" and they can literally man up and offer their crush a beer. When this happened right in front of me, my small eyes just widened to the biggest ball I can manage. It's amazing.
I find boys extremely spoiled in Denmark. Danish girls are extremely beautiful, gorgeous and educated. Often, Danish girls wish Danish boys were bit more romantic like the southerners, lol. They sign and they admit that it's hard to find a romantic Danish guy. Well, I really hope Danish boys know that they have one of the most gorgeous women in the world.
Jobs with Danish Language
You'll be screwed. It is extremely difficult for internationals to find a job in Denmark. In this bad economy, even the Danes are struggling. You may find waitressing and bartending jobs, perhaps, but they'll ask for Danish language as well. Hence, one of the first things you should do is to start mastering this weirdest language ever. I gave up in midst of it, but I extremely regretted taking a break from my danish classes, and now I am back on learning process. Well, the lack of Danish language will be the number one reason why they'll not hire you in a position no matter how brilliant your English is, so learn their native language as best as possible.
Danish labor market really taught me how to fail and fail better. I am not good at failing, and it was really difficult to learn to fail. I know it sounds stupid, but it is one of the biggest lesson I have learnt in Denmark.
Depression and Friends
You mature fast when you're on your own. Living independently from my family, at first, seemed so free and so exciting, but then when you get a simple flu or a fever and need care, you really realize how far you are from your family and most scarily how alone you are. The excitement of a new country fades away slowly, and you feel homesick. You get thin, because you don't eat as good as you used to. You're more likely to stick to the quickly done meals and have cornflakes in the morning. You loose your energy and body balance without even knowing it. You literally will not be able to memorize and understand things as fast as you used to. I was amazed at how tired I was at some point. I was studying full-time, working part-time, taking Danish class and participated in extracurricular voluntary activities at my university - it was too much. My grades started to reflect my tiredness and I realized that I needed to prioritize my choices and the way of living.
Plus, Denmark has a 'winter depression'. It gets really dark in winter in Scandinavia. Nights are long. Wind is stronger. It's "humid" cold. Icy cold. Sun is rare in Denmark, hence people get to sadden without noticing it. It's bit scary. I haven't been in depression, but it's really tough in winter especially when you're alone. You really crave for your family and your family food and care; but here, basically my Danish friends become my family. I am so grateful that I have made friends with such nice people and I absolutely think Danish people CAN be real good friends. The bullshit about Danes not making friends with internationals is just bullshit. Every country is like that. It's maybe harder to attain their love, but that's because they know the value of friendship and commitment; and when you really do attain their love, they'll always catch you when you fall.
Going home this summer really cheered me up. It reminded me of my roots, and reminded me why I went to Denmark in the first place - to challenge myself, get to experience different culture, learn from their living style, and most importantly develop myself. I think it is extremely important for internationals to head back home at least once a year. It is tough to be an international in a country, and it is not something a person should do for mere fun. It is the extremest challenge you can put yourself through. Hence, I respect all the people doing their degree abroad - my hat's off to all of you!
Sorry if I made you sleep. It's Friday and I came home from a party, but I couldn't sleep.
Wherever you are, stay strong and stay motivated at whatever you are doing.
I'll try to sleep now.
Best of love,