So, how is your year abroad going?
I believe many of the exchange students are asked this question which is why I wanted to share my experience with you all.
So, it has been about 5 months since I left to study in Denmark therefore, I need to rewind a little.
Settling in Denmark
Before moving to Denmark, I was told that it is a very bureaucratic country, and little did I know that this would be the biggest challenge of living in Denmark for me. There were so many pre-requisites for opening a bank account to getting registered for healthcare, and at first it seemed like an impossible wall of complications. I was very lucky to have a roommate who had been in Copenhagen since August, so she was always guiding me through these endless steps. While I do not want to get into “What” these steps were, I can indeed answer any specific questions if you are planning on studying in Denmark.
Another issue was the waiting time for all the necessary legal documents like my official visa ID card, which was about 6 weeks, but I did not get it even afterwards. I was starting to get worried because of my plans to leave Denmark for holidays so I chased after this and made a few phone calls to learn that my CPR (Civil Registration Number) number was never sent to the Immigration Office in Denmark hence causing an unreasonable wait for the ID card. I received my visa ID the day before I left for holidays …so you may have to be proactive even if the country is “bureaucratic”. I had a similar issue with my student ID card, which I had not received until late November. I could not open a bank account until late November as well. So, a great beginning to a year abroad huh?
Nevertheless, I knew it would take a while for me to settle down in Denmark so I aimed to make the most of it because at the end of the day these legal processes are not stopping me from living my daily life (and apparently I have to wait for 6 weeks right..)
I only had one Danish friend which shows the difficult of making friends with Danish people. While I do not like to generalise, it was genuinely difficult to approach them but once I am past that stage of initiating conversation the Danish people were friendly to me. But as some of you may know, I am usually a bit shy to start conversations with strangers.
Around October, due to the lack of friends, I decided to take part in one of the Erasmus events that was aimed for meeting new people. We exchanged contacts and went home.
But what was next? ..
I decided to organise an event for the Erasmus students to have a drink and chat, so I made some polls and went to the venue. I was actually shocked at the amount of people who came to this event. We were about 20 people, so we decided to mix the tables every once in a while, to meet everyone. I met so many wonderful people there. Interestingly, I also met my next-door neighbours in my accommodation at this event. What a small world haha!
It was inevitable that some friendship groups were formed after this and we all started doing some fun stuff together. I was very happy to have two Erasmus students next door whom me and my roommate organised trips and events together sometimes as well.
I only had two classes (15 ECTs each) that were master’s level at the University of Copenhagen as master’s level is the only modules available in English for exchange students.
International Investment Law (probably my favourite) was set out in an unusual setting where every week we had to present our case to the Tribunal. Each week different groups took turns to be the Claimant, Respondent or the Tribunal and presented their arguments. I enjoyed this arbitration practice a lot and so did some of my peers as well therefore we had a pre-set group prior to the class and formed our arguments. I learned so much from the other groups’ arguments and how they think as a lawyer. The exam for this class was a 24-hour exam -open book- 2 questions in total.
My second class was International Commercial Contract, this was a more difficult class in my experience as there were so many new legal concepts introduced. I admit that I struggled in the beginning and sometimes had no idea what was going on. But after a few weeks, the topics started to fall together, and I started to see the full picture. I started to read more about the topics to make sense and paid very close attention to the lecturer. By the end of the semester, I understood most of the concepts but especially the ones that I could not get my head around in the beginning. The exam for this class was a research essay that had to be done within 72 hours on a selected topic.
Looking back at all these, I would say that this has been an experience that I could not have prepared for prior to moving to Denmark. There are certain struggles in settling in that only happen once you move, and for some people these are easy to overcome and for some it takes a while. The first 2 months were the most difficult for me, even though I had settled in and knew how to do things already, I did not have a group of friends at that point. There were issues with some of my friends and family back home which stressed me out and made me feel a bit homesick. I learned that there are some things I cannot change about what is going on at home, so I must focus on what is in front of me. This shift of focus has been the key to adjusting to my new life here. So I focused on making friends and doing some small trips within Denmark and Sweden with some friends in the weekends. Sometimes, I did not want to go to an event because of the homesickness which is totally fine, and sometimes I pushed myself to socialise. My goal for next semester is to meet more people and socialise more than I did in the first semester. This will require me to take the first step in many situations but I know I can do it!