What I Learned in My First Week in Copenhagen

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For years I have wanted to study abroad; ever since I was a kid in middle school I always felt that I belonged somewhere else on the other side of the world. Interestingly enough, however, on my way to the airport, I felt the sudden urge to drop it all and go back home to what is familiar.

I have been abroad before with friends and family for a few weeks at a time but I have never gone alone. And this intimidated me. A lot.

For anyone else who thinks they may feel the same way (in any instance, not just studying in a different country), I can assure you that you will be okay.

Here are my pieces of unsolicited and unprofessional advice.

Join or make group chats! Do it for the people in your class, in your building, the people you meet on the street who happen to be in the same program; people are also looking for friends and will be grateful for you reaching out.

Do mundane things with other people. Go on a walk around your neighborhood and chat about the buildings with a buddy. Go grocery shopping and bond over not knowing what the word for ‘oatmeal’ is. Get sunburn because you don’t really understand Celsius yet and wore the wrong clothing (but not too often, sunscreen is very important). I made some of my friends through cooking together and not only did I learn some cooking tricks but I also got closer with some of the people on my floor.

Don’t be afraid to be a typical tourist for a bit, especially within the first week. 3 days into being in Copenhagen I was trying to be like the people who live here and not be noticeably American. The piece I was trying to ignore is the fact that I am American. I don’t speak the language and I have only been here for THREE DAYS. What I am trying to say is, don’t be so hard on yourself. Go to the tourist spots, take cheesy pictures, and buy that overpriced t-shirt because it looked cool. It is okay to take time to acclimate to where you are. Once you spend some time in your city then you can start diving in.

Become familiar with the public transportation system. Luckily here in Copenhagen, the metro system is very easy to navigate and is extremely clean compared to the ones I have seen in America. I have not yet taken the bus, but my friends have said that it isn’t too hard to get the hang of either. When studying abroad, renting a car is expensive and walking can be a pain so the train/metro is very important if you need to get around (which I assume you do). If you plan on using public transportation regularly, I suggest getting a commuter card. If you do live close to your classes/place of work, think about biking! Biking is very common here in Denmark and the city is built to accommodate that. There are designated biking lanes and there are places to park your bike almost anywhere.

Lastly, if you are studying in Denmark, learn who Hans Christian Andersen is. This man is everywhere.

Those are a few pieces of information I have acquired within my first week of being in a new city with a whole new group of people. As every place you go to, Copenhagen has its learning curves and I promise you that you will learn the ins and outs of your city soon enough.