Thursday, January 10, 2013

Nine Frequently Asked DTU Questions (FA-DTU-Qs)

May 2012 near Copenhagen, Denmark

Wow, I can't believe it's been over half a year since I've been in Denmark! A lot has happened...really too much to write in one post, but here are some highlights:

- I've been having a blast with the Office of International Programs at Renssalear Polytechnic Institute promoting study abroad (to Denmark especially of course) to potential future study abroad students.
- I'll be picking up a best friend from Denmark at the airport on January 16th and he will spend the spring semester at my own institution! (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)
- Another best friend from Denmark will be studying at Harvard and MIT for the spring semester, can't wait to visit her!

So anyhow, you clicked on this post to read about the frequently asked questions I get from students who have read this blog and still had some unanswered question for me. Let's get to the nitty gritty and answer them.

1 - Cell phone plans - Should I bring a phone? What carrier should I have while in Denmark?

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If you have an iphone or blackberry, I think that unlocking it and getting a SIM card in Denmark is absolutely the best way to go. That way you can use wi-fi on your smart phone, but still have a cheap Danish calling and SMS plan. I wasn't fortunate enough to have a smart phone when I went abroad, so I purchased a basic phone at a FONA in Lyngby for about 250 DKK. During introduction week, you will be given a SIM card with a little credit (maybe 10 DKK). This card will give you your Danish phone number and the ability to put as much money into your phone as need be. The carrier given is Lebara, and their rates seemed fair to me. Shopping around isn't a bad idea if you're on a budget though.

2 - I don't get into my assigned accommodation until after introduction week. Where do I stay until then??
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Some semesters, you may have the inconvenience of not being able to get into Kampsax dorm room (or otherwise) until the first of the next month, when introduction week starts at the end of the current month. So where should you stay??

It may be stressful, but if you know anybody going to exchange to Denmark with you, it's best to try and stay with them for the introduction week. As you can read in my earlier posts, I used an air mattress on my friend Eddie's floor in Campus Village until I could get into my room. If you don't have somebody you already know, it's very possible to make a friend on the first day or two of introduction week that will let you stay with them. Some people may think this is unsafe, but I leave that decision up to you. The accomodation office provided me with bedding to borrow when I went and asked them if I could get into my room earlier than the first of the month, perhaps they can do the same for you. Or maybe you'll even be lucky enough to get into your room early! Doesn't hurt to ask, the people in the Intl Affairs office are very friendly.

3 - What's the weather like?

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Keeping in mind that I'm from the state of Maine (top northeast United States), I didn't think that the weather was super unpleasant in the winter months. It was certainly cold, but more of a windy and wet cold, rather than a snow filled wonderland. I believe this is because of how close Copenhagen is to the water. Pack warm clothes for sure if you will be there during the spring. In April and May it starts to get nice, until it reaches about 20 degrees Celsius with a nice breeze. Summer in Denmark must be beautiful...

4 - When do I hear from accommodation about my assigned accomodation?

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It seems like accommodation tends to get back to students a bit last minute at time. However, having said that, if you do not hear back with your accommodation plans prior to a couple weeks of your trip, I would strongly recommend that you follow up with an email or call to the accommodation office. As mentioned above, they really are friendly people and there to help you. Keep in mind that they are very busy with getting all incoming students a place to stay, so they may not get back to you right away sometimes.

5 - I want to learn danish, but do I need to for day-to-day activity?

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In all honesty you won't need to know conversational Danish to get through your semester abroad (unless of course you pick courses that are taught in Danish). I found that picking up a little bit of Danish from my friends was convenient in the grocery stores. This consisted mostly of phrases like "No, thank you" and "Yes, thank you" when asked if I wanted a receipt at the grocery store. However, they will most likely talk to you in English if you tell them you can only speak English. There is an Introductory Danish course taught at DTU, which offers to teach you very basic Danish. Instead, I opted to learn some Danish from my Danish friends, which I thought was more useful and definitely more comedic.

6 - What Danish bank should I use while abroad?

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When it comes to a banks, I highly recommend you pick a bank that is convenient for you to get to. Banks like Nordea or Dansk Bank will be spread well across Denmark and will be convenient to get to wherever you are in Denmark. For an "Easy Account"  or "Nem Konto" (what you will need for basic banking or direct deposits from a job - free to open), I found that there wasn't a huge different between banks when it came to any ATM fees. Feel free to do a little research if ATM fees are a big deal for you.

7 - Is it difficult to find a part time job while abroad? Is it possible?

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For a semester alone, it is a little difficult to pick up a decent part time job. I looked at for a while and had a hard time finding the right job for me. Don't be discouraged though, because there are often indoor climate experiments held on DTU campus that will pay fairly well for student subjects. I was a bit uncertain with this at first, but from what I'm told the experiments are very safe and consist of things like doing Sudoko Puzzles while the temperature is changed in the room.

8 - How do I get a room in Kampsax?

Kampsax Kitchen Five

In all honesty, it's just luck and timing if your home institution doesn't already reserve rooms in Kampsax for it's outgoing students. Try to get your accommodation preferences form in as early as possible and keep those fingers crossed for good luck. I think that Campus Village is really quite a fun place to live if you can't get into Kampsax, but can't accurately speak to the other housing options available at or near DTU.

9 - What are some awesome activities I MUST do while in Europe/Denmark?

Gliding with the DTU Flying Club

Here's a list of some AWESOME things I would recommend:

-Go on the ESN Seabattle. I didn't have the money for this, but all my friends couldn't say enough about how fun it was.
-Go on and find cheap tickets for a cruise from Copenhagen, Denmark to Oslo, Norway. You will spend only a day in Oslo, but it is really a quite beautiful and fun place to visit. Not to mention the fun you'll have on the cruise with all your friends (who you definitely should bring).
-Go gliding with the DTU Flying club for 250 DKK. Being in a glider is an incredible experience. Plus, Denmark is a super flat country and on a nice day you can see a lot of it from the sky. You can even see into Sweden some days.
-If you have the money, take a month before or after your semester in Denmark to travel the other countries in Europe. There are train ticket deals (Eurail Pass) for any and all of the train that go across continental Europe. If you're from North America or a different Continent, make the most of your time in Europe.

Finally...Dream a little! You're in Scandinavia, why not go up into northern Sweden or Finland to see the Northern Lights and Lapland? Do the cool and awesome things you've always wanted to do in that part of the world.


  1. Hey!! You have really cool blog! I have question, is it possible to do gliding trip with the DTU Flying Club, if i'm not a part of university. I live currently in Sweden in Malmo, and just accidently found your article. This gliding trip seems very, very attractive thing to do, and i would love to try it. So do you know if it is possible somehow to do it for non-students? /Alyona

  2. Hi Bryan,

    I'm going to be on exchange at DTU this coming spring and so far accommodation has been my biggest concern. They said room allocation will only start in November while I have to apply early for my visa/residence permit since it can take up to two months and proof of accommodation must be included with the application.

    Did you apply for your residence permit after you arrive in Denmark or did you have to apply from your home country? And I wonder if you know any alternatives other than colleges/residences arranged by DTU?

    Thank you for writing this post, I'm really glad to have stumbled upon blog filled with stuffs that I really need to know.