One month in: things I’ve learned & things I wish I’d known sooner

Before my arrival to Denmark, it really felt like all I did was read every single nook and cranny of the DIS Copenhagen page, research what to bring, and plan what my life was going to be like. Truthfully? That was almost completely all a waste of time. I still felt clueless upon arrival, and although I know anyone at DIS would’ve answered any question I had, I just felt way too silly emailing someone to ask where I could buy a tupperware container. So, aside from my broad recommendation of simply not feeling too silly to ask ‘stupid’ questions, I’ve compiled a list of helpful tips it took me way to long to learn.

1. Go. To. Bilka.

This one should’ve been obvious to me. Bilka is one of the only grocery stores we can use our food stipend card at, and it’s a massive super store filled with everything you can think of. Unfortunately, I had absolutely no idea of its existence until last week when someone in my class mentioned buying a memory card for her camera there. I too needed a memory card, and tupperware, and a nice pour over or french press to keep up with my coffee addiction. I thought I was going to have to make the trek to IKEA if I really wanted some of the things I wanted, but I was wrong! Bilka is just a few metro stops away from the airport, so I made my way one Friday evening expecting to browse around a little bit, buy the groceries I needed, and hopefully find something to store leftovers in. Two hours later, I left with two heaping bags filled with a pour over (only 79 kr… which is about $12! I was prepared to spend up to $50 on one, so this was a huge win), a memory card, Special K with red berries (which I’d previously accepted I was never going to find here in Europe), Poptarts (I don’t even really eat Poptarts at home, I was just so excited to find them), tri-color quinoa (I don’t even care what kind of quinoa I have, I was just excited to have options), and a full week’s worth of other groceries. Anyone who already knows about Bilka is probably reading this and wondering why I got so excited about a trip to the Danish equivalent of a Walmart, but almost everyone I’ve told about my amazing experience has told me they didn’t know what it was either! This was easily the highlight of my week.

2. Don’t be afraid of public transportation

This one probably doesn’t apply to many, but if you’re one of the select few that’s like me and lives within walking distance of DIS, navigating the public transportation system can seem a little daunting. I spent so long just not going anywhere if it was over a 45 minute walk, because I was so nervous to figure out how the metro worked. Finally, I was forced to use it to get to a field study for class a couple of weeks ago, and of course, it was extremely easy. I just put my destination into Apple Maps, entered the stop it told me to get off at on my DSB app and used current location for my starting point, and let the metro quickly take me to where I needed to go. Again, it may seem silly to need step by step directions, but I’d wish someone would’ve been there to tell me exactly how to do it my first few times.

3. It is expensive to live here, but manageable!

I knew my cost of living was going to go up once I moved here, but I don’t think I really grasped just how much more money I was going to be spending. The few times I’ve gone out to eat here, it was difficult to spend less than $20. But, if you know how to find the deals and when to just say no to something that’s too expensive, budgeting can be relatively easy. For example, you do not need to buy that $15 drink just because you’re there. The further you get from the city center and the DIS campus, the less expensive meals get for the most part. Everyone needs a different budget, but once you figure out what works for you, you probably won’t feel so much stress every time you check your bank account.

4. Utilize student discounts

So many restaurants and stores have discounts, and you never know where they’re going to be! So, don’t be afraid to ask, and if you are afraid to ask, look around for a sign that says ‘studenterrabat’. For example, I just learned the other day that I can get 10% off at Urban Outfitters with my student ID. At my favorite coffee shop that I’ve mentioned a few times before, Next Door Cafe, you not only get a student discount every single day, but they also generally have a meal deal going on. This past week, they were running a deal for students where if you buy one of their absolutely delicious breakfast sandwiches, you get a free drink! Student discounts are such a huge money-saver and it would be a waste to not utilize them at any opportunity.

5. Download Too good to go and Nightpay

Both of these apps will save you so much money. Too good to go is an app that allows you to buy what restaurants or grocery stores were likely going to throw away at the end of the day for a super cheap price! You never know what you’re going to find on this app, and it can save you a lot of money (I’m pretty sure this is available in the US too, so just download it now). Nightpay is an app that can get you free admission to bars and different deals on drinks at any time during the day. Again, a huge money saver,

6. It’s not too late to make friends

I felt like I completely exhausted my social battery the first week I got here trying to make connections with people so I’d have friends for the rest of the semester. Although I did meet some of my closest friends that way, it was absolutely not the end for me. Just last night I hung out with a girl in one of my classes for the first time, and we had a blast. I have plans to rent a car and drive to Møns Klint tomorrow with a girl in my core course and a bunch of her friends tomorrow, and I didn’t even know her name until last week. I’d never talked to a guy in my Tuesday classes before this past week, and we ended up getting lunch between classes. The opportunities are endless to make friends here, and although it can get draining sometimes, everyone is feeling that exact same way and is just as eager to meet new people.

7. It’s going to be sunny again, and Copenhagen will still be there tomorrow

In my first few weeks, I felt like I had to be outside all the time to take advantage of the rare Copenhagen sun. I felt so much pressure to not relax in my room and take time for myself because I felt like I was wasting such a beautiful day. I really, really wish I’d realized sooner that although I’m in a big beautiful European city, I’m not wasting my time here if I have to stay in bed and watch Gilmore Girls all day in order to feel mentally well. Self care and mental health are just as important abroad as they are at home, and internalizing this knowledge will make your time here so much easier.

Published by hawkelki

Hi! My name is Ellie Hawkins, and I’m currently a senior at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. I’m studying abroad at DIS Copenhagen for the Fall 2021 semester and am so excited for all I will get to experience.

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