As social beings, it is natural for us to seek a sense of belonging. I can easily say that I have the best network of friends, family, and location that I could possibly ever ask for…back at home. The concept of going abroad is alluring, but once you get there, it’s really up to you to make it a good experience. You are not going to let your hard work leading up to your study abroad experience go to waste by not materializing anything out of your trip. Thankfully, DIS provides the resources to hopefully make your transition less about stressing out and more about having one of the best 4 months of your life.
1. Choose your living preferences carefully!
DIS Copenhagen offers you the unique opportunity to choose between many housing options. For a more independent lifestyle, you can choose to live in a Residential Community (RC) or a Kollegium. For those seeking an adventurous lifestyle and to mingle with more Danes, try the Folkehojskole (secluded environment). Do you have a passion that you want shared with the people living around you? Try one of DIS’s many LLCs (Culinary, Arts, and Outdoors to name a few). Or, you know, you can go with MY favorite option…a homestay (we’ll save that topic for another time).
In my experience and of fellow students, your housing option will weight in towards your lifestyle and schedules. My friends living in RCs or Kollegiums are closer towards the city center and got the opportunity to meet their neighbors and maybe go out to socialize over some food and drinks. As a homestay student, I had to spend some of my time to acquaint myself with the family. However, after you get through the first hectic week, all becomes better as the DIS community starts to blend itself into a routine.
In my experience, my host family has been super flexible and supportive of my whacky semester schedule. If I plan to not be home at 6 for the usual dinner time, I would just send them a text letting them know to either save me some leftovers or that I would eat out in the city. Just because you’re in a homestay without (potentially) like aged people living next door to you, that doesn’t mean it’s hard to make friends. In fact, DIS has set up specific homestay regions with contact information for students to get acquainted with one another. Through the “Nord” (my region) DIS sponsored socializing event, I got to meet fellow peers who live within a few train stops or in walking distance of my new home. My closest group of friends happen to live within a 10 minute travel. Appropriately, we have set up a group chat called “Mini Nord”.
This just goes to show that no matter your housing preference, you will not feel isolated. Branch out, attend social events, and don’t be shy! I even went salsa dancing with the “Mini Nords” at the Studenterhuset (student union). Unfortunately for you, I will save myself the embarrassment…so no pictures. I got two left feet! What can I say?
2. Don’t hide behind your scarf!
You are abroad to embrace a new culture. So EMBRACE IT. Copenhagen offers many avenues in which you can meet new people or try new things.
Through classes and other DIS sponsored events, you are bound to make connections with fellow peers. It is awesome to have friends within DIS who can empathize with you during your journey and act as a safety net should you start to experience culture shock.
That is, however, NOT an excuse to not talk to local Danes. Besides your visiting host or your homestay family, try talking to random Danes you might meet at the Studenterhuset or out on the streets. You may have the impression that Danish people are not as approachable as Americans. Forget it. They are humans like us and are more than happy to help answer any questions you may have about the country or the culture. Not to mention, everyone can speak English proficiently (that definitely helps alleviate the anxiety of approaching a stranger). Who knows? You might even hold a nice conversation and exchange contact information.
For this, I strongly recommend taking the “Photojournalism” course at DIS. My awesome professor, Mette, is the most energetic, social bumble bee I’ve met since my arrival in Copenhagen. Our first assignment was to approach a complete stranger (no DIS affiliated faculty or students!) and ask to take a photo of them. Your approach can start with an interest in what they are doing, wearing, or looking at. I put on my “brave cape” and approached a young man in his 20s sitting on a bench. He was quick to agree to have his picture taken and our dialogue continued past the mini photo opp. Immediately he asked if I was studying abroad, which he then brought up how he studied abroad in Beijing and is about to go intern at Taiwan. I had the most interesting conversation, lasting just short of an hour! You never know who you might meet, so just go out there and try out the “brave cape” for yourself!
3. DIS Activities Fair
Maybe you played a sport back home or even back in the day. Do you want to join a religious group? Or if you’re feeling it, even lend a helping hand (volunteer)?
GO TO THE DIS ACTIVITIES FAIR.
DIS has affiliated with many local organizations to present you an opportunity to further immerse yourself into the community. Consider joining one of the many sports teams including soccer, volleyball, basketball, and even water polo! If you enjoy volunteering for a cause, there are opportunities for that as well. I have expressed my interest and may start tutoring young children at the Copenhagen International School to earn my daily karma.
Whatever you like or whoever you are…there is something for you. You just gotta make it happen.
Quick Tip: Just ask yourself, “what’s the worst that could happen?” If the answer is somewhat along the lines of a simple “no”, just do it! <—- Not sponsored by Nike.
Feel free to comment with any questions you may have! I will try my best to give you an accurate answer.