Copenhagen is always at the top of lists of the best places to live in the world, but life there seems almost effortless. Denmark was also named the happiest country in the world by the UN in 2016. This means that there aren’t many better places to live or study than the Danish capital.
Every year, more than 5,000 students from all over the world come to the University of Copenhagen. They are drawn to the university’s academic reputation and the city’s alternative lifestyle. But what is it about living in Copenhagen that makes everyone so happy?
That sweet spot between living quickly and slowly
Gus Griffin, an American master’s student at the University of Copenhagen, fell in love with Copenhagen when he moved to Denmark in 2013 from Wisconsin, just two years before starting an MA in Global Development at the University of Copenhagen.
One of the things that surprised him when he first got there, and that he now loves, is how bike-friendly the city is. He told us, “Everyone in Copenhagen rides a bike, from politicians to students to businessmen to teachers to old people. I’ll never forget the day I was riding my bike and saw a four-year-old walking down a busy road.
He went on, “Everything here is so old, elegant, and pretty.” It sounds like something out of a fairy tale. Denmark has one of the oldest democracies in the world and a long history, but after living here for a while I’ve come to appreciate that it’s also one of the most modern cities in the world. Everything about the city, from its buildings and layout to its people and way of life, feels very modern.
The size of Copenhagen is one of the things that helps people feel like they belong. Even though it’s very cosmopolitan and has a lot of galleries, cafes, and restaurants, you can walk or ride a bike through most of its medieval streets.
A small, easy-to-get-around city for students
Denmark has a lot of cyclists, which makes it easy for students to get around the city. Many students choose to ride their bikes from home to school. The University has four campuses, and you can get to any of them in 10 to 30 minutes, no matter where you live in the city.
Students in New York City, London, and Seoul often have to live in small, crowded apartments and commute to school every day. In contrast, life in Copenhagen moves at a much slower pace. Yeong Ran Suh moved from South Korea to Copenhagen so that she could get her master’s degree there. She works part-time as a yoga teacher at the University to make ends meet. Copenhagen is a very safe city with good transportation, but Yeong Ran, like Gus, prefers to ride her bike: “I ride my bike a lot here, and even at night I feel completely safe.”
Danes like to be outside as much as possible.
Samuel Nwokoro also went to Copenhagen to get an MA. It was Samuel’s first time living somewhere other than Africa. “One of the best things about the Danish summer is going to Nyhavn and seeing everyone out enjoying the sun and the canal full of boats,” he said.
As Samuel has learned, people in Copenhagen like the fresh air, and the city has many places to work out outside. Amager Strandpark is a very popular public beach park that stretches for almost three miles. You can swim in the clear waters of Copenhagen Harbor. Every year, hundreds of thousands of fitness fans from all over the world come to sports events like Iron Man and the Copenhagen Marathon. When Copenhill’s ski slope opens in 2018, people will be able to ski all year long. This will give people another reason to visit the city.
Copenhagen’s UCPH Spring Festival
In the last few years, festivals have sprung up all over the city. There are festivals for fashion, food, music, and literature. The UCPH Spring Festival at the University of Copenhagen has concerts, a science slam, a student revue, and a soccer tournament. Distortion is a five-day outdoor music and party festival with a lineup of big Danish and international indie artists that could compete with the world’s biggest festivals in terms of diversity.
The university is also involved in other large-scale events. In August, when it takes part in Copenhagen Pride Week, it changes its name to Diversity of Copenhagen.
All of these outdoor activities don’t just happen in the summer, and you won’t hear many locals complaining about how cold it is. Like many of their Scandinavian neighbors, the people of Copenhagen like to be outside, no matter how cold it is. In the winter, if you walk through the winding streets of the Danish capital, you will see a lot of people wrapped in blankets eating and drinking outside cafes.
International students can look for jobs
People we talked to said that moving to Denmark had changed their lives. Samuel told us, “Danish society works for everyone. Everyone has the same chance of making their dreams come true. When I go back to Nigeria, I want to teach, and I’ll bring things like objectivity and a flat relationship with my students with me.
Some international students will want to do what Samuel did and take their new skills back to their home countries. However, if you like living in Copenhagen so much that you decide to stay, it’s a great place to look for a job. There are a lot of job opportunities in the city, especially in medical and health services, IT, and the life sciences, which are all areas where Denmark needs more workers with the right skills.
The University of Copenhagen has a job bank for both local and international students. It lists full-time jobs, part-time jobs for students, internships, and projects for students and recent graduates. Here, you can find out what kinds of opportunities may be available to you through your university or learn about the rules for getting a work permit if you want to stay in Denmark after you graduate.
If you don’t have a job in mind yet, you shouldn’t have a hard time getting ideas. Alumni of the University of Copenhagen work in a wide range of jobs all over the world. Many of them come back to the university for networking events with students looking for contacts and career advice.
Check out the University Post or this short video for more interesting information about student life in Copenhagen.
So, get ready to embrace all things hygge and join some of the happiest students in the world.