Denmark is often considered one of the happiest countries in the world. Even with long dark winters, the Danes embrace their unique notion of hygge which generally translates to a feeling of cozy contentment. Many Danes consider this their best national treasure.
Anyone interested in experiencing first-hand how a socially progressive country functions at the ground level can’t go wrong studying abroad in Denmark. This beautiful and dynamic country has become a leader when it comes to designing a nation that embraces all its citizens within the framework of its social institutions, which are best experienced in person.
What’s more, the Danish higher-educational system is recognized as one of the best in the world. That’s largely because the Danes have made supporting education one of their top priorities as students are seen as a valuable natural resource. This extends to international like students like you too.
The Danish capital and largest city is the top destination for students in Denmark. Copenhagen is a city of wonderful contrasts. It’s hip and modern while remaining firmly rooted in history and tradition. You’ll find art-house theaters next door to medieval churches and international cuisine served on traditional smørrebrød bread. It’s also one of the most environmentally friendly cities of its size.
This dynamic urban center of student life is home to some great schools. Business students from around the globe are eager to attend classes at the world-renowned University of Copenhagen. And as its name suggests, the Danish Institute of Study Abroad (DIS) is geared towards providing international students with a thoroughly Danish education.
Denmark’s second city is home to the country’s largest research institution, Aarhus University. For anyone looking for a research-focused program, it’s hard to go wrong at this venerable institution. You’ll find Aarhus to be a young and vibrant place, with the youngest average age of any Danish city. Fans of folklore will also see inspiration in the surrounding landscape as this was once the stomping grounds of Hans Christian Anderson.
Not far from the country’s northern tip lies the small city of Aalborg. This university town showcases its historical roots and prides itself as a center of Nordic culture. Even though Aalborg is small, this port city is home to many acclaimed universities, such as Vikingkollegiet and Aalborg University. What’s more, in May, Aalborg hosts one of the region’s biggest carnivals.
Often overlooked in favor of Copenhagen, Odense should be considered by anyone looking to study in Denmark. Between its three major universities - Lillebaelt Academy, University College Lillebaelt, and the University of Southern Denmark - there are over 180 programs of study available to international students. Needless to say, Odense has a thriving and welcoming student culture.
How to Choose a Study Abroad Program in Denmark
Danish universities combine a healthy dose of theoretical studies with immersive practicum opportunities. This provides international students with a comprehensive and well-rounded education that may not be available back home. When exploring different programs, consider the balance you’d like between classroom instruction, research, and practicum experience.
Most universities offer many of their courses entirely in English. This is especially true at the graduate level as universities court students from all over the world. Unless you’re one of the few foreigners with a firm grasp of Danish, make sure that you select a program that’s taught in English.
As always, it’s best to select a program that aligns with your interests and fulfills course requirements at your home university. Make sure that you’ll be able to transfer your credits when you’re done.
For the most popular and authentic Danish student experience, opt to stay in a kollegium. While these dormitory-like buildings range from converted 19th-century townhouses to modern concrete and steel towers, they share common elements. This includes shared kitchens and common lounge spaces. As such, a kollegium is a great place to meet and mingle with other students.
Another option is to stay with a Danish family as part of a homestay. In a homestay, you will be able to experience the domestic side of Danish life, something that is not normally available for outsiders.
If you're more of the independent type, you can find an apartment to rent near your university. Just be aware that this type of housing is not cheap and apartments tend to be on the small side, especially in popular parts of major cities.
No matter what kind of housing you’d like, start looking for it months before you need it as there is often not enough student housing to meet demand.
Non-EU/EAA citizens will need a residence permit to stay in Denmark for more than three months. You won’t be able to apply until you have a letter of acceptance from a Danish university or government approved institute. You may be asked for proof that you can support yourself financially while in Denmark. You will also need to provide fingerprints and a passport-type photo as part of the application. Once that’s all in order, it’s best to apply as soon as possible as the process can take several months.
Social Life & Student Culture
Danish culture is defined by simplicity and politeness. Danes have a strong respect for individual privacy and will likely keep to themselves unless you make the first approach. Once you get to know each other though, you’ll find that many Danes possess a love of discussion as well as a keen sense of humor.
Most neighborhoods near colleges host all you can eat buffets. These are very popular gathering places for students looking to eat large amounts of hearty Danish cuisine for a reasonable price. They’re also popular places to study as you can usually stay all day once you’ve paid your buffet fare.
Health & Safety
There are no special health considerations to be aware of while studying in Denmark.
Hopefully you won’t need to, but should you find yourself in need of medical services you’ll have access to one of the world’s most comprehensive healthcare systems. Even for foreigners, nearly all emergency medical care is free of charge.
Denmark also has one of the lowest crime rates worldwide. Of course, don’t take any unnecessary risks, but should you need help from the police, you’ll find them very responsive and helpful.
Typical Program Cost
Citizens of the EU and Switzerland luck out as they have access to free tuition while studying in Denmark. For everyone else, be prepared to make a hefty payment of between $7,000 and $18,000 for a semester’s worth of tuition. Research and practicum programs tend to cost the most.
Denmark is expensive. This is the price of the high standard of living that Danes are known for. That doesn’t mean that studying here should break the bank. It is possible to work part-time on a student visa during the summer months. This is a great way to help fund your studies while experiencing what it’s like working in a social democracy.
Fortunately there are plenty of scholarships available to help fund your studies in Denmark. Many of these are offered through private organizations and nonprofits. However, the Danish government also offers several specifically for international students. Check out the following to see if they’re able to help you out:
- The Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science offers several sizable scholarships aimed at helping international students afford their studies in Denmark.
- API offers hundreds of small scholarships to help offset the costs of studying internationally.
- Students in the STEM field can take advantage of scholarships from Diversity Abroad.
- The non-profit USAC offers over 2 million dollars in scholarships to students looking for financial help to fund their overseas studies.