The gateway between Scandinavia and mainland Europe, Denmark is a mix of modern metropolis and enchanting old-world. Land of the Vikings and Hans-Christian Anderson’s fairytales, the country is ranked home to the world’s happiest people.

With some of Europe’s top universities and a first-class healthcare system, this Nordic nation is world-renowned for its high quality of life. From basking in the sunset along historical Nyhavn Street, to camping at the internationally renowned Roskilde music festival, Denmark is a country for those seeking a unique study abroad experience.

Photo Credits: 2benny.

With acres of forests and over 400 islands, Denmark is full of pristine, natural beauty, as well as bustling, urban areas.

Copenhagen: The country’s eco-friendly, international capital is brimming with modern art, a thriving music scene and the world’s most bicycle-friendly streets. Home of the famous Tivoli gardens and the autonomous village of Christiania, Copenhagen “still projects an inviting small-town atmosphere of friendliness, intimacy, and safety,” José González, a DIS outreach associate, said. Thirty-minutes to Sweden and a few hours to Berlin by train make this city a great base for exploring the rest of Europe.

Aarhus: Denmark’s second-largest city is a thriving university town of 300,000 people, offering a slice of Copenhagen life at a calmer pace. “I miss the general closeness and charm the city had to offer,” said Kim Nunneley, who studied at Aarhus University’s School of Business through San Francisco State University in 2010. Wander the cobblestone, Latin quarter streets, dance to big-name DJ’s at Train nightclub, and explore miles of seaside, forest trails.

Aalborg: Situated at the top Denmark’s peninsula, Aalborg’s famous Jomfru Ane Gade street and colorful cottages give students a true-to-the roots Danish experience. In May, the city hosts Scandinavia’s biggest carnival. And yes, plenty of Carlsberg is involved. Skål!

Although Denmark is a part of the European Union, the country still uses the Krone instead of the Euro. Foreigners generally find Denmark to be slightly more expensive than their home country, so extra funding is always helpful. While paying 50 krone (around 7 euro) for a pint of Tuborg can be shocking, there are many ways to save money.

If you are already studying Danish language and culture, the Danish Agency for International Education may help you out. Qualified students have a chance at earning scholarships for summer-language and long-term studies. The DIS also offers need-based scholarships of up to $4,000, and USAC students can apply for the program’s general scholarships.

How to Choose a Program

Whether it’s an urban campus in Copenhagen or a rural folk school, there are many opportunities for cultural immersion in Denmark. Language of instruction, housing and cultural activities are important things to consider when picking a program.

Academic Life: Denmark’s grading system can be a bit strange for outsiders. The scale goes from -2 to 12. In Denmark, earning a “2” is passing, but a “7” translates to a “C” in the U.S., and it’s the final exam that usually makes up most of your grade. All finals also have an oral exam part, as well. This means you just meet with a professor and explain your work- whether it’s solving a math problem or answering questions about your journalism project. The focus on real-life application is a huge part of Danish education; they want to see that you understand the concepts beyond just the book.

Language: If you don’t know a single word of Danish, you are in luck. Many of the country’s international programs are all English. But, even if you go the all-English route, a lot of programs offer foreign students a basic, Danish course to help with communication. Student Information Director for the University Study Abroad Consortium (USAC), Michelle Cobb, said their program’s one-week crash course offers not only language skills, but great insight into the Danish culture. Check your program to see if Danish language is included or if you need to sign up for these classes separately.

Housing: Where you stay will have a huge impact on your insight into Danish life. Living in a kollegium, or Danish dormitory, may be one of your most memorable experiences. Some programs may automatically place you in one, while others let you choose where to live. Programs through The Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) offer five housing options, from kollegiums to home-stays with Danish families.

If you prefer to study in Denmark solely for language immersion, consider enrolling in NRCSA’s homestay tutor program. “Homestays are a unique window to the culture,” said Mike Wittig, an International Training Coordinator at the National Registration Center for Study Abroad (NRCSA).

Student Visas in Denmark

If you’re not a citizen of the European Union, Norway, or an ECC (European Economic Community) country, you will need a residence permit if you’re going to be in the country for more than 90 days. Make sure to apply for this as early as possible, since the paperwork can take months.

To start the process, you will need to have been accepted to your Danish school, and have a formal letter of acceptance. This is one of the documents that you’ll need in your application.

For more information about student visas in Denmark, check out the Danish Immigration Service website or VISA HQ.

Social Life and Student Culture

Most towns have a studenthus, a hub for international and Danish social life, hosting everything from pint nights, to salsa lessons. Through DIS, students will also have opportunities to volunteer, play a sport, and participate in a Danish Buddy Program. “What sets DIS apart is that we use Europe as the students’ classroom,” González said. Their programs encourage students to participate in study tours and field-based assignments in order to grow academically, González said.

From ordering Smørrebrød on the street to asking how to get to the journalisthøjskolen, you’ll find that most Dane’s excel at speaking English. The bigger jolt of culture shock may actually come from their social customs. Law abiding and polite, the Danes regard behaving modestly as the key to social grace. Chatting up strangers may take a little more effort than it does in your home country. Although small talk and superficial mingling isn’t customary for them, once you do break the ice, you may have a friend for life. But no matter which program you choose, you will be sure to experience “hyggelig”, the Danish word for the content, cozy feeling that defines their identity and entire way of life.

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