dis

i was confused too, or, FAQs from upcoming students

One of the super cool things about being a student blogger this past semester is that I had prospective DIS students reach out to me over the course of the past four months to ask questions about the classes I was taking, where I was living, and how I was liking Copenhagen.  As the Spring 2018 semester prepares to leave their homes for Denmark in the coming days (you have no idea how jealous I am of all of you!) I thought it would be helpful to recap some of the questions I got during the semester!

I tried to sort the questions by topic.  If you’re a prospective (or soon-to-be-leaving) DIS student and have any further questions, feel free to reach out!  I’d love to help you out in any way possible, especially if it involves me re-living any part of the last four months 🙂

Classes

Are papers and exams similar to how they are at your home university?
Yes and no.  As a communication/politics major, I write a lot of papers at Wake, which was definitely true at DIS too.  I had final papers for all my classes, just like I do in any regular semester.  I actually only had two exam—my Danish midterm and final, which obviously isn’t a class I’d be taking at Wake!  During a normal semester I would have a few more exams, so that part was different.  It definitely depends on the classes you’re taking at DIS and the classes you take at your home university.  I was in all politics and communication classes at DIS, (similar to my course load at Wake) and had the same (or slightly more) papers than I normally would and less exams.

Do you give a lot of presentations?
Yes! More than I typically would in a semester at Wake.  Again, it’s super dependent on the classes you’re taking at DIS, but I had final presentations for most of my classes (along with the final papers that I mentioned above).

How are your professors?
loved my professors!!!  One of the things I think is so great about DIS is that while many of their professors are full-time professors, they also have professors who work part-time as DIS faculty while simultaneously holding a job in the field that they’re teaching…talk about practicing what you preach!  All of my professors were super receptive to student feedback as well, which was so helpful!

Are 8:30 classes hard to wake up for?
This is totally a personal thing—I had a class that started at 8am during my sophomore spring semester, so I’m pretty used to waking up early…I’m also a morning person, which definitely helps!  I will say that my 8:30am class was a heck of a lot easier to wake up to at the beginning of the semester when the sun rose at 6am than at the end of the semester when it rose at 8:30am…

How do you balance homework and wanting to travel and explore Copenhagen?
Such a good question and I wish I had a better answer for it!!!  Just like at your home university, it’s really all about time management.  I had breaks between my classes two days of the week, so I would often go to a local café or one of the DIS lounges and do work then so that I’d have more time for exploration!  Time management especially becomes key when you’re traveling on the weekends—as tempting as it might be to save it until Sunday night, I’d highly recommend getting your homework for Mondays done before you leave (think Thursday night).  It’s so much more fun to travel on the weekends without Monday’s deadlines hanging over you!!

Travel: Getting to Copenhagen

How many large suitcases did you bring?  Do you suggest one or two?
I brought one large suitcase to Copenhagen and left with two.  For a more in-depth explanation, check out my packing recap here!  If you’re debating between squeezing into one suitcase or having a ton of extra room in two suitcases, just go for two.  So much better than having to ship stuff home at the end of the semester (expensive) or pay for overweight bags (also expensive)!

How did you deal with the stress of knowing you were going to leave the country for four months?
Truthfully, I was deeply in denial that I was studying abroad.  As excited as I was, I was also pretty bummed that I was going to miss out on a whole semester at Wake (football games! soccer games! sorority events! rolling the quad! lovefeast!  project pumpkin! wait chapel! my friends!) and be so far from my family for so long.  The entire summer I tried my best not to think about the fact that I was leaving.  Then it was August 16th and I was leaving in two days and I was packing and it was all happening.  Honestly, I think busying myself with my internship, seeing friends, and spending time with my family helped—I tend to overthink absolutely everything, and by intentionally NOT thinking about how much time I was going to be away from everything I loved most, I wasn’t able to overthink everything—would I make friends? How would I get to classes? What if I didn’t like the people I lived with?—all things that had a funny way of working themselves out.

Travel: While in Copenhagen

Is it difficult to travel when you have classes on Fridays?
Nope!  At DIS, your classes will be, at least for the most part, either Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday (Wednesdays are reserved for field studies!).  It’s pretty difficult to work your schedule so that you don’t have classes on Fridays, though some people definitely do it.  The fact of the matter is that even if you don’t have classes on Fridays, you’ll most likely be traveling with people who do, so you won’t really be able to leave Thursday anyway.  I had class until 1pm on Fridays and still was able to travel on the weekends—one of the benefits of the airport being on a metro line (and never checking a bag) is that it doesn’t take long at all for you to get from city center to the airport!

Did you have any trips planned before you went abroad?  The Facebook group is full of people trying to plan trips, and it’s stressful!
I know exactly what you mean, and it stressed me out a ton too.  I kept seeing all of these people asking if anyone wanted to travel with them—this destination on that weekend, what about the second half of the second travel week, etc.  Don’t worry!  Despite what you might think is the norm if you look in the DIS Facebook group, I would actually recommend not planning any travel until you get to Copenhagen (except maybe your free travel week, though I didn’t plan mine until about three weeks before it actually happened!).  Wait until you have your syllabi and get to know people you might want to travel with, whether they’re in your LLC, residential community, homestay network, or classes.  I know some people who had travel planned before they got their syllabi and then realized they’d be getting back late on Sunday night with two papers due Monday and a presentation on Tuesday.  My favorite trips were the more spontaneous ones, planned just a week or two before departure.
You never know what your host family or visiting host family might want to do on a given weekend either, and waiting until the semester starts to plan your travels gives you so much more flexibility!

Outdoor LLC

What kind of activities do you do with your LLC?  How often are they?
Outdoor LLC, how I love and miss you!  Our LLC activities were some of my favorite things I did in the four months I spent in Copenhagen.  Our activities varied, but they were all centered around the idea of getting us outside and into nature, even in the middle of a city.  We biked around part of Amager, slacklined in a park, kayaked through the city canals, winterbathed, went bouldering, did parkour and acroyoga, and went ice skating.
LLC activities happen once a week (on Tuesday or Thursday nights, ours were almost always on Thursdays) and go for about two hours.  There’s also an LLC retreat at the beginning of the semester, which was one of my favorite weekends of the entire semester!
For more information about LLCs in general, check out the DIS website here.

Living in Copenhagen

Is it really as expensive as everyone says it is?  Am I going to be broke by the time I leave?
RELATABLE.  With some careful budgeting you should be okay, but be prepared to spend more than you would in a normal semester.  Copenhagen, and Scandinavia in general, has a reputation for being pretty pricey, and for the most part, that’s pretty true (sorry, Denmark, still love you).  Eating out at restaurants, for example, costs much more than it does in the States and in other places in Europe.  But the food in supermarkets (miss you @Netto) is still fairly reasonably priced—so you can really help your poor bank account out by cooking most of your meals and saving money for special occasion meals, museums, or other travel.  Travel is generally where you’ll spend most of your money (you have to pay for your lodging and all your meals, attractions, etc.) so it’s helpful to strike a balance between weekends in Copenhagen (definitely some of my favorite weekends of the whole semester) and weekends (and weeks!) spent traveling.

What kind of activities do you do with your visiting host family?
Visiting host family, I miss you so!!! I adored my visiting host family and loved the time I got to spend with them over the course of the semester.  Much of the time, I went to their house (about 45 minutes from my apartment on the metro/s-train) to have dinner—after a few weeks of your own cooking, having a home-cooked meal that isn’t yours is truly world-changing.  My host family welcomed me into their home so graciously, and they’re a huge part of why Copenhagen felt so much like a home by the end of the semester.  I also went out to dinner with them in the city to celebrate one of my host sisters’ birthdays, and towards the end of the semester I spent a weekend at their house, having a traditional American thanksgiving (complete with pumpkin pie and everything) on Saturday and a traditional Danish Christmas on Sunday, making Christmas cookies and crafts and lighting their Advent wreath.  That weekend—a combination of my own culture and a culture I’d grown to love so much—was easily one of the best weekends of my entire semester!  For another peak into what I did with my visiting host family, check out all the posts here!

Did you experience homesickness?
Am I a terrible person for saying no?  It’s not that I didn’t miss both home and school—I did.  Certain days I missed it more than others, like when my whole family was together at the cabin for our annual Labor Day get-together, when all my friends rolled the quad after Wake’s big football and soccer wins, and when my dog died, to name a few.  But there was never a day where I sat there and said “I would be having a better time if I was not here right now, I wish I wasn’t here, I want to be home”.  It is, however, perfectly normal to feel this way, and I know a lot of people who did.  I don’t say that I didn’t feel this way to in any way discredit their experiences—they’re real, they’re valid, and they’re more common than you might think.

Did you sign up for the TDC phone plan?
Yes!  It was so much cheaper than having an international plan for four months and definitely the most convenient.  Like I mentioned in a few of my other posts (like my packing list recap here), I actually brought two phones with me to Denmark: one was my “American” phone, which was just the normal phone I use at home, and I just kept it on airplane mode and used wifi for the semester; the second was my “Danish” phone, which was an old iPhone I had that I used with the TDC SIM card.  Most people do the TDC plan, and I definitely recommend it—it’s a really good price, and you get a lot for it!

How do you stay in contact with family and friends back home?
A variety of ways—iMessage, FaceTime instead of phone calls, Messenger, and various social media messaging services.  One of my best friends from high school and I somehow ended up having a lot of conversations via Instagram dm?  Between Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, GroupMe, it’s much easier to say in contact with people than it might seem.

How difficult was it to learn the transportation system?
The first week, I couldn’t figure out how to get to the closest metro stop from my apartment building.  (It was one turn).  My friend and I took the 5C bus to and from our core course together and for the first two weeks inexplicably got off on a different stop each time.  Clearly, I struggled at first—but by about a month in I was cruising down the M2 metro line like nobody’s business and knew where all the closest bus stops to my favorite places were.  The transportation system mainly consists of the metro, buses, the S-train (or S-tog), and regional trains—and I took all four at some point over the course of the semester!  It seems complicated at first, but I promise it’s really not.
Some tips:
My absolute biggest tip ever is to download Citymapper (it works in cities other than Copenhagen as well!).  It’ll tell you the best way to get where you’re going on public transportation and how much time it’ll take.  Download it now, it’ll save you a million times over.
Also download Rejseplanen—it’s similar to Citymapper, but for Copenhagen’s transportation system specifically. I used the Rejseplanen website a LOT as well.  You can put in where you’re going and when you want to get there, and it’ll tell you when to leave.
One last app: DOT Mobilbillletter.  You can load your credit card in and buy transportation passes right in the app—perfect for when you’re traveling out of the zones on your transportation pass or when you have friends or family coming to visit!

Do you recommend getting a bike? What company did you rent from?
YES!  Not being able to bike (thanks, tendonitis!) was one of my least favorite parts of the semester.  Biking is so engrained into the culture of Copenhagen and it’s such a great way to really be a part of the city.  I walked a lot during the semester (walking ~40 minutes from DIS to my apartment rather than a 15 minute bus ride) because it just made me feel like I was part of the city.  The few times I biked to class (before I couldn’t walk because of it) gave me the same feeling.  Almost everyone I knew—including all of my apartment-mates—biked everywhere!  I rented from Copenhagen Bicycles; they’re located by Nyhavn, have a discount for DIS students, and the bike I got was great.  I also had friends rent from ABC Bikes, and they really liked them as well!  Check out this page on the DIS website for more specific information about getting bikes!

There you have it!  Hopefully this was helpful for everyone getting ready to leave in just a few days.  If you have a question about something I mentioned up there—or didn’t—feel free to reach out!  Either comment down below or click the “Let’s Be Friends!” link above!  I’d be happy to help!

 

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