One of the many reasons why I love my host university, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), is that the Environmental Engineering Department and program are larger and more developed than what I’m used to back home. In Drexel’s defense, part of the reason why I feel this way is because, as an English-speaking and non-Danish-speaking student, I have to take the Masters-level versions of what I would be taking at my home university. This means that I take classes with not only the other exchange students, but also the Masters (and some Bachelors) students. Hence, I have more classmates in each of my major-specific courses, and there are many more subjects offered for my major that I can take at DTU, in comparison to Drexel.
Another part of being a student at DTU is that each department (for each major) has a student executive board, of sorts. This board puts together events for the students in its respective major, and oversees various student facilities in the building(s) dictated by the major. For Environmental Engineering majors at DTU, “our buildings” include Buildings 114, 116, 117 and 127. We also “own” student lounges and bars within those buildings, and the board is in charge of overseeing the stocking, running and finances involved in operating the lounges. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the Masters students for Environmental Engineering put together a weekend cabin trip, where a professor came, played the guitar and sang with us; two professional environmental engineers from different companies spoke about their work and networked with us; and the Masters, Bachelors and PhD. ENVE students, plus students in ENVE classes from other majors, got together for a weekend full of memories.
DTU, as I’ve mentioned before, also throws an exciting Introduction Week for its exchange, Masters and freshman (what students here call, the “first semester”) students. This adventure-packed week allows hundreds of students in each group get to know each other, campus and existing DTU students, Copenhagen and Danish culture while they settle into DTU student life.
When I first learned about DTU, and how it was about 30 minutes by public transit or 40-50 minutes by bike from Copenhagen, the nearest city to campus, I was expecting campus life in the middle of a suburb to be isolating and lacking in variety. That’s what I had heard from my friends in the States about their schools in suburbs, and I had worried it would be the same here. I was pleasantly surprised by the vibrant student social culture on campus, however, and how much of an exception DTU (and other parts of Danish life) are to the same rules and expectations of their American counterparts.
One of my favorite “exceptions”: there are about 10 student bars/clubs on campus, which the President of the university has called “an accident.” (I’ve only been to 8 of them, and one of them is in the basement of my dorm. For shame.) Some of them are open almost every day of the week, others are open once or twice a week, but they’re all always open when there’s a bar crawl around campus (which feels like that is the case every weekend). The main areas of some buildings transform into these bars, and you forget you had class in the same building hours before. Student volunteers run these bars and events, only adding to the experience. (I will be joining a fellow Drexel student next week as a bartender for the first time, and I can’t wait!) It’s humorous to see how the attitudes on campus and in Denmark toward student life contrasts so much from those in America and other countries.
Hallways in the dorms and off-campus apartment complexes for students have TDCs (Tour d’Cham, or something like that in French) where the entire hallway gets together for a night of bonding and creative games. My dorm has a building-wide version called TDK (Tour d’Kampsax) where every hallway competes against each other in these games for an entire Saturday.
Since students at European universities often take gap years before starting (or continuing) college, many of them are often older than us American students with the same amount of academic experience. It can be weird living in the same hall as students who range in age from 18 to 27, but it’s refreshing having and hanging out with peers who come from more diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and have experiences with different parts of student and [Danish/whatever their mother country is] life.
Copenhagen is a great place to explore and to visit with friends and family, but DTU takes the cake if you make the most of it.