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Living in Denmark - A Guide for Students

by Dr Nathalie Mather-L’Huillier

What's it like to study abroad in Denmark?

It is difficult to say exactly what one feature makes Denmark so attractive to tourists and international students. Perhaps it just has a little je-ne-sais-quoi, which gives it a very pleasant atmosphere. For a small country of around 5.5 million people, Denmark is well known abroad. There is no doubt that world-class design, cinema, literature and Nordic food put Denmark regularly in the headlines; have you heard of the two-Michelin Star Noma? Seen Helena Christensen on the catwalk? Played with Lego? Read Hans Christian Andersen’s children tales?

Key facts for Masters students in Denmark

  • The academic year in Denmark usually runs from September to July.
  • Around 22,300 foreign students study at Danish universities.
  • Denmark spends approximately 8.8% of GDP on education as a whole and 2.4% on tertiary education.
  • The language of Denmark is Danish.
  • The Norwegian term for a Masters degree is 'candidatus', or kandidatgrad.
  • The currency of Denmark is the Danish krone (DDK).
  • Denmark has a population of around 5.6 million people, with around 1.9 million in and around its capital city, Copenhagen.
  • Denmark is a constitutional monarchy, with a ceremonial royal head of state and an elected parliament passing legislation.
  • The officially established church in Denmark is the Lutheran Protestant Church of Denmark, but individuals are free to profess and practice another religion.

Culture, leisure and everyday life for Masters students in Denmark

Denmark is a very 'green' country. Its Government has ambitious plans: by 2050, the country aims to obtain 100% of its energy from renewable sources. The capital, Copenhagen, is already a carbon-neutral city. Innovation, architecture, efficient public transport or cycling are all fully integrated in the Danes’ ethos, helping the government to reach its target.

Despite the fairly cold weather in the winter, the Danish countryside can be enjoyed throughout the year - with hiking and winter-sports popular among many Danes. When the weather warms up, Denmark actually offers some of the best windsurfing opportunities in Europe. Denmark is known for its friendly people, wild countryside and beautiful cities. The markets are colourful and the food is fresh and rich.

Denmark is also one of the most peaceful countries in the world with one of the lowest crime rates so students will find it a safe study destination. You may have heard that Danish is a difficult language to learn and to pronounce, and you haven’t been misled! However the majority of Danes speak and write English very well, particularly in a university setting where everyone knows English and often speaks a second language.

Accommodation and living costs for Masters students in Denmark

Danish universities have traditionally not offered on-campus housing. Most students live in private accommodation or in privately/publicly-managed student halls of residences situated some distance from university campuses. An efficient public transport system which includes train, metro and tram, makes it easy to travel to student residences outside of city centres.

It is advisable that you start your accommodation search several months before you are due to start your Masters. Your institution can give you information about housing as soon as you have been accepted into a study programme.

You can search for accommodation through links listed on the Study in Denmark website.

Types of accommodation

Most Masters students in Denmark live in either privately rented accommodation, or in halls of residence provided by universities:

  • Rooms in shared private accommodation
    You might prefer to rent a room or to sub-let from a Danish student or landlord. Or you could rent an apartment or a house, which you can share with friends.
  • Student halls of residence ('kollegier')
    Student halls of residence are also an option. This type of accommodation is often administered by local 'allocation' organisations. If you fulfil the criteria (notably the age limit), you can apply for accommodation through this option. It is recommended that you apply for a room in as many properties as possible even if these seem far outside the city centre. In large cities, competition for this type of accommodation is fierce so be as flexible as possible.

Cost of living

You may find living in Denmark a bit more expensive than in your home country. Denmark is known for having one of the highest tax rates, but it also has one of the highest standards of living in Western Europe.

When planning your budget it is best not to include any predicted income from student jobs or summer employment. It can be quite difficult for international students to find work in Denmark, especially if they do not speak Danish. You should budget between DDK1,500 ($256) and DDK2,000 ($342) per month for your personal expenses, in addition to rent and transport. The recommended complete budget for students in Denmark is DDK4,200 per month, ($718) as stipulated by the Danish government.

Working whilst studying a Masters in Denmark

Non-EU/EEA and non-Nordic students are allowed to work in Denmark for a maximum of 15 hours a week from September to May, and 37 hours a week from June to August. You do not need to apply for a separate work permit; this change in allowed working hours is automatically granted with the residence permit.

Whilst it can be difficult to find a student/part-time job in Denmark, most universities will have jobs listings which will help you in your search. If you wish to engage in the local Danish community you can do so through volunteer work. Contact local authorities, student unions and universities as they will have information on available opportunities. Volunteering is a great way to develop new skills and to meet Danish people.

You can also use PostgraduateFunding.com to search a comprehensive database of small grants available to all postgraduate students. These can help top up your funding if you have any difficulty finding work alongside your studies.

Other useful information for Masters students in Denmark

Hopefully you've now got a good idea of what life might be like for you whilst studying a Masters in Denmark. You should be able to get started finding accommodation, budgeting for living costs and perhaps finding a part-time job to help support you whilst you study. You may also have decided to check out some of the leisure opportunities that will be available to you whilst you study in Denmark - perhaps taking up windsurfing or maybe visiting the original Legoland (Masters students in construction and related disciplines might even be able to justify the trip as fieldwork - it's worth a try!). There are a few other topics you should read up on before you head off to start postgraduate study in Denmark, however. Click 'read more' for a quick introduction to travel and transportation in Denmark and some important information on Danish health services and insurance.

Travel and transportation

Denmark's location makes it an ideal place to be able to travel to the rest of Scandinavia and Europe. Berlin and Amsterdam are just an hour’s flight away while London and Paris can be reached in less than two hours. Denmark also has an excellent transport infrastructure, despite its unique geography consisting of the peninsula of Jutland and an archipelago of 433 named islands. All 72 inhabited Danish islands are connected by a ferry service or a bridge. The two largest and most densely populated islands, Zealand and Funen, are linked by a locally called 'mega-bridge'. Another mega-bridge connects Copenhagen and the Swedish city of Malmö (the Öresund Bridge). Denmark can also be explored by road and rail thanks to its extensive motorway and railway networks. There are also domestic flights between Copenhagen and the cities of Aalborg, Aarhus and Rønne.

In the cities, it is just as easy to get around by bus, metro and train. A zone-based pricing system and multi-ticket card makes it a simple system to use. Copenhagen has one of the world’s most efficient metro systems – a fully-automated system operating 24/7.

Health insurance for students in Denmark

Denmark is one of the most equal and affluent societies in the world. The Danish welfare system ensures free healthcare for Danish citizens and foreigners who hold a residence permit for Denmark. As a masters student, you are automatically included in the Danish Health Insurance Scheme which gives you the right to free medical treatment by general practitioners, dentists and in hospitals.

When you register with a local authority, you will receive a personal registration number, which also serves as your health insurance number. After your registration you will receive a health insurance card. Remember to bring the card along whenever you see your doctor or your dentist. The name, address and phone number of your doctor will be printed on the card.

You may, however, wish to organise a personal insurance to cover your first few weeks in Denmark, as medical treatment is free only from the moment you have received your residence permit which may take some weeks after your arrival.

This article is the property of FindAMasters.com and may not be reproduced without permission.

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