Why Copenhagen is One of the Happiest Student Cities in the World | Top Universities

Why Copenhagen is One of the Happiest Student Cities in the World

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated May 28, 2020 Updated May 28, 2020

Sponsored by the University of Copenhagen

There’s an ethereal effortlessness to life in Copenhagen, a city which consistently tops surveys of the world’s best places to live. In 2016, Denmark came first in the UN’s report of the world’s happiest countries too, meaning there are few better places to live or study than the Danish capital.

Every year the University of Copenhagen attracts more than 5,000 students from all corners of the globe, increasingly drawn to the university’s academic reputation and the city’s indie lifestyle. But what is it about life in Copenhagen which leaves everyone living there so satisfied?

That sweet spot between fast and slow living

Gus Griffin, an American master’s student at the University of Copenhagen, fell in love with Copenhagen when he moved to Denmark in 2013 from Wisconsin, just two years before enrolling in an MA in Global Development at the University of Copenhagen.

One of the things which surprised him initially, and which he’s come to love since his arrival, is how cycle-friendly the city is. He told us: “All Copenhageners bike, from politicians to students, businessmen and school teachers, old people and young people. I’ll never forget the day I biked past a four-year old cruising down the road during high traffic.”

He continued: “Everything here is so old, classy and beautiful. It’s almost taken out of a fairytale. Denmark has one of the oldest democracies in the world, and a very long history, but having been here a while I’ve come to appreciate how it’s actually one of the most modern cities in the world. Everything from the architecture and design of the city to its mindset and heartbeat feel very modern.”

One of the great strengths Copenhagen has in instilling a real sense of community is its size. While it’s very cosmopolitan and features an interesting array of galleries, cafes and restaurants, you can explore most of its medieval cobbled streets on foot or bicycle.

A compact and convenient city for students

Denmark’s proliferation of cyclists makes navigating the city easy if you’re a student, with many typically choosing to cycle from their home to campus. The University has four campus areas, all of which are within a 10-30 minute journey from wherever you happen to be living in the city.

While students living in New York City, London, or Seoul are often forced to live in smaller, cramped spaces and commute to university every day, Copenhageners enjoy life at a comparatively slower pace. Yeong Ran Suh moved to Copenhagen from South Korea to study a master’s degree programme. To make ends meet, she has a part-time job as a yoga teacher at the University. Copenhagen is a very safe city with excellent transport links, but like Gus, Yeong Ran prefers pedal power: “I bike a lot here, and even biking at night feels completely safe”.

Danes like to spend as much time outdoors as possible

Samuel Nwokoro also moved to Copenhagen for an MA programme. It was Samuel’s first experience of living outside Africa: “One of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had in the Danish summer is going to Nyhavn and seeing how everyone is out and basking in the sun, with the canal filled with boats.”

As Samuel has come to appreciate, Copenhageners are fond of the fresh air - and the city is home to many outdoor workout spots. Amager Strandpark is a hugely popular seaside public park that stretches on for nearly three miles, while Copenhagen harbor’s crystal-clear waters are safe for swimming. Every year, sports festivals like Iron Man and Copenhagen Marathon draw in hundreds of thousands of fitness fanatics from all over the world. Opening in 2018, the ski slope Copenhill will enable people to ski all year round, providing another reason for people to visit the city.

UCPH Spring Festival in Copenhagen

In recent years, festivals have sprouted all over the city, from fashion or food festivals to celebrations of literature and music. Distortion is a five-day outdoor music and party festival which has a lineup of big Danish and international indie artists that could rival the world’s biggest festivals for its eclecticness, while the University of Copenhagen has its own UCPH Spring Festival featuring concerts, a science slam, student revue and soccer tournament.

The university’s involvement in large-scale events doesn’t end there; in August, the university changes its name to Diversity of Copenhagen when joining the annual Copenhagen Pride Week.

All of these outdoor events aren’t confined to the summer either, as you’re unlikely to find many locals complaining about the cold. Like many of their Scandinavian neighbors, Copenhageners are fond of the fresh air, regardless of the temperature. Walk the winding streets of the Danish capital in winter and you will see more than a few people wrapped up in blankets eating and drinking outside cafes.

Career opportunities for international students

Coming to Denmark has been a transformative experience for the people we talked to. Samuel told us: “Danish society is a place that works for all. There is equal opportunity for everyone’s dream to come true. I plan to teach when I get back to Nigeria and some of the things I’m taking with me are objectivity and a non-hierarchical relationship with my students.”

While some international students will want to follow in Samuel’s footsteps and take their newly-learned skills back home, Copenhagen is a fantastic place to search for a career if you end up enjoying living here so much that you decide to stay on. The city is full of job opportunities, particularly in medical and health services, IT, and the life sciences – industries where there are currently skills shortages in Denmark.

The University of Copenhagen runs a job bank for local and international students, which advertises opportunities for students and graduates, including full-time jobs, part-time student jobs, internships and study projects. Get a sense of the opportunities that may be open to you through the university here or explore work permit laws to stay in Denmark after university here.

If you haven’t got a career in mind yet, inspiration shouldn’t be too hard to come by. The University of Copenhagen’s alumni community work in a broad range of careers around the world, and many of them come in for networking events with students looking for contacts and career advice.

For more interesting content about student life in Copenhagen, check out the University Post here, or watch this short video.

So, be prepared to embrace all things hygge and join some of the happiest students in the world!

This article was originally published in January 2018 . It was last updated in May 2020

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