top of page

12 things we wish we knew when starting university in Denmark

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

Starting university is a big thing for most of us. However starting it in a foreign country without knowing anyone can be even more terrifying! After 4 years in Denmark and some experience later, Michael Mares and Jaros Vyhnak share what they would tell themselves, if they could go back in time!

1. How to manage money

Moving away from home for the first time and jumping into “adult” life is not easy. Budgeting, paying rent, saving for food and being responsible financially may not be familiar to a 19-year-old.

For Michael, managing his finances was a huge problem for a long time, which had some significant consequences for years. The problem was not about having enough money, he said, but about spending every penny and a bit more than he had.

man holding an empty wallet

It's important to keep track of your personal finances!

Despite earning more money through his student job, he couldn't understand why he seemed to have less and less at the end of each month.

As Michael figured that he had a problem with managing his money, he started to read the book "The Richest Man In Babylon", by George S. Clason, which eventually inspired him on how to financially manage himself.

Start paying yourself first! Start saving up by 10% of your income and prepare for anything unexpected - Michael Mares

This, together with having control over your expenditures can make a great difference to your pocket.

Great app to manage your finances is Revolut - sign up for Revolut using this link and support Student Survival Guide! We receive small commission after you create an account, order a physical card and make 3 transactions. We are users ourselves and we love the features.

2. You don’t need to go out every Friday

We are all different and we all like different things. Michael remembers in the beginning of his university life that he often felt the fear of missing out! When it came to college parties, he attended every single one he could get into.

That meant that a lot of his precious time was spent on drinking, smoking, and taking terrible care of his body, until it became difficult for Michael to snap out of it.

I didn't even want to do it, it was just something that I felt I had to do because I was in university - Michael Mares

Sacrifices are being made all the time because that’s how life works.

Being constantly ongoing to parties might sacrifice your energy, your wallet and even your health and studies, which is a high price to pay for a party that you might not even enjoy.

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't go to any parties at all, we all deserve a break! Just choose the parties you think are worth attending and make sure you don’t forget about taking care of yourself.

Young girl with messy hair and makeup being hangover after a 3 day long party

You don't need to go out every weekend...or do you?

3. You don’t have to be the ‘cool’ guy

Let’s face it, we have all, at some point, envied those popular guys or girls that seem to know everyone and are known by everyone...the girls with 10.000 Instagram followers...the guys that always land the hottest chick at the party.

But don’t romanticize those things. They really don’t mean anything if they aren’t coming from within. If you are not "cool", don’t try hard to be, otherwise you might end up as an imitation of someone that isn't the real you.

Be as you are - Mike Posner

If you don't enjoy the party, then stay for an hour, not all night. If you need time to be alone and recharge, then stay alone. Point being, college is a time when you need to discover who you are. And once you do, you become the coolest person ever!

4. There is always something to do

At some point you might face a situation where all your friends are busy, and you just don’t want to waste your free time by doing nothing. But what to do?

Jaros figured out that just doing something, anything, is way better than 'just chilling alone'. Look around, there are countless opportunities in the city you live in! It might not become your new life passion, but on the other hand, it also might.

I found my greatest hobby by “accident” - Jaros Vyhnak

It was just another Tuesday afternoon after school and Jaros had nothing to do. No work, no money, but loads of time. On campus, we have a sports hall where students are in charge of their own sport activities.

Luckily for Jaros, the “whatever” activity was Latin dances and he has been hooked up on it ever since. It has been 4 years now and Jaros is now a dancing teacher in the school and attends dance festivals with his friends; there is nothing he wouldn’t sacrifice for dancing.

For Michael , his passion was closely connected to music.

But there was a problem.

I am a guitar player and as a musician, it’s always much more fun to play with others - Michael Mares

In the city where he lived, there were no places where you could have a jam session with others. So he organized his own!

He ended up gathering a few musicians, rented a bar, handed out flyers and in a month, he was playing together with 10 other people on a stage.

"Soon after, we organized another concert, this time with even more people. 8 concerts later, we get more than 1000 visitors, coming and listening to our music."

5. Your work will suck

If you are in university and your dad doesn’t own an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia, you will most likely have to work. Possibly for the first time in your life. And your job will suck, 90% of the time. And that’s all right.

You have to make money and you have to set yourself straight. If you have just moved out from your parents and you want to start managing your own life, understanding the value of money (and where it comes from) is an essential skill.

I remember doing crappy jobs at warehouses for 3 years, where I spent 8 hours with people who accepted that this is the best they could do and got settled for the pay-check. But I didn't let this define my future ambition - Michael Mares

And working in a crappy job is the fastest way to learn a thing or two about money. Michael mentions that he wasn't just another warehouse worker, he was still himself and accepted that this is the condition that he needed to accept while studying.

He eventually did support himself through college, saved up some money and worked hard to build work ethics, regardless of the job he was doing.

Your work will suck

Even though working for the first time in your life might feel like this, do not get discouraged and push through!

It’s important to remember that most of the time you won’t get what you want from the very beginning.

Sometimes you need to put a real effort into achieving something, even if it requires some sacrifices, like working hard in a warehouse, in Michael’s case.

Be patient, persistent and don’t give up your ambitions just because you encounter obstacles. Keep your head up!

6. Build meaningful friendships

Jaros clearly remembers his first moments in Denmark. It was just after his father dropped him off by the dormitories and left. And then it came to, “oh shit, I am in Denmark all alone”.

In the first couple of weeks, Jaros managed to meet a couple of guys who became his friends for the whole duration of the studies.

Over time I had the pleasure to meet many more people and I was always welcome, which gave me security. I hope I gave them the same feeling - Jaros Vyhnak

Right now we are all separated, he says. After 4 years he is almost the last one still living in Denmark and even though they don’t see each other every day and are not as close as they used to, he is more than happy to have them as his friends.

It can feel lonely as an international student in Denmark, especially in the beginning. The good news is that there are other people just like you, who , just like you, are excited to meet others and make friends. So get out and socialize!

7. Your degree is not enough

“Study hard so you can land a secure job” is pretty much what we’ve been taught by our parents. Unfortunately, life is not always so easy and your A’s will not get you too far after university. So what else can you do?

Well, there is a whole list, but realizing that degrees matter less and less in the real world, is a good start.

Try honing some skills that can actually facilitate your professional development and opportunities.

For example, internships are a great way to not only learn something, but more importantly to build your network and develop your hard skills. Offering companies some help for free might be the best investment you can do for your future, while studying.

Expanding your network and building up sincere relationships will pay of f - Michael Mares

8. How to take notes

As students, we are expected to study hard. This includes doing your homework, attending classes and working with your study group. You can expect to receive lots of information in a short period of time.

It is one thing to just accept all the information but quite another to understand it as well. In order to do so, everybody needs to learn the importance of taking notes and being able to skim the endless pages of economy or engineering books.

From my own experience, I have seen multiple people getting crushed by the sheer amount of information - Jaros Vyhnak

And what is worse: not everything is super useful. “If I can give you a bit of advice, learn reading through lines, taking notes and pinpointing the essentials. It will save you a lot of headaches”, says Jaros.

9. Taxes and fines are expensive

Do you remember how great it felt when you were in high school, thinking how amazing it will be to grow up, make money, buy whatever you want, stay up late, order pizza for breakfast…?

And then you got your first paycheck and saw that almost 50% of your money was gone to taxes. If you are in Denmark, taxes are ridiculous for most of the things, whether it’s VAT , income or car taxes.

So getting used to and accounting for it is a good idea.

Creating a solid budget for yourself is a must, especially when taxes are so high that getting a fine can mess you up if you are not prepared - Michael Mares

If you wanna learn more about taxes in Denmark, make sure to check out our series with Daniel from who is a tax consultant in Denmark and who answered all our questions about taxes, deductions and how to save money as a student. You can find it here.

10. It’s alright to feel lonely

University is tough and even more so, if you chose to move abroad and by yourself for the first time. There are way too many decisions to consider and sometimes you make a bad one.

It can be anything money-related, school-related or relationships related, that can make you feel lonely, but that’s alright. Don’t dwell on the fact that you did not get invited to Jacob’s birthday party, don’t envy other girls on their 'fun Thursday night out’.

Solitude can be really addictive, once you realize how powerful it can be - Michael Mares

Embrace being in solitude, if you prefer so, and do the things you always wanted to do. Do it while you are fully present and pay attention to that feeling. Read the book you always wanted, spend 15 minutes doing yoga, sing, organize your clothes, clean up your computer and so on.

alright to feel lonely

Take some time to listen to your inner voice

There is so much you can do that soon you’ll forget about not being somewhere else, and be very grateful for having the time to invest in yourself.

11. How important it is to move out of your comfort zone

Unless you are somebody who has relatives in Denmark or who came to the country with their boyfriend/girlfriend, you might find yourself lost and alone during the first days of your stay.

When Jaros got into this situation, he just told himself, “Jaros, you need to do something or you will hate it here”. So in the first days of his stay in Denmark, he was up to everything.

It wasn’t always super pleasant, but I managed to get friends which I kept for the rest of my studies - Jaros Vyhnak

A similar thing happened in his first internship. “New environment, new people and me”, he says. It pushed him to go out of his comfort zone. “I was everywhere trying to prove myself useful and it was appreciated by my colleagues and superiors”, he says.

In other words, we need to challenge ourselves even though we may not always end up perfectly. “Without doing so, you might not meet the best people that may inspire you for the rest of your life”, Jaros says.

Not to mention that getting out of your comfort zone ensures both your personal and professional development, regardless if the endeavor proved successful or not.

12. How to manage your sleep

This one is for all of you that struggle with planning your day. During Jaros' studies (and even now) he sometimes finds himself in situations where he sleeps too much or too little because something that needs to be done.

I am still in the process of handling this issue, but I believe there needs to be a balance - Jaros Vyhnak

“I remember the time when I was writing my bachelor thesis”, Jaros mentions. “Even though I successfully passed, the last couple of days were a nightmare. Not only didn’t I plan my work ahead and had to handle everything on the spot, but I also reversed my sleep routine by working during the nights and resting during the days.”

“And then when I finally finished, I still had to tackle the fact that I created my own jet lag without traveling. So I ended up being useless for another 3 whole days”.

Sleep is critical to how well you function during the day, and thus during the time you actually have to be productive.

Donald Duck going to sleep

Find out for yourself...

We hope that you enjoyed this blog and found the tips useful. Did you recognize some of these subjects in our own experience during your university? Please let us know in the comment section below and inspire upcoming students. 😀

70 views0 comments



Don't forget it, subscribe

Thanks for subscribing!