Copenhagen: youths clad in the latest black and white trends, effortlessly riding through the blistering Northern Hemispheran winter weather (and, sans helmet requirement, hair streaming through the air like Pocahontas singing Colours of the Wind); hipster cafes dressed in a nomad-bohemian chic that gives Braddon a run for its money, occupied by domestic students spending the government stipend given by virtue of their attendance at university; and where noble architecture, embodying centuries of a rich and turbulent past, is effortlessly married with ultra-vogue Scandinavian design (infinitely more complex than your local IKEA).
In that sense, aside from the weather and the prices, akin to what an ideal city would look like on the surface. You can reinvent yourself, surpassing even a post-high school reinvention at ANU. You have an entirely new culture to explore, a new society and pace of life to adopt, and an entirely new city to unashamedly meet through the medium of online dating. You’re learning exciting new subjects – completely removed from what’s perhaps practically necessary back home, but fascinating nonetheless. And all while being surrounded by like-minded people who, together, create an intoxicating brew composed of world-views and life-experiences spanning the globe, sprinkled with an assortment of zesty, well-rehearsed opinions on the American election and the Brexit vote. Unified through a fascination of different accents, edgy television serials and questionable cooking, you and your friends know that each adventure out the door is going to be an exciting, surreal experience.
But if you’re living off campus in accommodation separate from the university, you’re well and truly living by yourself – any sense of familiarity is hundreds (perhaps thousands) of kilometres away. You realise that there’s nothing but the group of people you actively network with to prevent you from falling into the bureaucratic throes of the Danish government. That you miss the chaotic buzz of a unified university campus; of a space where people, passionate about some issue or some hobby, can congregate; of the familiar spots to shelter within the comfort of the university bubble. In living off campus it becomes apparent that you need to prepare and exert yourself every day to meet the barrage of experiences and challenges presented by the city of Copenhagen. Soon enough, you reach an exhaustive sensory overload – much like the numerous kebab stores too generous with their onion servings, the lingering acridity decidedly taxing on your taste buds as you go about the rest of your day. You realise that your acquaintance isn’t going to be closely tied with the university, and that getting to know Copenhagen isn’t going to be like the tumultuous, tragi-comedic political drama of first year college life at ANU.
Rather than sinking back into your apartment and binge-watching YouTube videos, embrace the city with open arms as the ‘real world’ outside of the insular university bubble. A chance to move past sticky backpacker-student bars and into the glow of a candlelit cocktail bar where sitting down and conversing in good company won’t involve a shouting competition with a monotonous remix of a top-40 release. A relationship formed by slowly realising the best cafes, the best parks, the best shops; the place for the best kebabs after a night out. And by increasing your network formed within Copenhagen to which you can call on good company, you realise that you and the city are no longer complete strangers.
According to the European Candle Association, Danes burn more candles per head than anywhere in Europe. It’s the gentle glow of the twirling flame figure following you from the café to the bar to your desk (and occasionally morphing into a laser beam or two whilst having a boogie on the d-floor) that reinvigorates an ardour to explore new ideas, opportunities, thoughts and challenges. At least, enough for this previously jaded fourth-year law student to venture outside, weather the chilled coolness of the Scandinavian countenance and welcome, with warm embrace, Copenhagen as an amiable friend.