Living with Local Students While Studying Abroad
This is part five of my summer study abroad series! Follow along this summer as I post about my travels in Sweden and Denmark while I study in Stockholm and Copenhagen through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS).
If you know anything at all about student culture in Europe, you probably know that it’s different from what we have in the U.S. Before I came to Sweden and Denmark, most of what I knew about being a university student in either country is what one of my Danish classmates told me. Still, since she was completing her undergraduate degree at Columbia’s School of General Studies, I’d never actually spoken to a Danish or Swedish university student.
Luckily for me, DIS placed me in a studentboende (student housing) for my time in Stockholm, which meant I was living with local students as well as other students studying through DIS. Many study abroad programs have the same or similar options. Homestay is somewhat similar, since you’re also living with local residents, but at a studentboende, all the other residents in your building are other university students. This kind of housing option is particularly great if you’re doing a program where your classmates are all American students: it gives you the opportunity to interact with local residents your own age in a more casual and prolonged setting.
In Sweden, student housing we most associate with going to college/university (on-campus dorms) is hard to come by for most university students. What Swedish students have instead is apartment buildings with apartments rented exclusively by university students. These apartments vary in accommodations, just like the dorms at Barnard. At the studentboende where I stayed, I had a double room with a bathroom shared between my roommate and I, as well as a kitchen shared with other students living on the same floor. DIS provided cooking utensils and appliances (there was even a waffle-maker and panini press) and we could use the designated “common” cooking supplies so we didn’t have to worry about buying them in Sweden.
The studentboende where I stayed was in Årsta, a neighborhood in southern Stockholm about ten or fifteen minutes by metro from central Stockholm. It was definitely more suburban than I’m used to--we were surrounded by trees and the closest metro station was three quarters of a mile away--but it was also a beautiful change of pace from central Stockholm and my life in New York at Barnard.
Three weeks later when I was just starting to get used to silence at night, I switched cities and began my second session in Copenhagen. In Copenhagen, I’m living in DIS housing very close to the heart of the city. However, even though all my hallmates are other students studying through DIS, we are still living in a building that is part of Copenhagen University. In many ways, this housing option feels a lot more like a traditional dorm setup: the dorm has a bathroom and kitchen shared with others living down the hall from me and people who are all more or less doing the same thing, as opposed to a group of residents who might move in and out throughout the school year, or students who study full time and others who study while working, etc.
If you study abroad, you can (mostly) decide for yourself what kind of housing you prefer, since most programs offer choices between program housing, local student housing, or homestays. Wherever you end up, you’ll definitely be in for a change of pace and learn a lot from the people surrounding you!