How to be Alone in Copenhagen

Back in the states, I considered myself to be pretty settled into college life; close friends were always around and I finally knew the city of San Luis Obispo like the back of my hand. Right before I came to Copenhagen, I realized that it wasn’t very often I got to spend time alone. Like… truly alone, as I was back when I first started college, when I didn’t know the area nor a single person around me. 

I had gotten to know this small college town so well that it became a challenge to go somewhere without running into someone. I lived with three roommates, who I saw and hung out with everyday. The decision to study abroad, I knew, was going to disrupt the comfortable world I’d built for myself. It was always something I wanted to do, despite the nerves I had at the idea of traveling abroad on my own. 

I wanted to write this for those who might be considering coming to Copenhagen alone, and those who might be worried about it; especially if, like me, you’re not used to spending too much time alone. I’m here to tell you why you shouldn’t be afraid, and why coming here alone has been the most rewarding experience of my life so far. Of course there are times when I get lonely, when the time zone doesn’t permit me to wake my friends in California at 4 am to talk. But there is so much good to come from learning to enjoy your own company, and I wanted to share a few of the ways I’ve learned to do this in Copenhagen.

  1. Get a bike. I think that getting a bike was the single most important thing I did to start enjoying my independence abroad! The freedom of being able to bike around Copenhagen is incredible. If you don’t think you’re a cycler, I would still urge you to try out biking in the world’s most bike-friendly city. It’s an incredibly easy way to get around by yourself in Copenhagen. Living on Amager, I have really enjoyed biking south to the beach, or up through Christanshavn and even north of DIS up to Nørrebro. Having a bike has allowed me to explore so much on my own, not to mention it’s a great way to go on a thrifting tour through Copenhagen. You can often find me heading home with my basket full of vintage finds. 
  1. Journal. Being alone is uncomfortable, especially in a foreign city. I’m able to work through my ever-changing mental state by keeping a journal while abroad, and I’m so glad I now have those entries to look back on. If you’re not the type to write a daily entry, know that words are optional. Buy a glue stick and scissors and save every piece of paper you come across: ticket stubs, receipts, brochures, stickers, everything! Collaging has been a fantastic way to document my experiences here and is a great way to get out of a creative block. 
Take this journal snippet, where I was expressing my feelings about availability of ketchup in Copenhagen. (If you’re a ketchup lover, don’t worry, it’s out there. My roommate and I keep an emergency bottle from Netto in the fridge.)
  1. Take yourself out. One of my favorite solo activities has been to try new cafes and bring my book or journal along. I’m currently writing this from Den Lille Gule, or The Little Yellow Coffee Bar, one of my new favorite spots by DIS. If you have my energy levels on the weekend, you might find yourself thinking, “but it would be so much easier to just stay in my room and read!” Trust me though, the change in environment makes all the difference if you find yourself starting to feel lonely or aimless while abroad. The city has such great energy and it always boosts my mood to get out of my place, even when I don’t feel like I have a reason to. Strapped for cash on a nice day? There are so many beautiful parks and outdoor spaces in Copenhagen. Sit by the water in Nyhavn, listen to the man playing the accordion and watch the boats go by. Another great spot by DIS to just chill at is Studenterhuset. With the member discount, they have the cheapest coffee I’ve been able to find in Copenhagen (just show your student ID), their courtyard is also so cozy. 

Sitting by the canal and reading was super nice on a sunny day.
  1. Do something scary. By scary, I mean do something that would normally intimidate you to do on your own. A few months ago, I would have cringed at the idea of going to see a movie by myself. On one of my first rainy days in Copenhagen, I challenged myself to do just that, and it was such a therapeutic experience. I thought I was going to feel so awkward, but it was just what I needed. Movies aside, there are so many cool spots for solo exploration in Copenhagen; if you’re into architecture and design, I would definitely recommend Designmuseum Denmark as a must-see. I’ve found that activities like this are actually really fun to do by yourself, since you can move through the museum at your own pace. It’s a great way to challenge yourself to spend time alone, and you can really think deeply about the film or the art you’re viewing.

Grand Teatret is a great theater right across the street from Den Lille Gulle. They also have a really cute cafe inside!
  1. Don’t isolate yourself. Spending time alone is great, but that doesn’t mean you should put aside the opportunity to meet new people. I found that during my first week at DIS, a lot of students I met had come with others from their home university and weren’t alone here like I was. At first, that caused me to question my decision, wondering if there was some friend from back home I should have convinced to come with me. Don’t let the initial discomfort of being alone discourage you! Just because a lot of people come to DIS with friends from home doesn’t mean they are going to be closed off from meeting new people. However, coming on my own encouraged me to get out of my shell in a way I never had before. I can attest to the fact that being here on your own is such a unique experience, one that becomes totally your own to share when you get back.
Walking through Christianshavn with friends. 🙂

My time in Copenhagen has changed my perspective on solitude. I have really enjoyed spending time with myself in this city and feel that I have been able to closely follow my own personal growth. If you find yourself at all worried about going abroad on your own, I hope I was able to convince you that you won’t regret the decision. At least, I definitely didn’t. 🙂

Study Abroad This Summer with DIS:

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