Destination 1: Moving to Copenhagen and starting the PhD

All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.”
Written by Earl Nightingale

If my first destination was to move to Copenhagen and start my PhD here, destination zero was definitely being hired in the first place. I applied for this PhD in June 2016, with hope, but no expectations. As you can guess, it was quite a shock when it turned out that I got it and was going to emigrate before the end of the year. Truthfully, I had never even been to Denmark, I didn’t know a lot (close to nothing really) about the country and I was still in the process of finishing my Master’s thesis. So my second response to this great news (in the first place I was obviously super happy) was; now what?

The University of Copenhagen gave an answer to this question quite quickly. After about a week I got approximately four emails with different lists of what you’re supposed to do when you are moving to Denmark to live and work here. There are the six main hoops, besides smaller arrangements you have to make, you have to jump through when you are an EU citizen. Honestly, I don’t even want to guess how elaborate and challenging the process is for non-EU citizens.

  1. Acquaint yourself with the registration process in Denmark. This in itself is a frustrating process. Before you have your employment contract and are actually physically present in Denmark, there is not a lot you can do yet, besides preparation.

  2. Finding housing and getting here. This may sound easy, but I can assure you that it is not. There is a severe shortage of houses in Copenhagen and, in addition, your ‘life’ in Denmark depends on being able to register for a CPR (civil personal registration) number at your new address. It is therefore important to find a house where you can legally reside as soon as possible!

  3. Getting an EU certificate at the state administration. This EU certificate states that you are allowed to live and work in Denmark and is mainly used to obtain a CPR.

  4. Registering for the CPR number. A CPR number gives you access to healthcare, setting up a bank account, registering with the tax authorities and getting a traveling card, amongst other things. This step is, therefore, quite crucial.

  5. Registering with the tax authorities. When you do, they assign you to a general practitioner (GP) as well.

  6. Setting up a bank account. Besides needing a bank account for obvious reasons, you need to have a one to get a NemID. NemID is used for online banking and access to online public services. In order to make optimal use of your NemID, it is also important to get a Danish phone number.

So, after you have successfully gone through all these steps, the pearly gates open and you can officially start your life as a resident in Denmark. I moved to Denmark at the end of November 2016 and it took me until 13 January 2017 to get all these ducks in a row. Yes, there were moments of despair where I felt very discouraged, but once you have it all set up it is worth it!

In the meantime, I actually started my PhD on 1 December. This was just in time for my department’s Christmas lunch, which was on 2 December. It proved to be an interesting occasion for anyone interested in different cultures and a rather rough introduction to Danish drinking culture. I will forever associate the concept of drinking (a lot of) snaps at 14:00 in the afternoon (or, as I found out later, just drinking snaps in general) with my first Danish Christmas- and office party. At the same time, I found out, during this party and after, that Danes are incredibly nice and beautiful people who, contrary to the Dutch, are surprisingly relaxed for a Western culture. Even though it was winter, my colleagues at the department and Danish people in general, have been incredibly warm and welcoming and I will always be very grateful for that.

Whilst I’m writing this blog post, I can’t believe that this Christmas party was three months ago. Time has gone so fast, which I believe is a good sign, and a lot has happened since. I have written my final PhD proposal, started this website, had my start-up seminar where I presented my PhD proposal to my own department and followed two PhD courses, one on Responsible Conduct of Research and an Introduction to University Pedagogy. Though these are both interesting and important topics, I particularly enjoyed this last course. I have been dreading having to teach from the moment I heard that it was part of my PhD. This course has completely changed my mind about this. I am looking forward to teaching more classes and getting students activated and as enthusiastic about anthropology, global development and research as much as I am.

However, for now, my next destination is Aarhus University where I will be staying this month for what is called ‘a change of scientific environment’; a mandatory and incredibly exciting part of the PhD. Photos and stories will follow, including a bit more information about my research project and fieldwork preparation.

If you are reading this and have questions, because you will be moving to Copenhagen for your PhD, Postdoc or any other research position at the University here, visit the website of the International Staff Mobility and/or send me an email. I’d be happy to share my experience.