Category Archives: Danish life

The top 10 applications for exchange students

Being students means to have to handle many things and all different: it is necessary to coordinate studying and amusing and being able to do it in a simple and fast way. This is especially true when you are abroad and there are more things to do than usual.

As you know I spent January in Aabenraa in order to learn a bit of Danish, and now I attend the university in Lyngby. In these two months I have been able to observe some tools that are used by my peers, as well as to talk and exchange tips about that.

I noticed that virtually all of us use more or less the same programs for our students’ routine because the laptop is a fundamental component not only for studying, but also for communicating. What matters most is that most of my friends don’t study IT, so I saw with my eyes the “normal” use of the computer as a tool and I decided to write this list of 10 applications.

As you will see, they are almost all web 2.0 services, for productivity or communication. The list is a “mix” between what I have seen to be used by everybody and some tools that I use and I would like to suggest. Put these 10 programs and services in your virtual luggage and you will be perfect exchange students. 😉

The common aspect of all the points in the list is only one: convenience. The average student does not have much time to waste, doesn’t need super-advanced features, wants to manage everything with a few clicks. For sure you already know some of the things I will list, but I would like to know why and for what we use them.

1. Ubuntu

ubuntuIt’s true, I start immediately with something that not everyone uses, but in my opinion it’s a pity. 😛 Ubuntu is an operating system alternative to Windows or Mac OS X. It’s fast, free and without viruses.

I think it’s ideal for students because it’s modern interface is designed for the daily tasks that all students do: surfing the net, chatting, writing documents, creating presentations, listening to music, watching a movie. All of this in an extremely covenient way and with the possibility to install thousands of software with a click. Try it!

Official site
Guided tour

2. Google Chrome

chromeThere are some browsers that are more widespread than others, but I was surprised to see that 90% of the students I have met use Google Chrome. It’s a quite high percentage!

I have always used Firefox, but I tried to think why Chrome is so common. Finally I understood that it’s because of its convenience. The fact that Firefox is more powerful and extendable for specialized tasks is not important, what matters to many is just that the browser loads quickly.

The fact of having an integrated PDF reader is another advantage. Personally I started to use Chromium because it is its open source version, but now I have installed Chrome for its PDF support and the flash player that works a bit better.

Official site

3. Dropbox

dropboxThis web service gives 2 GB of free space in the cloud, that can be easily extended by inviting friends to join. You can have access to your files safely using the web interface and automatically synchronize them with the client for all operating systems and for mobile devices.

In addition to synchronization, it also gives you the automatic backup of files up to 30 days before: if you delete or edit a document by accident, recovery is just a click away! Also, the sharing features are very useful. The best thing to do is simply creating a University folder in Dropbox and saving everything in it.

Official site

4. Evernote and Clearly

evernoteIt’s difficult to exactly define Evernote. It isn’t only a website in which you can write notes, but it also includes a client software for Windows and Mac (under Linux I use the web interface and I am fine), apps for phones and tablets and extensions for the browser. Notes can be divided in notebooks — for instance one for your documents and one for every class you follow — and labeled with tags.

The real potential of Evernote shows up when you use it along with the two official browser extensions. The first is called Web Clipper and allows you to “clip” a part of a webpage and save it with one click inside Evernote, when it immediately becomes indexed and searchable.

clearlyThe second extension is called Clearly and allows you to have a readable and distraction-free view of any articles you find online. The extension isolates the important content and eliminates all the rest, allowing also to save the page in Evernote and automatically deciding the most relevant notebook.

The Evernote extensions for Chrome work a bit better than the Firefox ones, and it’s one of the reasons for which I switched to Chromium at the beginning. I use them to save all the documents related to my Erasmus, as well as pieces of Wikipedia pages or other information that can be useful for studying. Probably I will write a more deep article and I will give you more details. 😉

1 month of Evernote Premium for free
Web Clipper
Clearly

5. Wolfram|Alpha

wolframalphaAt first sight it may seem that this computational search engine is useful only for people studying maths, computer science or engineering. It’s true, You can perform very complicated computations with it, but that’s not all!

Wolfram|Alpha includes search functions for many other fields: statistics, geography, chemistry, music, linguistics, astronomy, earth sciences, medicine… the list of examples is very long. I have been using this site from where I was in the last years of high school and I can guarantee that it is very useful.

Official site
List of examples
Guided tour

6. DuckDuckGo

duckduckgoWhat would you think if I told you that my favorite search engine is not Google? Just so, most of the times I use DuckDuckGo, a very convenient search engine that gives a very useful feature: the instant answer.

When you search for something that can cleary be found on Wikipedia, StackExchange, Wolfram|Alpha, Twitter or many other sites, DuckDuckGo shows it to you as the first result in a highlighted box. This saves a lot of time.

Also, if you don’t like DuckDuckGo results you can simply ask to search using another service: just add a “!bang” to the search query: for example !google, or !yahoo, or !maps, or !youtube, or… well, you got it. 😛

Official site
Introduction video
List of !bang shortcuts

7. Facebook

facebookSome love Facebook, others hate it. Many use it to “waste time” between games and funny pictures. The reality is that this social network reveals its real usefulness when you are abroad, I noticed especially after the Danish course.

Facebook is fundamental for keeping in touch with friends in your country and the “colleagues” that then spend the Erasmus in other cities. By living abroad you will end using Facebook for silly things (if you are already members) and you will start to use it for what it was designed: communicating, staying updated about events and handling your network of friends.

Official site

8. Skype

skypeOf course going abroad means keeping in touch with people in your own country. There are many VoIP services, but Skype is for sure the most famous of all. It allows you to perform free chats, calls and videocalls through the Internet using a computer or smartphone.

In addition to this, if you are in need, it gives a low cost call service to landlines and mobile phones. Ironically from when it has been bought by Microsoft it has had a more updated Linux version, not bad!

Official site

9. Spotify

spotifyGiven that it recently launched also in Italy, I think it’s the best moment to talk about it! Spotify is a music application that combines social features with a huge songs library. The best thing is that by using the program and an Internet connection you can listen to millions of tracks for free.

There are some limitations on how much monthly hours you can use and some advertisements, but they absolutely don’t give hassle and you can exactly choose which songs to play, skipping from one point to another in any moment. if you are in one of the 24 countries where it is available, try it and you will not regret!

Official site

10. Rejseplanen

rejseplanenThis application is dedicated to those living in Denmark, but I am sure that there exist some similar in many countries. In general, you should search a service that allows you to search the trains and buses you need in the country where you study.

Rejseplanen allows to set two arbitrary addresses of departure and destination and shows some suggested connections, with the possibility to see the tariff zones in which Copenhagen is divided. If you don’t live in Denmark you can try the site and the application of the German railways, containing the routes of all Europe.

Official site
DB Bahn (trains across all Europe)

Conclusion

It’s obvious that everyone chooses and uses the tools that he/she likes most, but I tried to write a generic list including applications and web services that can be useful to the majority of exchange students. What other tools do you suggest? Write them in the comments. 😉

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Report of a week of lessons

My first “real” week with the lessons ended recently. I’m not as good as Nanouk or Tana so I don’t keep track of what I do day by day, but I want to tell you a bit how the lessons and all the rest went.

Let’s start from the academic side: I had to change some classes immediately, in particular I removed Mobile application prototyping because there is a 40 places limit and the priority goes to full-time students. I added Social data modeling and Computer vision instead. Officially I sent the request for the changes today, but I have already started to attend the lessons. At the end my courses are these:

  • Error-correcting codes — Maybe the most mathematical class of all. The teacher explains very well and it’s interesting. I will have to review linear algebra a bit but at least it’s a topic that I have already met a bit in high school.
  • Optimization using metaheuristics — It’s a more exciting side of operations research. It’s taught for management courses but in my opinion it’s more oriented towards people studying computer science and knowing programming. The lessons are clear, the activity in the lab a bit less sometimes, but I like it.
  • Social data modeling — The most practical course of all. There is little theory but a lot of experimental work with Python and the APIs of some web services. Not bad at all!
  • Computer science modelling — It’s more or less the equivalent of the formal languages part that I studied in Venice. Even if the topics are not new I have the impression that the lessons are very fast paced, maybe a bit too much. But perhaps it’s only the first impact.
  • Computer vision — For this I will have to learn how to use Matlab and review linear algebra but it’s a class of a not very high level, so I shouldn’t have much problems.

In any case I think it’s normal to have some doubts when you start with new subjects. It’s a matter of time. 😉

From the “practical life” point of view, after a complicated beginning, we managed to buy step by step all we need to eat with variety, as well as some snacks and drinks. We got the laundry card (fundamental!) and I’m getting used to the public transport here in Copenhagen. today I got my residence permit and in the next day I will go to ask for the CPR.

The little mermaid: despite being surrounded by people she is staring into space, like as in the deep of the heart she is missing something
The little mermaid: despite being surrounded by people she is staring into space, like as in the deep of the heart she was missing something

Regarding the social aspect, I didn’t manage to know danish students, but I know that it’s difficult. 😛 However I met other international students with whom I will be able to make groups for the various classes.

Then yesterday it was a fantastic day! 🙂 For the first time I went to visit the city center, joining a tour organized by ESN Copenhagen. but the most important thing has been telling Henrik, Sergio and Johanna: the same morning they decided to come and so we could met after about 10 days!

It made me feel good, like it makes me feel good keeping in touch with almost everybody. 😉 I often chat with Tana (who turned out to be a great friend), but in different occasions also with Henrik and Sergio, sometimes with Johanna, Eva, Justina, Bettina, Wojtek and sporadically with the rest of the group, because I miss them all!

In the next weekends I should meet again Róisín, Bettina, Tana and some others. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to it! 😀

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New life

It had to happen. It would have been useless to think the opposite and probably it wouldn’t have helped: the EILC ended on the 30 of January and with it my experience in Aabenraa.

I believed I was perfectly ready for the new chapter — the real Erasmus — but I felt the initial shock. It may seem stupid but I found myself to cry, in particular on friday evening, and I don’t know if it is only for the first impact or also because I miss the people of the group. But I suspect it’s the second one because I was ironing the T-shirt with the signatures of everybody in order to make them permanent and if I wasn’t careful to stop I would have burned it for how much I desire them to remain.

Now it’s a bit better.

The trip was a bit messy. On the morning on the 31st I woke up and had the last breakfast with Henrik, Johanna and Sergio for saying goodbye. They were kind enough to come with me to the bus stop so I didn’t get lost and it was easier to bring the luggage.

After confusedly talking with the bus driver, I managed to get to my stop. At that point I lost more than 10 minutes trying to find my aparment at the Tåsingegade Kollegiet. I was keeping SMS contact with my roommate who was waiting me for going to the DTU in order to apply for the residence permit.

His name is Piotr, and tough I was epically late, he was very kind and let me leave my bags. Thanks to the fact that he already knew how to move around it was easy to get to the DTU. I’m happy to have him as a roomie.

For lunch I tried the internal kantine and I liked the presence of different kinds of food. The first lunch was a wok! Then I picked up my linen bag and in the evening I went to my buddy’s house while having to carry that very heavy burden. This trip was long, too, but the evening was pleasing.

The next day there were three presentations and the most important thing: Piotr and I went to the grocery store given that we were without food. In the evening we had dinner at the university with all the international students.

The apartment is big and not bad, even if the toilet is not the best: currently without light and with a “shower” which is a bit incomplete. Also there is no electrical outlet inside. However I think that the worst thing has been suddendly finding myself in a completely “empty” place and having to manage everything.

Now that we went to the stores three times, a bit of stuff at a time, I feel better. I believe that also putting the clothes on the shelfs and sleeping in the room a couple of times helped. Yesterday we have also experimented the tradition of having dinner all together in the common room.

It’s a bit uncomfortable for the timing and because there are all different sorts of chairs and tables, but I think it’s a fantastic idea for the “social” aspect: I like it!

In these complicated days up to now I’ve took very few photos and up here I have put only three. From these five months I expect to be able to take a lot more and to live many news experiences. But I don’t forget what it was before and I’m looking forward to meet again the EILC friends. 😉

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Shopping in Denmark

My friend Mattia moved to Denmark with his family and he currently writes a blog (in Italian) in which he published an example of the cost of some products at the supermarket. He wrote all the prices in Danish Kroner, but it’s straightforward to do the conversion. I suggest you read it, it’s worth it. 😉

Good, I found the time to keep you updated on some Danish curiosities, and given that many of you are curious to understand and see how much it costs to do some shopping here, I show you something so you can calm down and put away the blood pressure equipment.

via Mattia Musiello – Vivere in Danimarca: Fare la Spesa in Danimarca.

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