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Review: Borchs — a well behaved dorm for well-to-do students

Dorms Disclosed — Borchs Kollegium is an immaculately maintained building, which has retained its original style. And with a 330-year history, there are plenty of traditions to keep alive.

»I am sorry it smells a bit like Brasso in this hallway. The brass has just been polished,« says Christian Bro, referring to a distinguished set of double doors that separate the entrance hall from a white staircase.

SEE THE FULL ‘DORMS DISCLOSED’ UNIVERSITY POST SERIES: Reviews by student residents of dorms and residence halls in Copenhagen

BORCHS

Address: St. Kannikestræde2,
1169 Copenhagen K

borchen.dk//

Monthly rent: DKK 1662

Average age: About 26 years old.

Application process: send an A4 page about yourself and why you would like to live there. It is a requirement that you have passed 90 ECTS, and are enrolled at the University of Copenhagen, at HUM, SCIENCE, SUND or TEO. If you study at SAMF and JUR, you cannot apply to Borchs. And it’s a plus if attended Ribe cathedral school, like the founder Ole Borchs did.

Although Borchs is a dorm that houses 19 young people, the architecture is reminiscent of a large villa that could be found in the wealthy neighbourhoods to the north of Copenhagen.

An orderly, law-abiding dorm

»Funny enough, when I moved in, several people came from the north of Copenhagen. Generally speaking, everyone comes from a wealthy background. All the resident are students at the University of Copenhagen. Everything is very orderly. The worst I think people do is ride their bikes through red lights, if they are feeling a bit crazy,« says Christian Bro, who can call himself an old hand because he has lived in the dorm longer than any of the other current residents.

The dorm’s newest resident, Steffen Vestergaard Andersen, who is a good friend of Christian Bro’s, nuances the picture a bit.

An eclectic mix of crockery, if not students

»The residents here range from those who vote for the right-wing parties to those who vote for the extreme left-wing. There are people studying theology, biology, physics, mathematics, the various language subjects, the humanities, and so on.
The best way to visualise the diversity is to look at our crockery cupboard. You can see an eclectic mix of glasses and plates in there,« says Steffen Vestergaard Andersen, who has been a visitor at the dorm for several years and moved in as a true Borch resident in February.

»But then again, Steffen and I might be sitting here in linen shirts, while in the next room, there is someone with a dishevelled…« he hesitates for a moment to find the right word, then decides on »ponytail.«

»But, having said that, we have to admit that there is not that much diversity,« says Christian Bro.

Dorms disclosed

There are loads of dormitories, kollegiums, and student residences in Copenhagen, yet most of the information available is in Danish.

Some are small, old houses with pretty gardens, others are giant concrete buildings with tiny windows.

This is a review by a student reporter. But in the Dorms Disclosed series, it is the residents themselves that review the dorms that they live in.

Here is an overview with links to all of the dormitory and student accommodation reviews we have published so far, written by the people who know them the best.

If you want to write an English-language review of your dorm write to uni-avis@adm.ku.dk with ‘Dorms Disclosed’ in the subject header.

The old boy’s club of Copenhagen dorms

A strong bond binds Copenhagen’s four oldest colleges, Valkendorf (anno 1589), Regensen (anno 1623), Elers (anno 1691) and Borchs (anno 1691), say Christian Bro and Steffen Vestergaard Andersen. The four old dorms are all members of Kollegiesamvirket, a network of dorms, which is abbreviated to KS in everyday speech.

The story of Borchs is rarely told without a comparison to one of the other three historical dorms. For example, not more than a minute had passed after the University Post had stepped into »Borchen« or »Borchingham Palace,« as the dorm is called, before Regensen was mentioned.

»This is the best,« says Christian Bro, his arms signalling the grandeur of the College.

»And I don’t want to tell you what we sing about Regensen. But they are not nice words. Having said that, we also stick together.«

The polite pupil in class

Christian Bro and Steffen Vestergaard Andersen are experts when it comes to details about the historical Copenhagen dorms. They speak about the four colleges and tell anecdotes as though they were old friends from private school. Copenhagen’s other dorms would be students of municipal schools in this metaphor.

At this hypothetical private school, Regensen is the hyperactive student full of good ideas and drive, Valkendorf is the cool student in the class, Elers is the nerdy and well-read student, while Borchs is the polite and talented one.

They speak harshly about the other colleges. However, a certain ironic distance in their tone suggests that it is meant affectionately. The friendly rivalries between the dorms have existed for decades, and one tradition in particular is characteristic of the four old dorms.

»We steal from each other,« says Christian Bro.

Steffen Vestergaard Andersen recounts, among many other tall tales, how Regensen, because of their large number of residents, »are lively and have a strong constitution. So while the all the Borch dorm residents were sleeping like babies – or at least sleeping off the booze after a KS party – the Regensen residents sneaked in and stole all the toilet doors.«

They placed the stolen goods in Regensen’s yard, and it took quite a while for the Borch residents to fetch their doors.

image: Rasmus Buhl Kristensen for Uniavisen

Breakfast and hand washing at the Constituent Assembly

Internally at the dorm, it is more peaceful, according to what we are told. Like in many other dorms, there are food clubs in the evening with cooking duties rotating among all the residents, and at Borchs it is customary to eat breakfast together.

Such traditions bind the residents together. That and the fact that they all have »a great shared interest in living together in the best possible way,« says Steffen Vestergaard Andersen.

The kitchen is the room in the dorm that most resembles a home from the 2020s. Here, neoclassical uniformity gives way to wooden cabinet doors, posters on the walls, magnets on the fridge – and, of course, mismatched crockery in the cupboards.

This is where the food clubs prepare their meals, »and The Constituent Assembly is right there, where I wash my hands,« says Christian Bro, pointing to a picture hanging above the kitchen sink, which shows men in black suits standing in a huddle looking into the distance.

Bookshelves and barrister’s wigs

All 19 residents eat together in the room the residents call Theca. A narrow room with dark green walls and heavy bookshelves, the largest of which only contains publications by former Borch residents. The exception is the Bible, which is also there.

This is where the dorm’s house meetings are held. And the Meetings of Officials, as they are called, are typically very long, with votes and debates on every agenda item. Participants also sing songs from the dorm’s own songbook at meetings.

»One of the things I pay attention to – and maybe it’s just me – is whether newcomers dare to sing along to the songs, even if they don’t quite know the lyrics. Do they dare to go outside of their comfort zone and make a sacrifice for the dorm?« asks Steffen Vestergaard Andersen rhetorically.

»It sounds a bit dramatic use the word »sacrifice,« but that is what you do. When you are at Officials’ Meetings, you might wish you were at a bar with your friends rather than going through the dorm’s accounts. But you make that sacrifice to attend the meeting nonetheless. Because it’s part of living here,« he explains.

Christian Bro adds that if your excuse for not coming to the meeting is your mother’s birthday, then it should at least be a round-number birthday.

Paintings of the old dorm founders and in particular Ole Borchs, the main founder of the college, adorn the room. Several of the founders are from the days of barristers’ wigs, so the dorm meetings are overseen by figures who resemble judges from an English courtroom.

Pig or Borch resident?

One structure of the dorm that has been preserved from its early day is the option of having a friend or partner stay in your room for just DKK 1,000 a month in rent. A so-called »pig«. The two friends tell us two stories about why a roommate is called a pig.

»One story is that every resident who lived here in the old days was entitled to a pig. So that they could slaughter it for food. But when that went out of fashion and we got Netto, the rule changed to being allowed a pig in your room,« says Steffen Vestergaard Andersen.

»And that’s the funny story. The other is that the name might come from [the Danish word for freeloader, ed] gratist,« says Christian Bro.

Should you wish to become a new pig or Borch resident, you can sign up for the Borch newsletter. This will let you know when a room becomes available.

You can stay in the dorm for a maximum of five years. And Christian would like to stay there longer.

[This is a review by a student reporter. But in the Dorms Disclosed series, it is the residents themselves that review the dorms that they live in. Here is an overview with links to all of the dormitory and student accommodation reviews we have published so far.]

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