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Dorms Disclosed: Otto Mønsteds Kollegiet

Are the residents children or grown-up's? This weeks reviewer is not sure, but living at Otto Mønsteds Kollegiet sure sounds like a lot of fun

On the border of Vesterbro and Valby overlooking Copenhagen is a ten story tall zigzag-shaped building called Otto Mønsteds Kollegium. Known as the OMK by its residents, the building houses 300 students who are all struggling to balance their academic obligations with the temptations that life in the dormitory offers.

Life on the ten floors

Life at OMK is different whether you are so lucky as to live on the tenth floor, “the penthouse”, or on the first floor. On the tenth floor, you sip your morning coffee with the view of Copenhagen’s towers and green rusted roofs, and on New Year’s Eve, the kitchen is invaded by envious residents from the lower floors who make the journey up the stairs to see the fireworks.

On the first floor, however, the view that goes with the morning coffee is quite different. On the weekends, you can enjoy the sight of hungover guests who struggle to remember where they parked their bicycles the previous night, which makes for a rather entertaining pastime Saturday morning.

Cramped for space

Regardless of what floor you live on, the student rooms are the same. There are two corridors on each floor, East and West, and in each corridor 15 people share a kitchen.

When living at OMK you almost inevitably become an expert in simple living. Your bedroom is simultaneously your living room and your study, and you cannot own more furniture than can be crammed into 12 m2. Sounds tempting? Well, actually it is not half bad. Every room is 16 m2 including a tiny hall with a fitted closet and a bathroom. The room also has a small French window which makes the, admittedly, small rooms seem bright and rather spacious for 12 m2. The kitchens are not impressively big either, but just big enough to seat all 15 people who share the kitchen at once.

Being 15 people sharing a kitchen requires a certain level of organisation, and though space can be tight in at times, we make it work. There are dining clubs several days a week, where we take turns cooking for each other, and in the summer time, the barbecue in the garden behind the building is a popular alternative to the kitchens.

A family feeling

Sharing a kitchen is more than just a matter of organisation. The kitchen is also the spot for late night kitchen parties when the disco ball is turned on, the floor is transformed to a dance floor, and the French window serves as the smokers’ corner.

Or it is the place where you hang out in the afternoon, when you do not want to sit in your room and study or in the evening for an hour of board games. In the morning, people try to wake up sharing the newspaper and listening to the radio, and when it is somebody’s birthday, the two neighbors make a splendid breakfast for everyone.

The kitchen is more than just a kitchen, and the people you share it with are more than just your hall mates. Living together so closely fosters a feeling of community and you can end up feeling more like one big family than like roommates.

Something for everyone

What the dormitory lacks in square meters is made up for in other facilities. The most important common area is the bar, Ottos Trøst (Otto’s Comfort). The bar is open every Friday and a draught beer is DKK 20 – it is a perfect place to bring your friends or to head down after a dinner in the kitchen.

The bar has a stage which has often been the scene of OMK’s very own band, Husorkesteret (the House Orchestra), which fills the dance floor with popular cover songs. Every spring, the bar hosts the Otto Festival, a festival that stretches over a weekend, where many different bands come to play and where residents from all the kitchens have the chance to tend the bar. The bar is also the scene for the big parties that are held every three months or so, and for showings of big sports events such as the Champion League’s final.

Other popular facilities are the reading room which is divided into a serious quiet zone and a homier, more relaxed living room which has recently been redecorated by three residents; a small gym in the basement; and the home cinema where you can go and watch a DVD on the big screen. We also have a living room with a piano, a sauna, guestrooms, rooms for group work, a laundry room and a bicycle workshop. And then there are of course the mandatory table football and table tennis.

Adults or children?

Being a resident of OMK myself, I sometimes wonder if we are all just a bunch of kids pretending that we have grown up just enough to live away from home. We like to play games, cut loose and be silly. Twice a year every kitchen has what we call “Gangcrawl” which is a tour down the corridor with a stop in each room, where the resident has prepared a theme, a drink and a game. The idea is that nothing is too silly for a “gangcrawl”, and this idea is truly explored.

And at the big parties, tradition is that the party starts with a battle in some silly game between East and West on each floor. The latest example form the Western-themed spring party was a joust in piggyback riding and beer lassoing.

The loose and silly atmosphere is not limited to party-time only. You will often find people playing cubb or croquet in the garden, being absorbed in an intense game of table football or shouting silly things at each other out the kitchen windows. All in all, I think we just like to have fun. And those who are into having fun and exercising at the same time can join the football teams or the badminton club.

The Outside World

When your neighbors guitar playing becomes too loud, or the confinement of the kitchen too claustrophobic, it might be time to take a step outside the bubble of the dormitory life. At OMK, we are lucky to have Vesterbro right around the corner. A stroll down Sønderboulevard, and you are guaranteed to return home in good spirits, and if you crave some nature, Søndermarken is a ten minute walk away.

At OMK we like to invite the outside world into our little bubble as well. To get in, you have to be on the waiting list for about a year and students from all universities and faculties and from the professional bachelor degree programs are welcome. Therefore, the residents of OMK are a diverse crowd, though mainly Danish students. Maybe the next new resident will be you…

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