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Review: Elers’ Kollegium — a historical oasis in the centre of Copenhagen

Dorms Disclosed — Elers' Kollegium is stacked with oil paintings of grey-haired men and dusty books with Latin titles. But between all this old stuff, a handful of happy residents cherish their lives within a strong community with traditions.

It’s hard not to be a bit bedazzled by the Elers’ residence hall on Store Kannikestræde street in central Copenhagen. It is a cliché to say that a place reeks of history. This can be true for only a few places, and this is one of them. The first thing you meet is an entrance hall with an old wooden staircase in subtle red and grey colours that winds up through the building in an almost medieval fashion. An old photo of Queen Margrethe II hangs on the wall.

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

»The reason the residence hall was founded is actually quite peculiar,« says one of the Inspector Collegi Anna Christine Wiisbye. She and her fellow collegiate Peter Winkel Rasmussen have the two inspector positions at the residence hall, and their role is, among other things, to be responsible for guided tours and the daily operations.

She explains that at Elers’ Kollegium various other ‘civil servants’ are responsible for different things, like the Resident Hall’s communal gardens or the parties. And she tells us the residence hall’s origin story:

FACTS

Elers’ Kollegium, www.elers.dk

Store Kannikestræde 9, 1169 Copenhagen K.

Rent: DKK 1,662 for bachelor students DKK 3,116 for PhD students

Average age: 25-26 years-old.

Application process: Application via a form on the Elers’ website. You can only apply for spaces that are posted, so keep an eye on the website. You need to have passed a minimum of two years of study within the prescribed time to apply. Several of the places are earmarked for people from selected study programmes, so it is only possible to apply if you study this. There are two free places that can be applied for by all students at UCPH. Students are given precedence if they can prove to be related to the founder Jørgen Elers or his wife Anna Margrethe Wandalls. These relatives are the only people excepted from the two-year completed studies rule.

An (almost) exclusive club

Anna Christine says that this particular story explains why you have precedence to get into the dormitory if you can prove to be related to either Jørgen Elers or his wife Anna Margrethe Wandall.

In addition, not anyone can apply for the residence hall, she says: »We have 20 places and several of them are earmarked for specific study programmes. Five of the places are for theology students.«

On the website, you can read that Jørgen Elers decided at the time to have five theology students living there, with two from history, law or political science, two medical students, one Scandinavian, Germanic, Romance languages or English student, and a natural history or geography student.

»On King Christian V’s birthday in 1689, he was celebrated with an opera, and this opera was later performed for the public. Two sons of the state councillor Jørgen Elers were present. A wick fell down from a lamp above the stage, and within no time a fire had engulfed the entire building. Because the doors opened inwards, and the crowd pressed against the doors, nobody could get out, and Elers’ sons perished in the fire. Elers and his wife founded the Elers’ dorm. Because they no longer had any children themselves, they wanted to do something good for others.«

 

The grandeur of the staircase is almost medieval.
image: Meike Sørensen
Even though many grey-haired men look down on you from the walls, there is also a lady of note.
image: Meike Sørensen

»Elers’ Kollegie is very old school in this way,« says Peter Winkel Rasmussen. »It reflects the university, as it looked in 1689, when it was founded. That’s why there are so many theology places, as theology then was the largest degree programme.«

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.

»Yes, and it’s not up to us to decide who gets in. We have two ‘denominators,’ who represent Elers’ and his wife’s family. They are the ones who receive the applications and who choose who will get in,« Anna Christine Wiisbye adds. They are both happy with admissions working this way.

»It’s great, because it’s never going to be a ‘friends of friends’ dorm. You are not going to think that you might as well not apply, because you can only be admitted if you know someone. We are a mixed bunch.«

Strong community with many traditions

The many years that the residence hall has existed has led to solid traditions and a strong sense of community. The age span among students is huge, it goes from 19 to 31 years, and people are from very different degree programmes and backgrounds.

But everyone here is focussed on their studies, according to Anna Christine Wiisbye. She adds that this is an aspect that the denominators deem important when they review applications. But the most important thing that the residents have in common is the wish to be a part of a community. »You don’t just have an address here, you have to live here,« she says.

The common room, the Lectorum, is decorated for Christmas.
image: Meike Sørensen
Traditional Christmas decorations at Elers' Kollegium.
image: Meike Sørensen
The residents of the historical residence hall don’t communicate via Facebook, but via this tome of a book. 
image: Meike Sørensen

Peter Winkel Rasmussen explains that that the residence hall has a dinner club five times a week and several parties, many of them traditional.

»We have something called a goose feast every year, where the old alåmner, or alumni turn up. And we have a carnival party and a croquet tournament,« adds Anna Christine. It is another relic of the past that alumni are named alåmne with the Danish ‘å’ at Elers’ residence hall.

Their way of communicating with each other also takes place in the period before Facebook. »We hold being very analogue as a virtue. That’s why we have this book. If you have to write something to someone at the residence hall, this is where you do it,« says Peter and displays a thick book located in the middle of the common room, Lectoriet.

Garden sauna and dining under open skies

We walk through the residence hall, the large common room with the huge bookcase and the thick upholstered furniture, past the many rooms and a kitchen which, unlike everything else on site, looks strikingly modern.

Anna Christine and Peter hurry to explain that this is because the kitchens were renovated not so many years ago. We end up in the garden, which feels like a pocket of tranquility, even though Copenhagen’s Round Tower can be seen above the rooftops. The residents regret that they cannot show the gardens as it looks like in the summer months, with roses on the bushes, and garden furniture set forth for open air dining.

»On the other hand, we have a sauna which is incredibly popular in the winter months,« says Peter, pointing towards a tiny building at one end of the garden. »Especially at parties, in the middle of the night, it’s not uncommon for it to be turned on.«

He has been a resident for almost six years. He has both lived here as a student and as a PhD student. Anna Christine has had an address here since 2017. They both agree on one thing: »This is really great place to live.«

[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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