Coming back to Denmark

Coming back to Denmark? - Photo by Daria Arenberg

Daria Arenberg is a 22 year old student at the European Business School (BBA INSEEC ECE) in Lyon and is originally from France. She studied on exchange in Denmark for 6 months and will be returning for a 6 month internship in January.

Why I chose Denmark
I wanted to go to a Scandinavian country, but I couldn’t decide between Sweden, Norway, or Denmark. So, I went on google to find an answer to see what the campuses were like, what student life was like, etc. In France we never really hear about Denmark and when I was checking it out, it seemed so nice and cute so I thought “why not?”. A few months later I was headed to Odense by car with two other French exchange students.

Settling in Denmark
It couldn’t have been easier settling in Denmark. Before I arrived, I was in a Facebook group where I found answers to all my questions. All the things that could have been difficult, such as accommodations, CPR number, studies, etc., were so easy because we were well prepared. Two students from the University College Lillebælt welcomed us and told us the do’s and don’ts in Denmark.

I lived on campus in the RRK (Rasmus Rask Kollegiet) dorm with a lot of international students. The atmosphere is great and they have a bar where you can hang out and meet people easily. Because everything was right there, I hardly left which had both its ups and downs.

French, Danes, and the language barrier
I travelled abroad when I was younger and I remember being frustrated because I couldn’t say what was on my mind – that was when I wanted to learn English. Most French people are shy when they speak English; because of their accent they feel stupid when they talk, but I didn’t have that problem. My experience is also that you have to get into a rhythm when it comes to speaking another language. For each day that passes, the more comfortable you feel so you just need to let loose and try your best.

I would say that there are a few occasions where you can’t use your English in Denmark. When you do grocery shopping everything is in Danish, which is weird and surprised me. My best advice is to take a chance and try new things so you can find something you like.

Physically there is definitely a Danish stereotype, or at least a Scandinavian one. There are many tall people with blond hair and blue eyes. I lived with internationals so never really got to know a lot of Danes, but I observed them. The few times I spoke with them they used a lot of sarcasm and irony, but I already knew that I shouldn’t take it personally. At first Danes seem like cold drawn back people, but as you start talking with them and getting to know them they open up.

Danes are very good at speaking English in most cases, but there are some who are not. Several times during my stay in Denmark a Dane would come up to me and speak Danish, I would reply: “I speak English” and they would just continue speaking Danish. I told them several times that I only spoke English, but they would just go on and on. I was like: “Whaaaat?” and walked away.

Likes and dislikes about Denmark
I liked that everything came quite easy to me. I never felt like an outsider – I was doing sports, going to the doctor was easy because he spoke English, and some of my friends found jobs while studying. The only thing I could ask for was a little bit more sun and then everything would be perfect.

The school system was different from what I was used to in France. In Denmark it’s your education and your responsibility to do well because you’re considered an adult, while in France it’s very strict and you have to attend every class if you don’t want to fail – 3 strikes and you’re out. I liked the Danish way.

Danes use bikes all the time and if you’re driving a car you shouldn’t be afraid of other cars, but instead be focused on all the bikes. Compared to France it’s so much better to ride a bike – the roads are flat, clean, and there are biking tracks everywhere.

I didn’t realise how expensive Denmark is – had I known, I would have been more aware of my expenses and budgeting. I learned that thinking about where you are buying your food and other products is important when it comes to managing money in Denmark.

Leaving Denmark
The beginning was much easier than the end. You make a lot of good friends and you get to know the country. I met my boyfriend in Denmark, which made leaving even more difficult. I remember on my last day sitting in my car and crying the day away. I didn’t want my time in Denmark to end and couldn’t believe how fast the six months went by. I felt empty when I arrived in my home country, but my stay was a great life experience.   

Coming back to Denmark
My first stay was study-related in Odense while my second one will be an internship in Copenhagen. It will be the same country, but the city and purpose will be different. I will be getting more work experience and responsibilities with a company I know I like. Doing an assignment and getting a good grade is not as exciting as impacting a company and working towards a better future. Rather than always being surrounded by friends, I will be working alongside colleagues so it is a different experience than going school. Although I will be on my own more than if I were studying, I prefer working because I will be putting my knowledge into practice.

Future hopes
During my internship I would like to enrich my knowledge, acquire new experiences, and work on self-development. If the internship goes well, I could be offered a job, but if not I would like to pursue a second Masters degree at a Danish university this time. I would like to live in Denmark, but it depends on what life has in store. 

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