TEKST: Cristina Roxana Lazar
Well, here we go again. It has now been a year as a foreign AAU student, a year in a new place, a year of being surrounded by a mist of cultural shock and of trying to learn this tricky language called Danish. Without exaggerating, it has been an amazing period of time, both with ups and downs and multiple experiences that have taught me indescribably much and shaped my perspective upon life. Sounds pretty cheesy, right? But it is actually pretty accurate and you can easily hear similar stories coming from not only foreigners, but Danish students too; stories about how Aalborg is the step that many take towards becoming more and more who they truly aspire to be.
Enough with the nostalgia, let me illustrate in a few words what my year in Aalborg as an AAU student has been like.
Firstly, in order to better understand, you should know that I am from Bucharest, Romania- I know what you might think, the country that seems to have its whole population invading Denmark’s educational system with students that have to explain pretty often that they do not usually beg or steal as their hobbies. I have a bachelor degree in Romania, at the best ranked university in the field of urban planning and architecture, but still, I felt somehow lost when I got into all the problem-based learning and one thousand diagrams and booklets Danish Bachelor students are used to here. Yet, I quickly realized that I have something to learn about how things work and most importantly, about how social interactions among work teams develop. My first impression upon the study collective I was enrolled in was nervousness, as I was expecting a majority of international people, just as scared as I was, and in reality there were multiple blonde-haired students with big smiles and friendship relations already bonding them. So yes, I might say I was a bit shaken, but it all got fixed thanks to heuristic situations which helped us get to know each other better and interact outside the university, with the help of neverending sessions of teamwork for the projects.
Moreover, I was influenced and changed for the better, I like to believe, not only by the university, but also by this really cool Nordic culture. For example, in my native perception, people tend to be mostly stressed and complaining about small things and situations, whereas here they are surely more laid-back and with a great smile on their faces most of the time, ready to help if you ask. The asking for help and generally engaging into more meaningful conversations with Danes is a key aspect in my point of view, as they tend to be more reserved and as they often like to say „respectful of your personal space” , which sounds comforting, but it often means that they will ignore you if you have just talked once or twice. Of course, I want to state that this is not a general rule and it should not be perceived as a negative perception, as I met different DK people with other kinds of behaviours , but from my stories and my international friends’ stories, the above similarities rise.
Another aspect that might seem insignificant, but has had an impact upon me, is the way Danes dress and most importantly the colors that they do not include in their outfits. When I went home, after one year of stay in Denmark, the moment I started displaying my new wardrobe, which I had acquired without any specific intention, my family and friends started asking me if by any chance I am mourning someone. I quickly made the connection, since back there people do not dress from head to toe in black on an everyday basis, unless something tragic has happened.
Also, if you come from a country where summer means 35+ degrees and wind rarely touches your face and when it does it is burning, not cooling your skin, then you are clearly in for a weather experience. As me and my friends like to say, living in Aalborg may seem, meteorologically speaking, like you are constantly in a ‘windy situation’, which defies any direction you logically may think the wind is blowing from.
Also, I got the chance to visit some parts of Denmark and got to know more about the culture and about the many funny different accents Danes have all through this tiny country. Since sport is an important aspect of the typical Dane’s life, the most common being running and cycling, I decided to take a summer bike trip all along the northwestern and eastern coast of the country. After it, I could say that it was a unique experience, with a lot of sand dunes and vintage lighthouses that introduce you to the true „Danish experience”, all surrounded by blue landscapes and families that bike together. Skagen is a must see city, since it is in the northern extremity and it is the ‚peak of Denmark’ and it is known as the old cultural meeting point for artists that came all over Europe to get inspired from the beautiful marine landscapes.
As a student in Aalborg, you will probably find yourself attending a lot of parties, with random and not-that-random people, where socializing drinking is a uniform you will all wear and soon you will find out that networking is so much fun in this small city, since your roomies are probably best friends with your new school colleagues and so on.
The hunt for a student job is also an adventure, since it is a small city with an increasing student population, most of them looking for jobs and struggling with the problem of not knowing the language or not having that much free time. From my experiences so far, this task is successful in most cases only by showing interest and dedication and interacting with other students that might leave for internships and exchange their workplaces or knowing people that are hiring. This might be difficult sometimes if you are not such an outgoing person or if you are surrounded solely by international students that are all currently in your situation, but usually things get solved and students manage to find their way in this youngster maze.
All in all, I have many more stories to tell, some of them good, some not so good, but all with a happy ending, so I am concluding this article with a positive note and a warm welcome to this cool city.
P.S. Aalborg was voted the happiest city, so smile, you are in the right place