Text: Majken Ravnkilde
Photos: Rikke Sønderby Nielsen
Interview with international student at AAU. Moving, studying and making friends can be stressful, but imagine moving here from a whole other country and not knowing anyone. I’ve talked to the three international students, Anna from Czech Republic and Daniela Pinto and Guilherme Mateus from Portugal, about this:
Q: What was your biggest concern moving to Denmark?
Guilherme: “For me it was not knowing anybody and coming to a different country and being aware that you might not be able to make friends. Although in retrospect that’s a bit stupid.”
Anna: “I was scared that I wouldn’t know anyone, and I would be alone in all the new things. And worrying if I could handle this whole subject in English.”
Anna from Czech Republic studies Biotechnology at AAU.
Q: What did you struggle with most when moving here?
Guilherme: “My biggest problem was finding a place. It took two months and I stayed at the hostel outside the city. It was not a good place and the others there got to move out, but because me and my roommate applied late to the AKU it took longer time. We were basically applying everywhere and praying that we at least would get a good place.”
Anna: “I’ve had problems with Danish officialities. Especially with all the name IDs because that’s not explained anywhere besides the yellow card. The rest you have to figure out yourself which was pretty tough, but thanks to having a Danish father I got some help.”
Q: What was the biggest culture chock?
Daniela: “Bikes everywhere. I come from an island that is all mountains, so nobody rides a bike, literally nobody. When I decided to come to Denmark, I learned how to ride a bike, but the first time here was still horrible with cycle paths and street crossings. I would just put myself in the middle of the cars until people explained me how to do and then it made sense.”
Anna: “I was very surprised that Danes are only welcoming up to a certain level. You get up to a point where you are friends, but you never get beyond that point. It was very hard for me because from Prague I was used to getting very close with people and I didn’t feel that way here.”
Daniela Pinto from Portugal studies Robotics at AAU.
Q: What was the hardest part of creating a new social network?
Daniela: “I think the hardest part was the communication parts of speaking English. When I got here in September I wasn’t used to speak English every day and with everyone so in some ways I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted and the same applied for some of the Danes.”
Guilherme: “I think it was studying with mainly international students. People were from different cultures, so when talking to them you had to adapt to that. It can be a little unpredictable saying something that Portuguese people would take the right way and somebody else would take the wrong way when making jokes for example. What helped was mostly just being myself and roll with it. Some people will like it and some people won’t.”
Anna: “For me the hardest part was to keep being friends with people. At the beginning there were a lot of activities and possibilities to meet people and then it suddenly stopped. I would meet someone once and talk, but maybe not exchange contacts and then we’d never meet again.”
Q: How did you manage moving, a new school and new friends at the same time?
Daniela: “I was just excited, so I didn’t think of the stuff as a problem. If something appeared in front of me, I accepted it as a challenge. When my name ID wasn’t arriving, I accepted it as a challenge and I went down there. I was panicking at first, so I thought to myself ‘I’m an adult now, I’m in university so let’s go and do it.’”
Guilherme: “The way that I dealt with it was basically just going out with the people from the university and go drinking. I would have fun, I would meet new people and strengthen the bonds with these people. It took some stress off.”
Guilherme Mateus’ best advice for international students is to go out and meet people.
Q: What has helped you tackle the change?
Daniela: “Embrace the culture. It’s fun being an international student, because we live all these adventures together, so it was fun seeing people adapting in different ways. Have people who are going through the same adventure around you and have Danes wanting to be a part of that adventure as well.”
Guilherme: “Definitely drinking and going out with my friends and possibly starting to eat bacon, because then I feel like a real Dane.”
Anna: “For me it was the first buddy program. Any questions I had I could just ask my buddy, so I wouldn’t get stressed of not knowing something.”
The best advices for international students:
- Don’t be afraid, get out!
- Invite yourself
- Open up
- Make friends
- Engage opportunities
- Don’t be afraid that people might have prejudices against you
- Enjoy the differences
- Embrace new things
- Enjoy the little things