By Catherine Bird, University of Aarhus, Denmark
Having previously visited Denmark before, I was delighted to have received an offer from the University of Aarhus to attend their Summer School. When most people think of Denmark, the first place that comes to mind is Copenhagen, so I was excited to embark on my journey in Aarhus to see how it compared to my previous experience in the capital. It’s safe to say that I wasn’t disappointed. Aarhus is Denmark’s second largest city, with a population of just over 300,000 people. Aarhus offers a cozy and vibrant atmosphere with an array of creative as well as green spaces to explore. I felt at ease almost immediately because of how warm and approachable everyone was. One thing that you’ll observe about Denmark is that you’ll rarely find any grumpy individuals on the streets, which I found quite refreshing. As a result, it’s no surprise that Denmark is the world’s second happiest country, making it an ideal environment for individuals seeking to develop their confidence.
Having attended the university for two terms (each term consisting of three weeks), one of the first major distinctions I observed in comparison to the UK was their hands-on learning approach. Everyone was encouraged to contribute ideas to the class and teaching was largely conversation driven. Having become used to listening to long lectures, I found this teaching method to be quite insightful. The class schedule was also quite distinct. In contrast to the UK, classes are held from 9-1PM, with 10-minute breaks every hour, rather than 50-minute lectures spaced out over the week.
My classes comprised roughly forty students, however I was stunned to discover that the majority of them were Danish students who chose to take an extensive course during summer to relieve their workload during the academic year. Despite this, I was able to meet a diverse range of international students through the university’s social programmes. Students came from all over the world ranging from Canada, Singapore, China, Australia, Spain, Italy, Germany and many more European countries. The social programme proved to be a great way for students to get to know the city as well as other students, as it can be quite overwhelming to have to research and explore a city you’ve never been to before. The university provided activities such as a visit to the Aros museum, the harbour baths, deer park, infinite bridge, bowling and a canoe trip. My recommendation for anyone considering attending a summer school is to participate in all social activities, regardless of whether they interest you or not, as this is your best chance of meeting new people.
The stunning green campus and its magnificent library were some of my favourite aspects of my summer abroad. Students can unwind on the ground floor of the main library, which includes massage chairs, table tennis, boxing and a gaming console room. I would often visit the facilities after classes to unwind and enjoy a wide variety of healthy Scandinavian foods in the university’s canteen.
Places I recommend
In addition to the activities offered in the AU summer school social programme, I also explored the city on my own. Below I list my top recommendations.
Møllestien lane is a great spot to capture the Danish scenery with their multi-coloured buildings. Salling rooftop provides undoubtedly one of the best free panoramic views of Aarhus. Bellevue beach offers a lively coastal atmosphere, making it a perfect place to visit with your friends. I’d also recommend taking a day trip to one of Denmark’s hidden gems, Odense. The city boasts gorgeous green scenery with lots of attractive sites to explore.
However, my experience abroad would not be complete without trying out the vast array of delicious Danish cuisine. If you have a sweet tooth like me, I highly recommend Jumbo’s cinnamon pastries. Vesterlauget is a must try if you want to experience traditional Scandinavian cuisine. Another must is Aarhus Street food which serves a variety of street food from all over the world. On Tuesdays they also host an outdoor cinema making it a great activity to attend with your friends.
In conclusion, although the prospect of moving abroad may appear daunting, I would strongly advise anyone to take a leap of faith and simply go for it! Not only did I leave the experience feeling more confident, but I was able to form long lasting friendships with students from all over the world. If anyone is interested in seeing what the atmosphere, campus and social activities comprised of I also made a YouTube video showcasing it. In the video I also give an insight into the dorms, daily class activities as well as a more in-depth exploration of the places I mentioned in the blog, so if this is something you’re interested in then don’t forget to check it out!