Coming in for a soft landing, studying in Denmark
”It's great fun. And it's important!”
This is how Ulrika Boulund describes being a designated 'buddy' for international students at DTU, The Technical University of Denmark. She is one of the 80 buddies, who help new students feel at home, at DTU and in Denmark.
”In the intro week before the semester began, we talked about the area and the country, about being a student at DTU and in Denmark. We went on a sightseeing tour, to the queen's home at Amalienborg Castle among other places, we got to know Copenhagen a little bit better, and we had dinner together every night. I could tell the students really liked the intro week,” says Ulrika, who studies technical biomedicine and is responsible for eight students from Asia, Europe and the U.S.
I received an incredible welcome
Throughout the first semester, buddies help out with cultural, social and study-related issues.
”And of course we stop and chat, when we run into each other at school. They can always call me, if they have a question. I think it's great to have study mates from all over the world,” says the 21 year old student from neighbouring Sweden.
”I received an incredible welcome myself, when I came here to study. That's why I signed up to be a buddy, so I could pass that experience on to others,” she explains.
Many other Danish educational institutions have similar arrangements, where fellow students help international students–full degree as well as exchange students–have a 'soft landing' in Denmark.
An international study environment
”Our ambassadors play an important part in the efforts to integrate exchange students in the study environment, academically and socially,” says Rie Snekkerup, Dean of Education at Copenhagen Business School, CBS.
And the students are eager to be ambassadors. For them, it is an opportunity to gain friends and networks all over the world.
”About a fifth of our students are from abroad, and we are very, very pleased about that. It is so great to have the whole world come to us, and all these students help make our school a vibrant, international educational space. We offer full range support to the exchange students–how to get a Danish social security number, how to find accommodation, how to make friends with fellow students from Denmark,” says Rie Snekkerup.
Success with ambassadors
Everybody wants international students, this is what we hear from all quarters.
”It strengthens the quality of our educations, when we send our own students abroad and receive international students in return. We constantly strive to expand the range of studies we offer, and we have had a great deal of success with our ambassadors,” says Senior Adviser Bo Kristiansen from University of Southern Denmark (SDU) located in Odense.
”We are proud of our international students, and we do a lot to attract them to us and make them feel welcome here. In addition to the ambassadors, we arrange welcome receptions, cultural events and introductions to Danish culture,” explains Morten Overgaard, Head of International Affairs at DTU.
Project work and lots of bikes
But what exactly are the international students introduced to–apart from purely practical matters?
”Many international students are surprised that we expect them to participate actively in academic discussions. That it is okay to disagree with the professor and actually say so, as long as you do it in a constructive manner,” says Morten Overgaard from DTU.
”Denmark is known for project work, often group-based. It requires an introduction to learn how to cooperate, so you can create different values and different kinds of learning as compared to working alone,” says Rie Snekkerup from CBS.
”Many are surprised by our many social associations. It was really funny, when we brought the exchange students to the university dance club,” says DTU's Ulrika Boulund, who goes on to say:
”In Denmark, we go by bike everywhere! To school, to our jobs, to town, everywhere. Most people know how to ride a bike, but they don't know the traffic rules, so we had to get a flyer from the police explaining the rules, and now everybody knows how to behave in traffic.”