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Student life in Aarhus made living and working in Denmark attractive

”They make it easy for you to learn Danish, because the courses are free of charge. I am so happy to be able to speak the language now. It has helped me get a good job after finishing my studies,” says Julia Gajo (27) from Germany. She has an MSc in Organic Agriculture and Food Systems from Aarhus University and currently works in Southern Jutland.

Actually, it was a bit of a coincidence that Julia Gajo, aged 27 from the South of Germany, happened to become a student a thousand kilometres further north in Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark. With a bachelor's degree in agrobiology from Universität Hohenheim in Stuttgart and a keen interest in organic livestock and agriculture farming, she now wanted to have a double degree in Organic Agriculture and Food Systems. She could get this at her home university or from a university in Poland or Austria – or at Aarhus University.

”I wanted to travel, to study in another country and to improve my English. You always hear that the Danes speak English so well, and that is why I chose Denmark. It has been a really good experience to learn something about a different culture. The atmosphere at the university is much more relaxed than what I am used to. For example, we addressed the teachers by their first names, and students were definitely under less pressure than in Germany – and yet we covered just as much material in Denmark,” says Julia Gajo.

Learned to speak both English and Danish

Julia Gajo spent the first year of her studies at the Universität Hohenheim, and in 2012 she went on to study in Aarhus. She has experienced Danish student life as less driven by competition among students than in Germany and she especially enjoyed the group work.

”Danes are good at group work, because they are so used to working that way. Personally, I learned a lot from it, and it makes you more independent to work in this way,” says Julia Gajo.

There is ample opportunity to speak English to teachers and fellow students, and Julia Gajo soon improved her English significantly. She also starting learning Danish right away. At first, she was rather impatient when this new language seemed awkward, or when sometimes her new Danish boyfriend did not understand what she was saying. Today, however, she writes and speaks Danish very well.

”They make it easy for you to learn Danish, because the courses are free of charge. I am so happy to be able speak the language now. It has helped me get a good job after finishing my studies. I would really to stay, because I feel comfortable here,” says Julia Gajo.

Engaging with the Danes

When Julia Gajo had finished her thesis, she began looking for a job in Denmark, and in 2014, after a mere four to five months of job search, she landed a job as agricultural consultant in the city of Vojens. Here, she advises Danish farmers on everything from applications for EU funds to weed control and fertilizers.

”It is an exciting job, and I have great colleagues who have been very helpful. This has given me a good start here,” says Julia Gajo who lives with her boyfriend about 15 kilometres from her place of work.

When asked, if she has a piece of advice for foreign students who would like to live and work in Denmark, she answered:

”Learn Danish! When you speak Danish, it is also easier to get to know the Danes. Not unlike us Germans, Danes can come off as a bit reserved and guarded. So it is also a good idea to actively engage with people, if you want to get to know them better. Do not wait for others to do something; be active and invite people over for a meal from your own country. It is much easier that way,” says Julia Gajo with a smile.