How to feel at home in Denmark?
It’s quite a paradox to find yourself making an important decision when you are young – on the one hand, you want to be serious and adult about it, make your dreams come true, and on the other hand when some kind of crisis crops up, you ask yourself “whose bright idea was this?”
You are reading this for a reason. I expect you are calculating, weighing things up, balancing plus and minus points in your head, and trying to decide whether to make a big change in your life and if you’ll be able to feel at home in Denmark. Maybe you want to study somewhere else, move cities, or even study abroad and begin a new life adventure.
I also went through this. I am now in my second year of Marketing at Aarhus Business Academy in Denmark and time is speeding by. In six months I have to hand in work towards my final degree. What’s my dream? I will start my own company, probably in Poland. But before I can do this, there is a long road ahead of me. I have changed a lot, even though I have always been a confident person, someone loud and well-organised. The Danes are remarkably relaxed and always seem to be in a good mood. I was really attracted to this and they taught me how to think completely differently about the same problems, how to have a different approach to everyday life, education, work and my relationships with other people. When you study abroad, you absorb different ways of behaving, habits and attitudes.
Step 1: Doubts
These always crop up at first, so if you have doubts, then you are absolutely OK! If you want to pull out two weeks before your departure date, you are OK. If you have a breakdown when you arrive, you are totally OK. You wonder and worry if long-distance relationships can survive – that’s normal. You will miss you friends — that’s fine. You will be afraid of not enjoying the country and not feeling at home in Denmark at all, and it’s normal. In short, everything is and will be OK.
You will leave anyway and, in so doing, make the best decision of your life. I was frightened, too. Very frightened. After finishing my exams, I spent all summer working in order to save enough money for the journey and to tide me over when I arrived in Denmark. Two weeks before leaving, I called my mother and told her I’d changed my mind and didn’t want to go, that I had no idea what it would be like, that it wasn’t for me, etc, etc. You need someone who will look at what you are feeling with an objective eye, whether it’s a friend, a boyfriend/girlfriend or a parent. Someone who will think clearly about you, who will at least pretend to be stronger than you, someone you will trust and listen to. Later on, make sure you thanks them for the push! Thanks to my friend, I finally began to believe that I could do it, that I could study in Denmark – and I went to Aarhus.
Step 2: Even the cheese tastes different
I landed in Denmark and the first days were chaotic, a flurry of maps and questions. Everything is so different. The houses are strange, the girls walk around in ankle-length jumpers, and nearly all of them are blondes. The language — people say German is ugly and harsh. Well they haven’t listened to Danish, which is strange on the ear but does have its own charm. On top of that the bread and cakes taste weird and the PRICES! The initial shock slowly wears off, however, and you suddenly realise you have left home.
And so there you are and things can only get better. You simply need to:
1. Think positive.
2. Be open to the experience.
Take advantage of this time, because you will soon make lifelong friends, live through amazing experiences and become truly self-reliant. These are priceless gifts.
Step 3: Is stubbornness a good thing?
This is probably the last question you need to consider and one you’ll meet at the very beginning of your new life — getting work. It’s worth fighting for every penny, saving your money so you can spend it later on something you really want – maybe not clothes and sushi , but a sweet small apartment overlooking a sea of red roofs in an attractive part of town. In order to get your own base, you have two options:
1. you take the first thing you can find.
2. you keep looking for something that really appeals to you.
Both options are fine, but remember that it won’t be that easy to get a job because you don’t speak Danish. The work you will find is likely to be repetitive and simple, and casual — but it will also teach you determination and organisational skills – which is very useful. I was stubborn and set my heart on being a waitress or barmaid. My friends found work two months before me, but I hung on in there and got a job after four months. It definitely helped me to feel more like at home in Denmark.
So look at the question again and make up your own mind.
Be prepared to send out three million applications, to feel depressed when weeks go by without a response. This happens, it’s no big deal. But if you seek then you will find — sooner or later.
To all you worriers and doubters, I can only say do it – make the decision, study abroad, experience a new society, learn, grow. No one will ever be able to take this experience away from you.
And remember — everything will be OK. Honestly…