Liam studying overseas at Aarhus University, Denmark


Hej USCI blog readers,

I’m currently on my semester abroad in Aarhus (kind of sounds like Oar-hus) which is the second largest city in Denmark. Aarhus is definitely a student city, with the University of Aarhus being the centrepiece of the town. It has earned the nickname of ‘The city of smiles’ which definitely fits in line with Denmark being voted the happiest country in the world, have I hit the jackpot or what?
However, there are SOME things that totally contradict this ‘City of smiles’ label, because Danes are so reserved in public situations, it’s mind boggling! I arrived to Aarhus a few weeks before University kicked off, so I had a lot of spare time to explore the town and hopefully meet some people. That seemed a much harder endeavour than originally thought, eye contact was at an all time low and I didn’t get one ‘How ya goin’?’ thrown back my way. But don’t worry, all these private and closed personatlity gets thrown out the window as soon as a Dane has a beer in their hand, then they are suddenly your best friend!

While we are on the topic of Danes, I may as well describe the typical Danish person. On a whole, they are giants, most guys being about 9ft tall and girls averaging around 8ft. They will all have blonde hair and exclusively dress in black jeans, black shirts, black jackets, black hats and black shoes. Everyone, literally everyone in this city rides a bike, it’s amazing! I saw grandparents fanging it down the hill (the only hill in Denmark, which I live at the top of) with their grandkids, amazing.

Their language is ridiculous, I’m not even going to try explaining it, but a common description of trying to speak Danish basically goes that if you took a potato and wedged it at the back of your throat and then proceeded to talk it would sound a little similar. Much to my advantage, Danes on a whole speak better English than a lot of Australians. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable saying ‘Undskyld, jeg snakker ikke dansk’ which the locals get a bit of enjoyment out of.

By far the most common question I receive after a Danish person hears my accent and asks where I’m from is ‘Why are you here? Why Denmark?’.  It’s cold all the time, the sun is rarely out, there is no interesting landscape, everyone sounds weird and it’s cold ALL THE TIME. I never really had an answer, choosing Denmark was an essentially random choice for my semester abroad. I can safely say it’s been an incredibly rewarding random choice however! You do get used to the cold weather as well, my phone weather app has become my fashion consultant, and letting me know how many layers I will be wearing each day.

Back to the city, there are some points of interest besides the university, including dyrhaven which is this park where a whole load of deers live which you can go and make acquaintance with the assistance of some carrots. ARoS is the art museum, famous for it’s 360 degree over Aarhus through a variety of different colour glass panels. Denmark is an old country as well, so there is some incredible architecture and town planning going on, I can tell you from first hand experience that it’s easy to lose yourself (metaphorically and physically) in this city.

Being an Australian, a country that is associated with its ridiculous distance away from Denmark, I get a lot of questions about traveling around Europe while I’m here. I really hope to see a great deal of Denmark, which shouldn’t be too hard, and have already spend some time in the capital and in the West of the country surfing in the North Sea! Some future trips planned are a quick tour of Sweden and Spain in the summer.

Just to finish up, I can’t not mention the great help from Aarhus University in making the start of this semester abroad super easy with the help of a great mentor program. Mette, my mentor, has been a huge help in organising everything. She has definitely made this semester abroad a great deal easier and has convinced me to try and do something similar back home.

Uni is going good as well.

All in all, having a blast, keeping hygge and learning lots.

See you when I’m looking at you,

Liam O’Neill

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