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Hej! From cosy Aarhus, Denmark

I’d never heard of the place, and neither had any of my friends or family. But now that I’m living here in Aarhus, Denmark’s youngest and second largest city, I can’t imagine spending my exchange anywhere else. Here’s why…

In the four weeks I’ve been here, I’ve gone out and filmed stories all over town (from a ride share driver to a drag queen), I’ve made friends from across the world and I’ve learned to live like a Dane. Or really, I’m trying to. I can’t even pronounce my address (Danish is hard) and I only feel half as stylish as the locals (they’re all unbearably chic), but it’s the routine that I love; riding my bike to school every morning and counting down until Friday night drinks with my classmates.

But if there’s one bit of Danish I’ve picked up, it’s the term hygge. It denotes a feeling of comfy-cosiness, and it’s come to define Danish culture and my life here. I got my first taste of it when I was picked up from the train station by my Danish mentors. Instead of feeling lost and overwhelmed, I made local friends within my first hour in the city and got taken straight to my dorm. You really feel looked after here; when I arrived I was assigned my own doctor down the road. Free healthcare, anyone? I just wish my education was free and I got paid 400 euros per month to study like they do…

And the same can be said for my uni. I’m doing a video journalism course at a small media school; the Danish School of Media and Journalism. I’m in a small class of 19 students with one teacher and attend lectures with a slightly larger group. It gets intense sometimes as we’re at school five days a week, but we’re always given time in our day to shoot and produce assignments, leaving our weekends free. Hallelujah.

All up, there’s 66 of us international students from 26 countries. If you’re wondering how close we’ve become, a big group of us are currently in Copenhagen together and I’m already planning trips to see friends in Dublin and Oslo when we finish. I’ve also made some Aussie friends, and a Tasmanian girl tells us she could have been Princess Mary’s niece, as her uncle went out with her back in the day. I’m not so sure about that. And thanks to my persuading, my friend from San Francisco has applied for exchange to UTS!

Aarhus is really a smaller, cuter and younger version of Copenhagen. It’s Denmark’s student town, so there’s no shortage of student events and you’re always guaranteed a good night out. It’s super cultural, too. We just had the Aarhus festival, which literally took over the city and filled it with outdoor art, live music and street food. If you’re in Copenhagen, I really encourage you to make the trip. Sometimes it’s worth getting off the beaten track and away from the tacky tourist gimmicks.

When I told people I was going to Denmark, I can’t tell you how many banged on about it being expensive. I really think this is exaggerated. Some things are expensive; a barista-made coffee will cost you around 8 AUD, but you just don’t buy those things often. Everything else is around the same as Sydney, while rent and groceries – your main expenses – are considerably cheaper. If you’re considering Denmark for exchange, do not let this stop you. And don’t choose a country just because it’s cheaper.

If you are considering an exchange, just know that you’ll feel low and uncomfortable sometimes. You might have a mini breakdown in the supermarket when you’re tired, stressed and you can’t tell the milk apart from the yoghurt. Or maybe that’s just me. But I can guarantee you the amazing, unforgettable moments will trump the bad ones.

You just don’t get this experience when you’re backpacking or on holiday. You go from outsider to insider, make invaluable connections and you earn a semester’s worth of credit!

What’s not to love?

Matthew Hodges
Bachelor of Communication (Journalism)
The Danish School of Media and Journalism
Aarhus, Denmark

For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au

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