Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

‘Life here is good, safe. But a bit boring if I’m honest’ – The Irish Times

By Vaseline May27,2024

Last September I moved to Aarhus, Denmark to start a master’s degree, because it seemed like the best option at the time.

I was lucky enough to receive an EU scholarship for a master’s degree in journalism, media and globalization. It is an international program in which 79 people from 42 different countries around the world participate. They’re all super cool.

We come from a wide variety of backgrounds – while many have years of experience as journalists, some are recent graduates like me. I put on my black and white dress when I graduated from law school at Trinity College Dublin in November 2023.

I’m sure many can relate to the feeling of utter confusion the summer after graduating. I was torn between continuing my law studies in Ireland and leaving it behind to follow my dream of a career in international journalism.

Feeling risky, bored and a bit naive, I chose the latter option.

For the past six months I’ve been huddled indoors with friends from warmer countries, trying to withstand the Danish winter storms and the frozen stares of tall, blonde Danes.

This country has many positive aspects, but something is also missing: warmth, friendliness and a general sense of people enjoying life.

I don’t have any Danish friends so far. Our international cohort moved in needing big smiles, relatable jokes and a desire to connect. I met my friend, a Brazilian journalist, at the program. Together we are in awe of the Danes’ ability to avoid any semblance of small talk, public signs of enjoying life and working after 4pm.

We tried to see the Northern Lights. And failed

Aarhus is a small city of 340,000 inhabitants, with a busy harbor and extensive sandy beaches. It has a great library overlooking the water, some nice bars and a range of date night activities if you have extra money on the weekend.

We’ve started playing board games and cards when the dark nights seem endless. I tasted an amazing range of cuisines, from my international classmates and at the popular Aarhus Street Food. We tried to see the Northern Lights, but were unsuccessful.

Many of my classmates love Nordic bathing like ducks take to water. I have been there occasionally – that was the sauna opening hours. The Baltic Sea is truly Baltic.

Life is good here, safe. But if I’m honest, a bit boring.

When the wind howls through the cobbled streets and the freezing rain falls like a sheet, I sometimes look out my window and wonder why I left Ireland for a country with even worse weather. We are told via pink Instagram scrolls that summer in Denmark is the cure for all our winter complaints. I can confirm that once the winter chill started to lift, the Danish summer is indeed the cure for all winter complaints.

Although I came here for a university education, I think Denmark has actually taught me more about what I want in my life. What I really want is to find a place where I can belong.

Denmark has a history of being anti-immigrant towards non-Europeans and I see how the Danish people close themselves off to ‘others’. The language barrier certainly doesn’t help – Danish is really difficult to learn. And although all people here speak English when asked, it is difficult to penetrate social groups that communicate entirely through Danish.

Some of my friends have used online dating apps to meet locals and connect with the place. Most have found it easier to relate to the lives of other internationals in Aarhus. To date a Dane, you’ll need to reserve a spot on their calendar weeks in advance and be prepared to go to bed two hours earlier than usual.

Next year I will be in another city – Amsterdam – to do my master’s specialization, with different cultural challenges.

However, it saddens me – and perhaps some of this is my fault – that I will be leaving this city with no compelling reason to return.

  • Laoise Murray graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a degree in law in 2023. She then studied for a master’s degree in journalism, media and globalization on an EU scholarship in Denmark.
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