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Jane Muriel Szeto

she/her
SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences
Study Abroad › Exchange

Home Country
University
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Experience Faculty
My short-term summer exchange was a fantastic experience and opened my eyes to how I will continue my education. It gave me the ability to learn more while still giving me the freedom to explore a new culture and prioritise my mental health.
Experience Details
Semester
Summer
Year
2023
Introduction + Preparation

Financial preparation for any exchange is super important.

Budgeting in Denmark is alright in my opinion. For groceries, there’s a budget supermarket called REMA 1000, that has fewer options than other main brand stores but still does the job for a cheaper price. There are also some deals that you’ll find throughout the city or hear about from other exchange students. When it comes to payment, most places in Denmark will actually prefer payment by card but I would still recommend bringing along some krones (Danish currency) with you just in case. Travelling to other cities is also much cheaper than flying anywhere to Vancouver as you can take the train or bus. For both travel options, you can most likely get the youth pricing for it along with an early bird discount if you plan ahead. 

Regarding funding options, SFU has a lot of great scholarships and bursaries you can apply for so definitely look at them ahead of time. If you can get funding through SFU, you’ll have more money to explore Europe.

Plan your finances ahead so you can focus on having fun in Denmark.

Previous Experience

I am fortunate to say that I have had opportunities to travel to other countries in the past and that this was not my first time in Europe. Within Europe, I have travelled to France and Spain which was a really fun opportunity so I was excited to make my way back to the continent. However, other than travelling for school trips or with my family, I have never been on a solo educational trip before so this was completely new to me. This experience was brand new to me and I found that it had the best possible outcome for my first solo travel opportunity! 

Location Research

When doing research for the exchange, I used SFU's backgrounder on the country and visited the government of Canada's travel advisory. SFU's backgrounder on the country will give you access to past participants' accounts of their experiences and things that you might need before you go on your exchange. However, I believe that there aren't too many accounts of previous student's experiences on the site (I believe there are three of Aarhus) but it doesn't hurt to check them out. The government of Canada's travel advisory will give you even more practical information on safety which might be reassuring if this is your first time travelling alone. Overall, both sites have crucial information on your exchange so make sure you check both out either prior to your application or at least before you leave for your adventure.

Financial Preparation

Financial preparation for any exchange is super important. In my opinion, budgeting in Denmark is manageable. There are also some deals that you’ll find throughout the city or hear about from other exchange students. Most places in Denmark will actually prefer payment by card but I recommend bringing along some krones (Danish currency) for emergencies. Travelling to other cities is also much cheaper as you can take the train or bus. For both travel options, you can usually get the youth pricing for it along with an early bird discount if you plan ahead. Regarding funding options, SFU has a lot of great scholarships and bursaries you can apply for so look at them ahead of time. If you can get funding through SFU, you’ll have more money to explore Europe. Plan your finances before you travel so you can focus on having fun in Denmark.

Packing

Packing for Aarhus was simple; I only started packing a day before my exchange. Bring layers as it can get quite chilly, even in the summer. Please don’t forget to bring toilet paper as most dorms will not have this for when you move in. You should bring your own internet cable as some of my friends couldn’t access the network without it and wasn't able to purchase one. As for data, get an eSIM so you don’t have to keep switching out your SIM cards. Most of these plans cover all of Europe and give you unlimited data for a reasonable price.

Travel and Transportation

Getting to Aarhus was difficult because there’s only one small airport for flights from Europe and is an hour away by bus. My flight from Copenhagen to Aarhus got delayed then cancelled so I had to take a train to Aarhus. I would recommend this as it’s cheaper, scenic, and the train runs frequently so it doesn’t get super crowded. Plus you can buy tickets easily at the airport or on the DSB app. The train took me to the city centre so it was convenient for me to take a bus straight from the platform to school.

On the topic of transportation, I mainly took the bus or tram as I can’t ride a bike. For the tram and bus, you can buy tickets or passes using the app Midttrafik. I would recommend getting a rental bike in the end as it is more convenient and there are elevated bike lanes so you’ll feel safe riding around the city. Walking around the city can be a little confusing but it’s still a lovely experience. Any way you choose to get around, it is a beautiful city to explore.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

In summary, make sure to prepare for your trip to Aarhus. Look at your funding options through SFU and bring things to stay connected. Aarhus is chilly so don’t forget to pack layers, cash,  and a roll of toilet paper before you go. You can get around the city easily via walking, biking, or taking the bus. If you would like to buy a bus/tram pass, buy it ahead of time on the Midttrafik app. Make sure you look at different accommodation options and try to stay close to the school. Keep in mind that the school is only a 20 minute walk from the city centre! You’ll have a great time regardless but make sure to prepare ahead of time so you can have the best experience possible.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

Since I only went for a short-term exchange, we didn’t receive an orientation. Instead of an orientation, there was a campus tour with the social program, on the first day of the term. I landed on that day and ended up missing the campus tour but stayed behind at the international centre where they gave out some school merch and snacks. When they got back, I made friends with some of the students and grabbed dinner with them. Many students made their friends at the international centre on the first day and everyone was happy to go grab dinner together afterwards to socialise. Throughout the term, I made lots of connections through the social program and had a good time. For the second term, I met some students before going on the tour and joined them for it. During the tour, they talked a little more about the history of the school and showed us places that I did not notice the first few weeks I was there. I felt that this was a great opportunity to meet new people and learn more about the places around school.

Accommodation and Living

With the school, you can apply for a single studio, your own bedroom in a two person flat (shared washroom and kitchen), shared house (you get your own room but share the house with ~10 people), or a single room in a dorm building. When you apply for housing, you can include your preference and reasoning for your choices on the application portal though it is not guaranteed that you'll get what you asked for.

Keep in mind that receiving housing through the university is not guaranteed and I rarely met students who didn't get a housing offer. Nevertheless, that is still a possibility so as a back up, look at Airbnbs online ahead of time.

In my experience,  I lived far from campus (20 mins away by bus) and stayed in a residence called Skejbo. Though it was far, my residence was quite convenient as there were five buses within a 10 minute walk away. Regardless, if I missed a bus, I’d still have to wait 20 minutes as the buses weren’t always on time (get the Midttrafik live app to check where it is real time) and buses stop service after a certain time in the summer. Lastly, I found that housing in the more convenient locations had better access to utilities like laundry (all short-term residents at my location had trouble with doing their laundry - you need a Danish phone number to activate it).

Generally, I'd advise that you only stay at a school accommodation near the campus (the Kollegium is the closest I believe) - most things are set up, you’ll get to know Danish students who are long-term residents, and the location is convenient (a 20 minute walk to the city centre and five minutes away from school). If you are unable to get housing near the school, I'd suggest renting an Airbnb near the city centre.

Learning and Adaptation

For the summer school, students only take one course per term. These lectures vary in length but usually start in the morning. Most lectures occur weekdays, three hours a day. Most classes only had about 30 students in them, making them more intimate and easier to make friends. During lectures, the professor would often present something and then we’d do an activity with breaks in-between. After class, I would often go home for lunch before taking part in the school’s social program or meeting up with friends. The social program at the school was really good because they would plan different activities every day. This gives you the opportunity to make new connections and see the city so I recommend signing up for some activities even if they aren’t exactly in your comfort zone. Try to make the most of your trip and maybe you’ll make even better memories that you can share with others.

Accomplishments and Challenges

I found that there were three major accomplishments that I made throughout my trip including making new friends by getting out of my comfort zone, becoming more independent, and learning the importance of balance. Because of this trip, I've learned that it doesn't matter what you're doing. You'll have fun doing anything with the right company so make good friends and try different things with them. The best thing I got out of this trip were the friends I made. We're even still in touch to this day! Secondly, I have become more independent from my trip. Because I was travelling alone and didn't know anyone in the city initially, I had to deal with a lot of problems on my own. Lastly, there were so many things happening throughout the trip. Making new friends, seeing different things, and trying various activities, its easy to lose balance. That's why I've learned that while it's important to socialise, it's also important to allocate alone time so you can get what you need done and prioritise your mental health. It can be difficult at first but you'll get the hang of it eventually.

Cultural and Environmental Observations

 

I found that Danish people generally keep to themselves and are pretty quiet. While they're super quiet, sometimes, you might notice someone smiling at you when you get off the bus. Once you talk to them they're super friendly, kind, and welcoming. Just don't be afraid to make the first move. 

Making Danish friends also taught me some of their cultural values and traditions. Danes value mental health and the phrase "hygge," a term for coziness that is imbedded in the culture. If you're lucky enough to be there for the fall semester, you'll definitely have the opportunity to engage in "hygge" activities like candle painting or cooking with friends!

The environment in Aarhus is great. It's super green and scenic. There are slow days where it's nice to just stay home with friends but then there are others that are really vibrant. I guess you'll see either side depending on your personality. The environment at school is pretty good. People are happy to talk to you and make friends. Plus, the professors are kind and understanding so I believe you'll have a nice time there.

 

Social and Extracurricular Activities

The school has many social and extracurricular activities, listed under the school's social program website. You'll be able to meet lots of other international students looking to make new friends. I think I met a majority of my friends through the social program. In term 1, while became friends with some of my classmates, we didn't actually bond until we took part in some of the school's social and extracurricular activities. In term 2, I didn't actually get super close with any classmates but made a lot of friends through the aforementioned social program. The social activities presented not only gave the international students a chance to explore the city and engage new activities but funnily enough, the Danish students as well! So, don't forget to sign up for some of the social program activities and make sure to sign up early because certain events fill up fast!

Wrap Up

I highly encourage anyone to take part in an exchange as I had a lot of opportunities to make life-long connections and learn more about a culture that was new to me in an engaging learning environment. I originally set out on this program to learn about courses that weren’t offered at SFU but I ended up having an incredible summer with some of my favourite people I’ve ever met. Preparation is important but the memories you make through making mistakes and trying new things supersedes that. I guess what I’m saying is, if you are lucky enough to go on this exchange, be prepared to have a fantastic term!

Reflection & Tips
Reflection

This exchange has given me the chance to make new friends and make lifelong memories with them. I found that my favourite memories came from engaging with the city’s cool attractions including the deer park, Aarhus's street food, etc. which were mainly part of the social program. Being in a new environment can be a lot and comes with challenges of balance because you want to make the most of your stay while still producing quality work for your courses so I learned how to better handle a work-life balance through it. Taking part in my summer exchange was full of many proud moments along with giving me the opportunity for personal growth.

Advice for Future Students

Firstly, don’t be afraid to take yourself outside your comfort zone. An embarrassing first attempt at something might lead to a new hobby or maybe even start a friendship with someone who would like to develop this skill with you. Secondly, preparation is important but even if you’re not the greatest at it, things will always work out eventually. The memories I made through making mistakes are some of my fondest and have helped my grow along the way. Finally, don't be afraid to prioritise yourself. The main takeaway from my submission is that while there are so many opportunities for new experiences, it's ok to miss out on one or two of them because more will come in the future. Just be sure to try one or two new things which can be big or small.