My encounter with Denmark

Early this year, my best friend suggested that I apply to DTU as she had just completed her PhD and was starting her Post-doc at DTU and she thought it would be a good idea for me to come and experience life here. I was also looking to pursue my higher studies and on her insistence, I applied to DTU and was pleasantly surprised when I received a full tuition fee waiver for my master’s program. Needless to say, I took it and arrived at Copenhagen by the end of August.

My friends, family, acquaintances, ex-colleagues (especially from Chennai, India, where I am from) have since asked me what Denmark is like, what my experience has been and to sum it up in two simple words, I would say it has been SIMPLY FANTASTIC!

The first week at DTU was the “Intro week”, where all new international students (EU and non EU) were divided into teams of 10-12 people and assigned a buddy, most of them were Danish and from second year. Our group (called M26) comprised of people from different nationalities, cultures and experiences. The intro week was complete fun – we had catapult challenge where we had to build catapults and compete in a race with other groups. They gave prizes for the prettiest looking catapult and one that actually worked! On day two, we had salsa dance session where a pair of dance instructors taught us how to do the basic steps in salsa and it was super fun trying to copy them. After every step we had to switch partners and we were around 400 people in the floor and 1:3 girl-boy ratio so the boys had to woo the girls with impressive stunts/tricks – it was pretty hilarious!

We visited DTU’s Skylab, a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. We also had presentations about the course work, assistance with CPR registration (Denmark’s social security system). Our group visited Copenhagen on one of the days and saw many historical and political landmarks in the city followed by a canal ride. The introduction week was concluded by a group dinner and party at the Oticon Hall at DTU. The party went on late into the night. Overall, the intro week experience was amazing – I met so many new people from diverse backgrounds and learnt so much about them. It was also an opportunity for me to share various things about India.

Our buddy group still meets every day for lunch at the DTU canteen and we call ourselves a family J. We have, since the intro week, organized dinners at each other’s places, visited the round tower again – this time to see the view from top, have dined outside together and have plans to visit Aarhus sometime in the near future.

DTU also hosted a welcome dinner for masters’ students (international and Danish) and here I met and made friends with Danish students. I was seated next to my head of studies and it was a great experience to talk to him about biotechnology. We also exchanged information about the education systems in Denmark and India respectively. I really don’t understand why people say Danes are reserved and quiet – the ones I have met have been totally opposite to convention! They have been extremely friendly, eager to share what they know, curious about India in general and always ready to help J Even the general public, in buses or at the bank have been extremely nice and helpful.

Studies at DTU have been a new experience as most of the course work and evaluation is based on group work – which is completely new to me. I would say that group work is a very good way to make us students ready for the “real” world because in reality, no matter where we work and which field we belong to, we have to work in teams which are mostly multi-cultural and interdisciplinary.

What I really like about being a student at DTU is that the university is really involved in the student’s life – there are so many things apart from course work that one can try. I also signed up to be a member of society for bio-engineers (SBE), who conduct company visits on a regular basis. The Youth Goodwill Ambassador Programme is another bonus for international students like me who want to network and understand how the corporate industry works in Denmark.

I could go on endlessly about my experiences (maybe I will write a book some day!) but to sum up, I would say that Denmark is definitely for all. The society and culture here is something everyone should experience at least once in a life time (and stay longer if they really like it). It is definitely not an exaggeration when it is said that Denmark is the happiest place on earth.

Prashansa, MSc in Biotechnology, India