A few months ago, I wrote about the initiatory process of becoming an Erasmus student. Now, it is about time to tell my version of living like an Erasmus who studies journalism. In this moment, I am staying in a huge library, filled with productive students (no irony here), trying to recall the best and the worst moments since I am a student in Aarhus, Denmark at the Danish School of Media and Journalism.
Usually, the first question somebody ask me about this experience is: Would you do it again?
Yes, definitely, absolutely.
The main reasons why I recommend this experience and why I would do it again and again is because you are forced to get out of your comfort zone.
The first month here was like a roller-coaster, from a huge enthusiasm to hiding and self-pitying yourself under the blanket.
Under the sea level
We (me and my colleague from back home, Sandra) arrived in Denmark a week before the semester started. A student from the university waited for us and he took us to our dorm. When I entered my room all I felt was cold. The room was almost empty, just white and grey, and not very clean. I found the closest shop and started buying everything for my room, so after a few days it started to feel like my cozy space.
The first week at the university was a jump-start. At the end of it we had our first assignment for the next week. So, we had to go out and write at least 2 local news stories with video, photos and all you can wish. Most of us were confused. Apparently, no one, no matter where they were from, starts the first week with an assignment. Well, I put my big girl pants on and started to work. I was totally out of my comfort zone when I was attending a press conference in Danish, at an art museum. Why did I go there? Mostly because I managed to set an interview in English at the end. When my time came, I felt overwhelmed and I wished for a partner. I asked my questions a bit too quickly and my brain was dead. After seeing all those professional journalists from different news outlets, my self-esteem was under the sea level. The next day, I finished my article and it was not so bad. I came to appreciate what I’ve done and to promise myself that next time I will be more professional.
First day at the Danish School of Media and Journalism
Europe makes you feel badass
I kept my promise. The next interview that I took was at the European Commission and I felt more confident (probably just being in the building made me feel badass). I also had a great partner who was filming, which helps more than you think. It was not perfect, but it was certainly better. We made it to the European Commission and also to the European Parliament because this trip was part of our European Workshop. The entire class spent 3 days in Brussels, where we learnt about the European Union directly from the source. We had to pay for everything, and to deal by ourselves how we are going to travel from Denmark to Brussels, which was better than we expected because with all the equipment we had to carry we felt like journalists on the field. Everyone got there in different ways, me and my friend Sandra flew there, choosing the comfort over money (no regrets then, now I’m not so sure).
The debating room in the European Parliament
After this experience, I still had to work at my interviewing skills, but seeing that with every assignment they were improving, it definitely made me keep going.
Practice, practice, practice. This what I`ve done since I am here. Unfortunately, back home we have less practical assignments and we are still more focused on theory. But, the theory from back home definitely helped me here and I came to appreciate that part of our teaching too.
A human color palette
Besides improving my skills, I met a lot of people with very different backgrounds. From the typical American student (movie type) to the American student that is not proud of his country, to Lebanese students who made us understand and love their culture, to the Danish students who know how to put their country first, to the Greek student who doesn’t respect any rules, and the list could go on. I think that now I am even more aware of how little we understand about other cultures and how fast we jump to judging before not knowing enough. I learnt something from everybody without even being aware, and that`s the advantage of being part of an international class and living in a dorm.
Natasha Salloum, Lebanese student, working at her article in Copenhagen
Kalaisha Totty (American student) and Noura Kalo (Lebanese student) exploring Aarhus
Socializing in the basement
Let`s not forget about the fun part. Going out, throwing parties and relaxing after a full week is a big part of Danish people’s lives. Our university had its own bar in the basement. It was open every Friday after classes, and everything was managed by students. The bartenders were volunteers and anyone could try it. It was a great way of knowing other people from other classes. Sometimes teachers would join us, which helped us to develop a bit more than just a rigid, professional relationship with them. I really liked this idea, and I believe this kind of socializing it’s kind of missing in our universities.
Spot Festival, one of the most popular music festivals in Aarhus
Simone Nillson, Danish student, enjoying Aarhus Pride Parade
Danish education is all about working in teams
One main feature of the Danish University is team work. We had to work in teams for all the assignments, and we were not allowed to choose our partners (just for the final project). This was a great way to start knowing each other and to learn how to deal with difficult colleagues. There was a difference between the international students and the Danish students when it came to team work. The Danish students knew how to communicate, how to trust each other and how to work efficiently, no matter who was in the team. When it came to us, regardless of our country of origin, everything was a mess because we were used to work individually, to do everything by ourselves even in a team because we thought that the others probably won`t do such a great job. I realized I really like to work in a team with people as passionate as me.
Erasmus is not cheap
The Erasmus program has its ups and downs when it comes to its financial aspect. The scholarship won’t be enough, especially in the Nordic countries. So, make sure you have financial support. I spent much more than I expected, but I can say it was worth every penny (Danish Crowns in this case).
Overall, this experience was more helpful that I ever expected and I strongly advise anyone who has this possibility, to say “Goodbye!” and go live like an Erasmus anywhere in the world.
Jan Indra, Czech student, celebrating the end of semester until sunrise