“In Denmark students have a voice in teaching”
Melissa, 21, Luis, 20, and Pedro, 20, come from Portugal. They are in Denmark for five months as Erasmus students. They study Marketing Management at Business Academy Aarhus and they agree that studying and living in Denmark is very different from Portugal.
Melissa, Luis and Pedro have always wanted to study abroad to get international competencies. They know each other from Portugal where they study Management on their third and last year and it meant a lot to them that they could go abroad together.
Melissa: “I wanted to go somewhere I couldn’t visit for a weekend. But I didn’t want to go alone. That I choose Denmark was first of all because we all agreed to go here.”
Luis: “For me Denmark was a relevant choice because the Danes speak such perfect English and I mainly wanted to go abroad to improve my English. The Danish society, education system and infrastructure enjoy a good reputation.”
Studying at Business Academy Aarhus
Pedro: “The education style is very different from what we know from Portugal. In Portugal we have lectures in large classes – we listen to the teachers and read theoretical books. You feel alone with your stuff. Here at the Business Academy we are in smaller classes and we use most of the time on solving problems. It has been a radical change to come to Denmark and get insight into a very different education style.”
Melissa: “The teaching is structured this way: we read the theory at home, and then we use the time together in the classroom to apply it to practice and ask the teacher questions. This is different from the structure in Portugal where there is much more theory to read and no practical application at all.”
The teaching at the Business Academy is primarily based on a balance between theoretical introductions and working in groups with practical examples. It is the Academy's mission that the students get competencies to apply the theory to realistic cases.
Pedro: “It is much easier for me to understand my profession when I get knowledge about the practical application of the theory.”
The teachers use teaching methods that Pedro, Luis and Melissa do not know from Portugal.
Luis: “I really like the innovative methods. Sometimes we have to leave our chairs and walk around in the classroom to talk to our classmates about a relevant topic. It is an icebreaker – you get to talk to people, you wouldn’t get in contact with normally.”
Working in groups
Luis: “In Portugal we don’t work in groups. We read and write individually. I went to university in Portugal for two weeks without talking to any classmates – I only talked a few words to those students sitting next to me in the auditorium. Working in groups with your classmates creates settings that get you to talk with people. It is a unique opportunity to get involved with classmates you wouldn’t contact normally.
And it is fantastic preparation for the labour market, where you have to collaborate with your colleagues.”
The relationship between students and teachers
The Danish students and teachers have a more informal everyday language than students and teachers have in Portugal.
Luis: “In Portugal we must use “Mr” or “Mrs” when we communicate with the teachers. Here in Denmark we just use their first names.”
Melissa: “I am still not used to this open relation. I feel uncomfortable when I hear students arguing with the teachers and their points of view. I really think it’s great that the Danish teachers are not authorities or high-ups, but they have to be respected as teachers.”
Pedro: “Here in Denmark students have a voice in the teaching. When a lesson begins the teacher always asks, how much we already know about today’s topic.”
The Danish Culture
Melissa: “I have heard that Danish people are the happiest within Europe. But I really do not understand it. People don’t look happy to me. But I think it’s because of the different culture, manners and habit compared to Portugal – Danes are more reserved. Maybe Danes are happy, because Denmark is such an equal country with equal opportunities no matter which nationality or social class you come from.”
Pedro: “The Danes are silent and reserved, but they are always kind and friendly when you contact them directly. Therefore I really like working in groups where you are forced to work together.”
Melissa, Luis and Pedro mention several contrasts between Danish and Portuguese culture. They think that the differences are huge. In Portugal they have more physical contact and they speak louder. In Denmark there is more competition between students. The hospitals are better in Denmark. And people are more informally dressed. They all like Aarhus very much.
Pedro: “Aarhus is both a traditional and a young city. It has both cultural and historic sights and modern facilities for young students. And Aarhus has some amazing possibilities for cyclists. There are bikes everywhere.”
Working with Companies
Melissa: “The biggest difference between companies in Portugal and companies in Denmark is based on the culture. In Portugal no students have jobs during their study. We live at our parents’ house while we study.”
Pedro: “Almost all Danish students have a job during their studies and therefore the companies are used to having contact with young students. They answer your e-mails and they are always interested in collaborating on a project. They are more open than we are used to from Portuguese companies.”
Luis: “InterCultureClub has some great activities for international and Danish students. They arrange trips and evenings to combine students from different countries and programmes. And I am very impressed by Studenterhus Aarhus. They have a lot of events that are interesting and funny.”
Melissa: “Also, the International Exchange Erasmus student network, organises exciting and relevant events at Studenterhus Aarhus.”
But it is at the dormitory for young students where Luis, Melissa and Pedro live while they are in Denmark that they have most of their social contact.
Luis: “The dormitory is a fantastic concept. I really enjoy living together with other students. In my division we are 14 students from 10 different countries. We arrange a lot of activities and I really get to know people. That’s great.”
Melissa: “When I came here I was so occupied with taking care of practical problems. But now that my studies and practicalities are up and running I have more time to think of my family and friends back in Portugal. And of course I miss them very much.”
Luis: “It will be tough to leave Denmark and all my new friends here in December.”