How do you end up in Esbjerg?
The majority of internationals who come to study in Denmark choose to go to cities like Aarhus, Odense or Copenhagen. However, Esbjerg is a relatively small metropolitan area, yet the fifth largest city in Denmark with a beautiful beach and half an hour ferry ride island - Fanø - for incurable romantics.
Coming from Romania and being a total stranger to the Danish culture, I have to admit that I have chose Esbjerg at first mainly because my boyfriend was been working there, but after browsing through the study program offered by the University of Southern Denmark I was amazed by the colorful array of subjects you can major in, including business profiles, social sciences or maritime archeology.
Although the bachelor studies are often exclusively for Danish students, master programs are open to all EU citizens - and you should know that for EU citizens there is no tuition. The application process ran very smoothly in the sense that I just had to fill in the online forms and wait for an official answer. The university’s personnel guides you through the next steps. A piece of good advice is to participate in the master fair organized in Odense where the SDU headquarters are. The event usually takes place in February or March, so you have time to apply for the program of your choice until the first deadline which is in April. When I attended the fair I already knew I wanted to apply for Cultural Sociology, and therefore, I had the chance to pitch myself to the people who ran the program. Of course, if you are undecided where to apply it's also a good idea to attend as well. I found the people there very open-minded, and everybody - whether they are teachers or students - are ready to jump in and help you.
Teachers are also your friends
The best thing about studying in a small cozy campus is the relationship you have with the teachers. Danish students may be used to this, but I came from an academic environment where the relationship with the professors was highly formal. So I was very surprised, happy and relieved when I learned how that the students in Denmark are usually very closely connected to their teachers.
To give you an example: in Romania we are used to talking to teachers by addressing them with "Professor [insert long title here]", whereas in Denmark you would simply call them by their first name. Being an international it helped a lot knowing that there is someone you can talk to as a friend, especially when you are far away from home and may be in need of advise from an adult.
Another good thing: the professors listen to you. Once there was a very interesting workshop taking place in Odense, but due to the late announcement and because train tickets in Denmark are pretty expensive some of us students turned down the invitation. But our teacher thought that it would be important for our experience to attend workshop, so she ended up renting a minibus, so all of us could go. This way, a very short notice invitation turned into a fun road trip.
Learning is practical
In terms of the study program, I like the practical approach which is totally different from Romania. Instead of teachers "attacking" you with a lot of theoretical stuff they let you discover interesting information that is relevant to you.
For my subject, Cultural Sociology, all classes are set up for discussions based on the literature you get from your teachers. So it's very interactive and you don't have to just sit there and listen to a person talk for two hours. Sometimes the dynamics are changed and the student becomes the teacher. I was once asked to do a presentation on a contemporary issue concerning Romania simply because my teacher assumed I had more to share on the subject with the other students (and she was right). It was nothing fancy, but it was interesting because I had personal stories to tell which are always more engaging than some random info from the Internet.
Studying in groups is encouraged and this often includes working on a project for a real company. In the second semester I was already working on a campaign against racism together with three of my colleagues at a company located in Copenhagen. How did we get there? Well, at the recommendation of our teacher. Because the project consisted of evaluating the campaign, the work we did for the company counted for our exam in Evaluation Theories and Methods. It was such a great feeling to be appreciated by our employer and get a good grade at school for it at the same time. Also, the colleagues I worked with on this project ultimately became my friends. And that's were the fun begins.
Best things are always left for dessert
When I say "study group", this usually means you spend the whole day at school together. That may sound really boring, but with a bar in the basement of our university things already look less bleak.
As a volunteer bartender at the Beach Bar, I can tell you, it is the best place to learn the Danish concept of "hygge" which equals to having fun. It's easy to meet some great people and hang out there, no matter if you want to play pool, ping pong, Fussball or just relax on the couch. Drinks are extremely cheap compared to downtown pubs. A beer is for 10 kr instead of 45 kr and a cocktail/cider is for 15 kr instead of 65 kr.
Periodically, the bar organizes beer pong/bowling championships or thematic parties like the Semester Start Party, a Christmas Party (sometimes teachers join as well) with prizes (usually in the form of alcohol for you and your friends). Plus, the international students always have a welcome barbecue party at the start of their new study-journey.
Esbjerg Campus has two more universities around Aalborg University and EA (The Business Academy). Sometimes people team up from everywhere for sports championships - which all end with a party at the bar.
A city within the city
When you are hungry, you should know that Aalborg University has a cafeteria with fresh food and cheap every day. So remember: SDU has the drinks and AAU has the food. Isn't it nice when everybody gets along?
If you are not a people person you can always take away something from the cafeteria or cook in the student kitchen, order something at the bar and go to the library, silence rooms or study group rooms. The library is very colorful with a lot of space, good books to read and awesome bean bags. If you want to copy or print something, there are plenty of printers around campus and you get 200$ free credit from SDU.
Compared to Odense or any other SDU campus I personally like the Esbjerg Campus best because we are like a community helping each other and having fun. It's a small comfy village, a city within the city, where you have everything you need so if you want to study here. Oh, and I forgot to tell you that the surroundings are awesome as well, the whole campus is surrounded by green areas.