Sadly we were caught out by those silly tourist destinations that advertise opening hours, but in the fine print have a “last admission” time, so we narrowly missed out on the Pantheon. It was still amazing from the outside though, as were the old University buildings. What a fancy pants law school this one in is!
This one was actually part of the cycling tour, but it has quite an interesting story. The Humboldt University of Berlin was originally known for being a highly prestigious University, educating the likes of Karl Marx and Albert Einstein. During the war it gained fame for a much more tragic reason.
On May 10 1933, some 20,000 books written by “degenerates” were taken from the library and burned in the Opernplatz, after which Joseph Geobbels gave a speech to demonstrate against ideals not held by the NAZI party.
Today, there is a monument to the book burning which consists of a glass roof, where you can look down and see empty shelves, with enough space to hold 20,000 books. A plaque at the monument bears the following quote from an 1820 work by Heinrich Heine: “Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen” (“That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they ultimately burn people”).
As well as burning books, the NAZI party also passed a law that resulted in numerous academics being fired and having their doctorates revoked. It continues to astound me that around every corner there are more and more stories of horrible actions and events. It seems impossible to hear all of the things that went on – the sheer volume is insane.
Well, I finally made it! Semester over. From start to finish, it worked out a whole lot longer than a semester back in NZ. While the teaching period was shorter (some classes only 8 weeks) the exam period was the clincher. It seems every department is operating on their own terms, and my exams were spread out over 5 weeks, starting 2 weeks after my last class. On the one hand it was the most stress free exam period I have ever had, being over such a long period (I see why Danes all look so young). On the other hand it was mind numblingly boring and I would have much preferred get them all out of the way in 2 weeks (as I am used to) and having a longer summer. Oh well, its all done now!
The Danish style, as I wrote about at the beginning of semester, is really different to what I’m used to in NZ, which is very much based on a traditional British model of academia. This was definitely the first semester (excluding law papers in NZ) where I have actually read every textbook cover to cover, as for the most part, rather than lecturers just summing up the material in the textbook and telling you what you need to know, in Denmark anything in your textbook is examinable, and classes (mostly) are more discussion of the content and solving cases using the theories you have just learned, rather than simply reciting the key points to you. So there is a definite need to keep up with readings throughout the semester if you are going to get anywhere. The other thing I really like is that problems in class and the exams themselves were case based, using realistic examples. So much was the focus on how the real world works, that some of my lecturers were external businessmen, and two of my exams were presentations rather than a written test.
The part I didn’t like, however, was that solving the cases tended to be more about doing what the lecturer wanted/citing the right theories for the course than the best answer to the problem. But if you knew what they were looking for it wasn’t too hard to get a good grade. The trouble came when the lecturer wasn’t at all clear on what they were looking for.
All in all I really enjoyed my semester, and found my courses a lot more interesting than other business papers I have taken. I’m unsure if that is because of the more realistic/practical way of teaching or because papers always get more interesting as you progress through your degree, though.
Finally, the absolute best part of it was meeting all of the wonderful people I did this semseter. It was like being in first year again, with loads of others in a similar situation and being completely surrounded by new faces and I loved it. I made so many great friends from all over europe, and luckily most of the Danish ones and a few two-semester exchange students will still be there next semester. For the rest who have now left, it is really sad to see so many great friends go, but I hope to see them all again, and luckily, for those in Europe I’ll be able to visit them this summer!
I learned about so many great cultures, and met loads of likeminded people having the time of their lives on exchange, some of which I travelled with too. I am so glad I’m doing a second semester in Aarhus because it was just the most amazing time, and I definifely am not ready to say goodbye yet, so I imagine it must have been really hard for those who have had to go. It is also really strange that a bunch of my friends are disappearing, to be replaced with a new group of exchange students. I am definitely looking forward to meeting the new ones (there will be another kiwi from Otago Uni which is exciting, I can finally use my full vocabulary of slang to someone who will understand it), though there is definitely no replacing the friends I made this semester!
It seems I’m not the only one that finds my jokes funny, and a nifty little website called internations.org stumbled across my blog and thought it was a bit of alright. I suspect it actually has more to do with not that many people blogging about moving to Denmark… Anyhow, looks like pretty good promo for their site as I checked it out and it is actually pretty cool. A good place to start it you are moving to a new country and feeling a little lost/lonely. I’m lucky, having been introduced to Denmark via a University exchange programme, but I can see how it could be really hard for someone who isn’t in a group of 150 odd exchange students with events and lectures on Danish culture organised for them.
If you are interested in checking out the site, and reading the interview they got me to do, have a gander here.
One of Aarhus University’s student bars, (aptly named ‘Baren’) also happens to be the bar with the biggest range of specialty beers in town, housing at least 200 of them. I recently participated in a focus group where we were given a free beer voucher as a reward. Not being much of a beer drinker I felt I should take the opportunity to sample something new and different. Which resulted in me interrogating the poor unsuspecting beer drinking to find out what she recommended. She asked if I had ever tried an ‘IPA’ beer. My blank look must have said it all, and she then produced a bottle of ‘Mikkell’s IPA.’ She was obviously keen on the idea of maximising the value of my voucher, as apparently it is one of the more expensive of the 200 beers on the menu. Good bartender.
When I saw the label I realised that what was meant by ‘IPA’ was India Pale Ale and couldn’t help but laugh – a common phrase plastered across one of our more common, cheap, shitty beers which redeems itself only by its great advertising. I’m talking about Tui if any kiwi’s are reading this and are still confused.
One of the other focus group volunteers at the table with us was also a bartender at ‘Baren’ (and one must be well versed in near useless beer facts to work there, apparently) and proceeded to tell me all about what India Pale Ale really means – something I had never even thought about, despite seeing it so many times. As it turned out, when the English first went to India, they couldn’t handle the awful beer there, so imported their own, but had to come up with an entirely new brewing technique, laden with preservatives, in order to ship the beer all the way to India and have it survive the journey. Again, I’m not so big on beer, so I sort-of forgot the next part but I think it was more hops making it pale in colour or something. So there’s some beer trivia for you.
In other news, I didn’t really like this particular beer so much, despite it being so expensive and highly recommended…
The Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet in Stockholm came highly recommended, although it is a (quite expensive) subway ride out of the centre of the city. You’ll find it on the grounds of Stockholm University, which are also quite nice to have a wander around. We made the mistake of heading there on a Monday and not actually checking the opening hours. Turns out many museums in Scandinavia aren’t open on Mondays, so it is definitely advisable to check the hours before you go.
On attempt number two, it was quite interesting to explore yet another magnificent Stockholm building. Unfortunately, being the off-season, what was probably the best exhibit was closed for repairs/maintenance/whatever the museum terminology is. The exhibit in question is the famous one where you walk through a giant human body. I could see the top of his head above the door but alas! Other than that there was what could have been a quite interesting exhibit on Climate Change had it had more translations, and a tonne of stuffed animals. (As you can see I’m giving the exhibits my own super creative English names). The human evolution exhibit and giant whale skeletons were pretty good, and the highlight of the open exhibits was probably the animals-on-record covers one – a collection of old record covers that feature animals in the art. There was a fairly novel duke box too, very much in theme. I played myself Fleetwood Mac’s “The Albatross” as I perused the collection.
My favourite part was the following elephant skeleton, largely because of his accompanying hilarious story:
This poor elephant was shot in South Africa in 1844 by engineer and scientific explorer Johan August Wahlberg (not the funny bit) who gathered large collections for the museum on his own initiative (i.e. that justified his hunting). He financed these expeditions with elephant hunting, by selling ivory as well as financial support from the Museum and the Royal Academy. In 1856 Wahlberg was trampled to death by a wounded elephant. Serves him bloody right!
All in all I found it quite overrated, but if I’d paid extra (it was already fairly expensive at about $15 to get in) for the 3D Imax cinema, or the human body exhibit had been open I think my experience may have been quite different. Lesson learned – do the research, especially with expensive museums in the off season.
***Update to include more puns, as requested***
The Vengaboys were back in town and they like, they like to party. The kept calling out to me, like my Uncle John from Jamaica and we spent the night together, together in one room. The music was boom boom boom booming, the crowd jumped up and down and I was still singing Shalala Lala in the morning.
When I saw that the Studenterlauget/ Student Association was putting on a 90s party, I assumed it was going to be your regular old student party with a dress up theme. How wrong was I! In Scandinavia, when they party like its 1999, they pull out the big guns.
Luckily one of my friends bought the lineup of the Club K (as in Klubben, the student bar) 90s party to my attention nice and early, as it was a sell out gig. Starting with S.O.A.P. – performers of the classic 90s tune ‘This is How We Party,’ followed by DJ Sash, a Danish duo previously unknown to me called Diskofil and finally, the headliner: The Vengaboys! I actually didn’t believe it when I was first told they would be playing on campus.
Rumours were flying around that it would sell out, so I got one of the 1500 tickets nice and early. Others, unfortunately were not so lucky. There was a great deal of excitement as we put our lip liner and loud shirts on – we could barely contain ourselves on the bus ride in! Unfortunately our excitement was slightely dampened by a giant line at the door, followed by another giant line for coat check, causing us to miss S.O.A.P. Once we finally got in, DJ Sash kindly informed us we were going back to 1997 and it was all go from there!
In another Danish display of non-PC drinking, the drink deal of the day was 10 shots for 100DKK (about $20) which come in little test tubes with lids so you can stash them in your handbag. Perfect for disco ravers.
After an excellent performance of every classic song of the entire decade from a somewhat ageing DJ Sash, Diskofil made an entrance. Diskofil is a Danish dance music cover band who famously ran in to a bit of strife with Los del Rios when they recorded a Danish version of The Macarena which they called ‘Margarine’. In response they rerecorded a slightly modified version called ‘Disko Karina.’ On Friday night only two out of the original five were there, but as strange as they were, they seemed to be quite a hit with the Danes! Sadly no songs in English, so I couldn’t sing along to anything. The bizarre costuming and disco beats were entertainment enough though.
At last, after a 30min wait (in which we acquired more shots and positioned ourselves in the front row, centre stage) the stars of the night came out! When I first heard they were going to be playing, my initial thought was ‘what could be more hilarious than washed up 90s pop stars trying to fit in to their skimpy old costumes and perform their eurotrash hits?’ I was suprised to see, however, that although 15 years has gone by they could still squeeze in to their costumes (just) and seemed to remember their dance moves. They whipped out all of their hits and I was amazed at how many of the words I remembered. I cringed at the Cowboy guy’s discoball jockstrap whilst belting out ‘Shalala Lala’, ‘Uncle John from Jamaica’ and ‘We’re Going to Ibiza.’ I didn’t know where to look when the Sailor guy pulled a Moose on the lead singer during ‘Boom Boom Boom Boom,’ and they went up multiple points when they confirmed to the crowd that they were the “Queens of Eurotrash.” Glad they can laugh at themselves too. All in all a brilliant performance and an epic blast from the past! And of course yet another reason why University in Denmark is awesome.
Unfortunately with the rapid dance routines, flashy lighting and smoke everywhere it was incredibly difficult to get good photos, but here’s the best of:
Also, a quick search of their website confirms they have recently played at the Hooters Pyongyang opening party, Berlusconi’s Girlfriend’s Sweet Sixteen Party in Milan, the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, the Vatican Kids Choice Awards and a Mixed Nudist Colony in Khartoum, Sudan. Definitely all real events.
As already described in my initial impression of the Danish University style, collaboration is key, as our presentations. For one of my papers, Integrated Marketing Communication, throughout the semester we have to do a ‘voluntary’ group presentation. While the notion of doing an assignment for no credit is somewhat foreign to me, most of my exams are oral presentations to a panel of examiners, so it is pretty good practise. Particularly with the Danish style being so different. I actually kind of like the idea – it is much better training for the real world than cramming for two days before a multichoice exam.
The other key difference is that most students have all progressed through semesters/classes together, so already know eachother and are often already in study groups where they have worked on numerous projects.
In one of our earliest IMC lessons, the lecturer asked if the international students who were new to the class would like to be a group together or to split up and join groups with the Danish students. I jumped at the chance to work with students who a) already knew how the system worked and how to get good grades and b) were actual Danes! It was surprisingly difficult to meet Danes initially, with such a huge group of international students exploring Aarhus together.
In response, the lecturer had all the International students stand up and asked the Danish students to pick which ones of us they wanted! Only slightly awkward. I put on my best ‘I’m not an idiot, I swear!’ smile, which seems to have worked a treat.
I really hoped my study group meetings would be exactly like episodes of Community, but sadly my study group are all normal, really nice, and very welcoming. Actually that is probably a good thing, they never seem to get ANY work done on Community…
To compensate for the lack of Troy and Abed in the morning, the baking roster is having an excellent impact on productivity – especially as a certain study group member seems to be an avid fan of Epic Meal Time. In our most recent meeting, he whipped out a gigantic Mississipi Mud Cake, complete with melted marshmallows and mousse to got on top. And supposedly the unique combination of ingredients all cancelled out the calories, so that was a bonus. Pressure is certainly on when it is my turn to bake!
A few weeks before I left I was emailed a program of ‘Introductory Week’ – the mandatory Orientation Week program at Aarhus School of Business. I received the email at work (it was, er, definitely during my lunchbreak and definitely not on the work server) and like most things I found hilarious, shared it with the other two interns. We worked with contracts, you see, so everything seems funny in comparison.
The bit that we giggled at was the event called ‘Klubben’ as we thought that was the organisers being cute and translating ‘Clubbing.’ It turns out that Klubben is the name of the student bar at the School of Business (owned and run by the Business Students’ Association, Studenterlauget), which hosts riotous parties every Thursday night. Reminiscent of Pint night at Re:Fuel at Otago University, everyone is there on a Thursday and the place really goes off. It is much more like a nightclub though, with DJs rather than miscellaneous bands. It has a very cool setup inside too – the DJ plays out of an old school bus!
Apparently the University is clamping down on the Thursday night parties and this is the last semester they will be allowed. The main reason for it is the recent (and reading between the lines, very political) merger which has seen the Aarhus School of Business become part of Aarhus University. It has also resulted in some restructuring of the faculties and leads to just a little bit of student-association-confusion. I am a member of both the main University students’ association and the School of Business students’ association. Both of them own gyms, bars and provide various other services around campus. Unsurprisingly, the School of Business has the most profitable and commercial association, with a huge annual turnover, loads more corporate sponsors and a much more commercial structure (i.e. a board, rather than a council/executive although the board is still elected). The members of the board that I have come across were masters students, and love to suit up. Neither the Studenterhus (main campus students’ association) or Studenterlauget (School of Business students’ association) are particularly political, as the political arm is completely separate again. The Student Council is the political arm, which lobbies the University and local council on housing conditions (all too familiar coming from Dunedin) and suchlike. The Studenterhus is actually just run by 5 full time employees and 200+ volunteers as a not-for-profit service based organisation, rather than any kind of elected group. The sport groups are also separate bodies. Very confusing. To be quite honest I don’t even know who I am technically playing volleyball for as I think the sports groups are mid-merge.
The Thursday night party night issue is supposedly due to the fact that every other faculty holds what is called a ‘Friday Bar’ on, you guessed it, a Friday. Friday bars are a bit of an institution, and each department holds one that anyone can attend, each with its own theme/drink specials/defining characteristics. Some have live music of various genres, others are known for their cocktails and others are popular for their gender imbalances. I.e. apparently there is a high chance you won’t pay for a drink if you are a female at the Maths department Friday bar. Klubben (meaning club) is the only faculty that only allows members (unless you pay a cover charge, and are with a member) hence being quite contentious.
As far as Universities meddling in the drinking culture, it appears the Danes are a great deal less PC when it comes to drinking than New Zealand, with the issue seemingly centring on competing with other faculties and excluding other students, rather than midweek drinking!
I cannot count the amount of times since I have been here that someone has told me Danish is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn. There are extra letters all over the show and the pronunciation is absolutely nothing like how you would expect it to be. Despite everyone here being fluent in Englihs, I have really been looking forward to starting lessons. Not only are a lot of words sinking after just a few weeks, but I really don’t like not understanding what is going on around me, or being able to read menus and signs in shops.
It is also really awkward when someone approaches you speaking in Danish. I always feel bad when I have to say ‘Sorry I don’t speak Danish’. And yet they usually apologise when they switch to English! The exception of course,is people who are trying to sell you something or sign you up for a charity. In that case, I have found that the key to success is to start talking in a third language. A very fast ‘Ah non je suis desolee, je ne comprend pas!’ usually gets them out of the way pretty quickly. I will no doubt regret that the day I get stopped by a French speaking Oxfam salesperson, but until then it seems to be the fastest way to get rid of them!
What I didn’t realise about learning Danish is what they actually must have meant – it is the hardest language to begin to take lessons in.
Here I was thinking it was all going to be handed to me one a silver platter, or more accurately, a straight forward transaction where I sign up for the class, get the confirmation email with time, date and location and I’m good to go. The first few parts worked out, but when I arrived at the school and checked in at reception things didn’t quite work out that way.
It was pretty much exactly like this:
*I think the introduction was meant to say the Danes, rather than the British
Apparently my registration hadn’t been entered into the system correctly, and the receptionist couldn’t work out what classroom I ought to be in. So her answer to everything was simply ‘No’:
Harriet: Can you tell me what room I am meant to be in?
Dopey Receptionist: No. You are not in the system.
Harriet: Well I signed up a week ago and the confirmation email said I start in the class at 6:30 tonight. Do you know what room the beginner class at 6:30pm is?
Dopey Receptionist: No.
Harriet: Is there someone you can ask?
Dopey Receptionist: No.
Harriet: Can I sign up now then? If I’m not in my allocated class there should be a spare seat…
Dopey Receptionist: No. Someone will email you with a room number.
Harriet: Are you telling me I have to just turn around and go home and wait for an email?
Dopey Receptionist: Yes.
Harriet: Are you serious? There is nothing you can do to find out what room I am meant to be in?
Dopey Receptionist: No. Someone will email.
It was beyond ridiculous. There I was, nice and early, ready for my class and the ridiculous barrier to entry was the receptionist not knowing what room I was meant to be in because there was no page in the handbook telling her how to deal with that situation. I know the place is government funded, but at least take the initiative to go ask your supervisor a question. Maybe it wasn’t so much her fault and the place was entirely reliant on that computer system, or the poor woman wasn’t empowered to make decisions in her job, but it was bewildering to think that bureaucracy overruled logic and they couldn’t just squeeze me in to the class I was meant to be in because of their error. Even if it was the wrong one, its not like the bloody place was going to be a mosh pit, I could have sat in the back of the room!
I made it home, rather annoyed that I had gone all the way in to town just to turn around and go back home, especially knowing that the classes start once a month so I may have to wait a month to join the next one.
After a week I still hadn’t received an email about my class. I was about to ring up and enquire, when I checked my emails and there was one from the coordinator at Laer Dansk. However, to my great surprise, it was a group email to all of the exchange students promoting a gig from some local band. From his work email. This isn’t the first time I have encountered someone who is too busy promoting his buddy’s shitty garage band and thinking he is the next Simon Cowell to actually do his job, so it annoyed me even more. Suffice to say he received a rather tersely worded reply with just the right amount of guilt tripping.
With that the issue was resolved and I was put in to a class the next Monday. When I got there the teacher knew exactly who I was, so I guess there had finally been some internal communication in the place. Unfortunately everyone else was two 3hour lessons ahead, so I had to work twice as hard to catch up. Which the teacher conveniently kept forgetting.
Luckily I wasn’t too shy to stick my hand up and say ‘Sorry, I have no idea what you are talking about.’ If it had been my fault that I missed class I would feel bad about holding everyone up, but I was so frustrated about being behind and it being their fault, that the least they could do was make a bit of an effort to help me out!
Halfway through the lesson I was feeling like I had caught up somewhat, but it certainly wasn’t a fine display of Scandinavian efficiency. With one book full of conversations/sentences, a second book with the translations and a third book with pronunciation, it was enough of a puzzle flicking through the pages and trying to match them up before she sped on to the next module, but by the end of the lesson I felt like I was catching on. We covered a huge amount of material and then there was homework to do, so the name of the program – ‘Intensivst Dansk’ – certainly was no lie!
It definitely makes it a whole lot easier being surrounded by Danish speakers, reading Danish shop signs etc. Immersion theory and all that. I have already found myself getting a lot more used to Danish words and their pronunciation in particular. Hearing the place names being called out on the buses has been incredibly useful for that too. In fact, before my first class I was already having full conversations in Danish! For example:
Harriet: Hej (Hi, pronounced ‘hi’ also)
[Shopkeeper scans items]
Shopkeeper: [says something Danish]
[Screen says price]
[Harriet hands over cash]
Harriet: Tak! [Thanks in Danish, pronounced as you’d expect, for once]
Success! I bet she didn’t even know I wasn’t Danish!