At last I arrived in Aarhus. My very first impression as I got off the plane was that the airport really didn’t seem like an airport, but more like a Ski resort. The building looked like the buildings up Cardrona, and the scenery fitted the bill. As I walked across the tarmac it even started to snow!
Customs was relatively uneventful – a man who looked suspiciously like Santa stared at my passport for a few seconds and then said “OK” in a heavy Scandanavian accent. I was expecting to at least show my residence permit…
I had already done my research and found there is only one bus that goes after each flight and only one flight coming in that day so I had to get on pretty quickly once I had my bag. I got on just in time. Unfortunately that meant I didn’t have time to get cash out (not that I spotted an ATM at the tiny, tiny airport), grab a map or get a sim card. How foolish of me, thinking the airport may be big enough to have a stall from a phone company. I knew it was a stretch but I thought there surely could be something.
The bus ride was fascinating coming in. Most of all as I took in the scenery and noted all of the differences. My ski resort impression was only reinforced as I started to see more houses. They very much follow a similar colour scheme to those in Wanaka, with the odd few bright yellow ones dotted in between. It took me a while to realise what I finally found so odd about them, – they look like State Housing in New Zealand.
Almost none of the houses have any kind of individual character (from what I have seen). They are predominantly red brick buildings, with no balconies,
verandas, or other such embellishments, just straight up and down. Most areas are made up of blocks of identical houses, or they will be incredibly similar with the odd one made of concrete and painted – usually grey, white or bright yellow. They don’t have much land either, but then again who wants to play back yard cricket in -2 degrees? It was often strange seeing shops, as all of the buildings looked the same apart from the (sometimes quite subtle) signage. It was also slightly sickening how many logos I recognised, as the signs were all in Danish!
The other strange thing is that a huge amount of the housing is massive big unit blocks which very much remind me of the slums you see on TV in the UK or the outskirts of Paris – rows and rows of concrete units.
As I got closer to town, I spotted some bigger houses that looked a bit more elegant, but still very similar to each other. In the very centre the buildings are all tall, thin, terraces attached to each other. The older ones look really cool, but again are still aren’t particularly individual. The end result is that it makes it very hard to find a reference point in town, and therefore makes it very easy to get lost.
Speaking of which, I was slightly worried on the way in that I didn’t have a chance to check a map, but I assumed that there would be maps around campus and people I could bump in to. Again, assumptions failed me. Instead, there was almost no signage anywhere and all I had was an address I couldn’t pronounce. I had bus numbers, but no idea where to get them from. I decided the best option was to catch a taxi to the International Office, where I needed to pick up my keys. That in itself proved to be quite the challenge. Particularly as I had no cash or phone.
I spotted a 7/11 and figured there would be an atm there, or at the very least I could buy something. Unfortunately, Danish EFTPOS systems dodn’t really like foreign cards and there was no cash machine. So 7/11 man sent me on a wild goose chase, dragging my suitcase in the cold to find a cash machine. After stopping a number of people I finally found one. Next hurdle: a taxi. With no phone to call a taxi I wandered along towards the town centre to see if I could spot a taxi stand or even one driving past, but alas, Aarhus apparently all but closes down on a Sunday. Finally I decided to go in to shop to ask if there is a payphone around, and happen to find probably the one retailer in Aarhus that doesn’t speak English. Luckily the ‘phone’ hand signal and the word ‘taxi’ are pretty Universal and kind old greek man rings one for me, then marches me out to the part of the street he told the taxi to go to. I almost wanted to buy some of the antipasto ingredients he was selling just to say thank you, but I really didn’t think a container of sundried tomatoes would be handy to carry around at that particular time.
The next hurdle was finding the International office. Once the Taxi driver got me to the address I then had to find ‘Block B.’ None of the blocks have labels, apart from a random ‘K’ that I eventually spotted. By this point I had dragged my suitcase around in the cold for about an hour and a half (apart from the taxi ride) and was half tempted to throw it down on the ground and have a cry. Fortunately I quickly remembered that I’m not five years old and it wasn’t going to get me any closer to where I need to be, no matter how frustrated I was. I finally spotted some girls walking along who pointed me in the right direction. At last there is a subtle A4 sheet of paper on the door saying ‘exchange students this way.’ Real helpful. Couldn’t have put a sign on the street maybe? Or even some balloons on the letterbox?
Once I had arrived a couple of ‘tutors’ – turns out they aren’t academic tutors, more like student mentors who are there to help you out throughout the week – drove me to my accommodation. They were absolutely lovely and gave me a lot of really helpful advice (how to get to the supermarket, where to get off the bus etc). However, I was still grumpy and exhausted after my ordeal so it was really hard to be excited when I had finally reached my destination.
The flat was empty too, which didn’t help. I was totally unmotivated to unpack or even stand up to have a shower. Drinks the night before and only sleeping on planes probably didn’t help. I knew I should feel excited but I just couldn’t drum up any kind of enthusiasm. Despite being so excited when I left, 50 hours later (25 in the air) all I wanted was a nap. Unfortunately, the room didn’t come with any blankets. After a hot shower, I decided to jump on facebook and see if I could chat to anyone familiar to make myself feel better, but New Zealand was still asleep. My next idea was to go to the supermarket and get some food. The icing on the cake was when I went to dry my hair so I could go outside and my European power adapter instantly crapped out after one blast of the hairdryer. I was about to charge my laptop which had just ran out of battery so my last connection with anyone back home was gone too. By that stage all that was going through my head was “Why the hell am I on the other side of the world all by myself? I had it so good at home.” I knew I was meant to feel happy and excited to arrive but instead I was wishing I had Dorothy’s red shoes. I wondered if this is what people with post-natal depression felt like…
Fortunately after a 15 hour sleep, when I went to my first introductory ‘class’ the next day it was all up from there, as I met an amazing bunch of people and found out I wasn’t the only one who had a ridiculously difficult time getting to the sign-less International centre.