Just as many others, I really looked forward to my semester abroad. After the two years at the Karlshochschule I wanted to meet new people, experience a new culture and study at a different university. So, when I was asked to write something about my experiences abroad, I couldn’t hesitate to say yes! For me, I decided to go to Aalborg, a city in northern Denmark, because I wanted to experience the Scandinavian lifestyle, but Norway and Sweden are too cold during the winter, and also because they were handling the pandemic very well.
Now, I could write about all the amazing people I met, the fun times we had and the beautiful places we visited… I even attended a festival! But I think you know this already. It’s what you expect from a semester abroad because everyone will tell you this. Therefore, I want to tell you about some small details I encountered during my time in Aalborg.
It’s not a secret, that Germany is not a “digital” country, especially compared to the Scandinavian ones (yes, Denmark is also a Scandinavian country) and I really enjoyed seeing that for myself! It starts with the registration at the citizens office. Everyone in Denmark, including us exchange students, receives a CPR number and a health insurance card. In Germany, I would have to print all required documents, search for an appointment on a website older than me and when I show up at the citizens office everything needs to be scanned again. In Denmark, all documents are simply uploaded online on an easy-to-understand website and I only had to show up at the citizens office to take a picture and sign a piece of paper. That took me around 15 minutes. Apart from that, nearly everything I did during the day has been digitalized in some way. The supermarket, cafés, restaurants, lemonade stands… these places all accepted digital payment methods such as Apple Pay and it’s the norm! While in Germany digital payment methods are the exception, in Denmark I had to justify it when I wanted to pay with cash. There were also many useful apps. The local supermarket for example had their own app in which I could scan the groceries and directly pay for them, avoiding me waiting in line at the cashier. The university also had an app which showed me all my courses and assignments as well as the location of every room on campus. I will really miss that!
When visiting Denmark, be prepared to pay a lot more for everything. The reason is that they have taxes for everything. Sugar tax, alcohol tax, car tax… buying a car in Denmark is twice as expensive as in Germany! I understand the intention behind the taxes, but it does also hurt the wallet. Especially in two areas: coffee and beer. A cup of coffee usually costs around 5 € and a beer in a bar costs 6,50 €! This not only makes a night out very expensive, but also surviving the next day. It also makes studying in a café, something I like doing a lot, very difficult. But still, I think a large portion of my Erasmus scholarship ended up there. So, I really recommend everyone, who is thinking about going to Denmark, invest in a coffee machine. It’s worth it. It’s cheaper and, to be honest, it also tastes better. I can’t wait to see mine in Germany again.
When we arrived on campus the first days, the university organized a tour through the city for us. As we walked around, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and it was relatively warm. Therefore, we wondered whether it snows in Aalborg. Their answer was “well, rarely, but when it snows, it’s not the nice snow which can be used for snowball fights, and it usually melts immediately.” Well, on a normal day in December, a blizzard came. A fellow student had an exam that day and we wanted to celebrate that, but when I opened the door, the wind just pushed me back into my apartment. When I managed to get outside, the snowflakes felt like small stones hitting me in the face. Within several hours, Aalborg was completely buried under 30 cm of snow. To be fair, it did seem that Aalborg doesn’t encounter snow that often, because they absolutely weren’t prepared for it. Everywhere the cars and busses were stuck, even the police had difficulties moving around. It took the city four days to get trucks clearing the roads. On the upside, the snow was fun to play with and it created a really beautiful setting.
So how was my semester abroad? Amazing! Yes, I did meet amazing people, had fun times with them and visited beautiful places, but I feel like that these small details are the ones making the stay unique and unforgettable. They can’t be shared in a simple article or post, and I think that’s fine. I will remember them clearly in my mind and I look forward rewinding these memories with my friends from Aalborg in the future.
Article by Yibei Geng *YG – International Business, 6th semester (KarlsStorytellers)