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Apr 29, 2021
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I study International Bachelor's in Humanities at Roskilde University - This is my story

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My name is Krisztina and I am currently a first-semester student at Roskilde University. Here is my view on the International Bachelor's in Humanities program.
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How did you find out about your program?

I don’t remember exactly, but I think maybe through the website of Study in Denmark, or something similar.

 

Would you recommend your program to others interested in this field?

I’d recommend this program only to a certain type of people. To say a few particularly good things, this program could be useful for those who would like to engage in academic work, especially academic thinking and writing, and pursue a fully academic career later on. It works a lot with methods and theories of research.

There is quite a great amount of group work, which is helpful for learning how to cooperate with others, resolve conflicts and learn one’s place in a group setting. One good thing is that, together with your group, you can choose whatever you are interested in and you can write a project about it.

A lot of people here love this freedom of choice and that education here is not book-based; for example, we don’t have to cram many definitions for exams, but we can choose what we want to do and how we want to do it exactly. We can even use our written products, notes and books in the oral examinations. I believe all these points have their advantages.

 

Did the program live up to your expectations?

Unfortunately, for me this program is quite a disappointment, it is not at all what I expected and looked forward to. It's not the best place for people who are more on the practical and creative side of things. Most of the classes (including readings, tasks and exercises) seem extremely abstract and vague; the project that has to be done also kind of feels like we are writing ‘big words about nothing’.

The skillset that we acquire through this degree is not particularly useful either, given the fact that it's only soft skills, which someone can learn elsewhere too. This is the reason why there is a high unemployment rate amongst the graduates and RUC receives a lot of criticism for its approach towards education.

The amount of group work can be quite daunting at times, sometimes with several weekly meetings (depending on the particular group), and it can feel extremely challenging to prepare for all the other classes next to the group project, while balancing all that with your personal life.

As I already have a bachelor’s degree in a humanistic field (English Studies), I had my own idea about how university works, and although I knew it would be very different here, I was quite shocked to see how things work at this particular university. I wanted to learn something more useful than I did previously, still in a similar area, but I don't really see how I will be able to use this degree in the future or benefit from it at all, as it isn’t really preparing me for any specific position or area I could work in.

Having said that, please note that I am simply being critical and realistic, and my purpose is not to talk you down from choosing this university. After all, you will not know whether it works for you and if you like it, until you try it yourself.

I am also absolutely aware that I have chosen a university that is not suitable for me, however, I believe I speak for many when I say that a pretty big amount of people feel the same frustration and helplessness as I do upon realizing what kind of education RUC offers exactly, which is also quite hard to predict based on the description found on the website.

My advice to anyone who would like to study here: do your research, don’t just read the website, ask people who attended or are attending the course, about how the classes are or how a usual day/week/semester looks like etc.

I'm suggesting this because the reality can be very different from what you know so far. And also, if you feel discouraged based on this information, make sure you have as many different opinions as you can before making a decision, and don’t let it put you down if it turns out it’s not what you imagined it to be.

Is your uni a place to hang out? Or are you going there just to study?

The university campus itself is in a beautiful place, because it's surrounded by nature, including a lake with ducks and (aggressive) swans. It has quite a modern architecture and a spacious library with a pretty view to a pond.

Inside a library: spaces to sit, big windows, tall potted trees
Inside the University Library at RUC campus

There is also a somewhat pricey cafeteria and café with healthy, delicious food choices. There are a lot of places to sit and hang out both inside and outside, also a lot of events and clubs happening. For instance, I go to choir in the student house, but there is also a gym with sports teams, a garden club, sustainability club, board game club, just to mention a few.

All in all, it is a great place to hang out and attend events, clubs or just spend some time outside classes. Sometimes it’s hard to find info about these clubs (there isn’t a specific page for most of them on the RUC website), so ask around, read the dashboards around uni, search on Facebook if you are interested in any of them, read the newsletter from RUC and watch out for introductory events.  

 

Do you live in a dorm? How much do you pay?

I live in an originally unfurnished student studio flat with its own kitchen and bathroom. I am currently paying 4027 DKK/month (including rent, electricity, heating, water, compulsory TV and antenna contribution), but excluding WiFi (+229 DKK/month) and laundry (10+6 DKK/one cycle of washing+drying).

Studio flat seen from entrance door: kitchen, desk, chair and bed
Most accommodation for rent in Denmark comes unfurnished

I also receive housing support of 521 DKK/month, that everyone who has their own kitchen is eligible for. It’s not automatic though, so you have to apply for it on borger.dk as soon as you can, because you can’t get it retrospectively.

The universities do not have their own dorms, however there are some dorms which are for all the university students of the town (there are 3 campuses).

My advice is to sign up on s.dk as soon as you can (it is allowed to sign up 6 months before your education starts, I think), even if you don’t know yet whether you will be admitted to the chosen university course or not. You will get on a waiting list and will be offered a room if you get lucky enough.

However, getting offered a room can take a very long time, and finding accommodation in Roskilde is quite hard, as it is a small town. Therefore, the majority of the RUC students live in and commute from Copenhagen or around. It’s best to sign up for all the paying websites too, and check the Facebook groups regularly, get notifications whenever someone posts an advertisement about anything available.

Do you feel like you’re getting a good deal at the place where you stay?

I feel like I’m getting the best deal possible, even though  I had to furnish and equip the flat myself. It is really cheap for a one person flat (and no annoying roommates who are loud and don’t clean up after themselves 😁). It is also very close to everything, including the university, my place of work and the city center. It is affordable, small town-ish and comfortable.

How are you traveling to your university?

 I cycle there, which takes about 20 minutes.

(There are also buses that leave from a bus station 5 mins away and stop right next to campus, but they are not so frequent and cost quite a lot without ungdomskort, or even with rejsekort).

 

Are there good places for drinking/eating in the surroundings?

There are a lot of good places to drink and eat, both cheap and more pricey ones. I’m going to introduce you only to some of them now, these are either student-friendly places to go to, or places that are quite popular amongst locals.  

One of the best places in town is the street food on the main square. Lene’s Street Food serves all kinds of hotdogs, even some with vegetarian sausages (for the great happiness of vegetarians like me). On the same spot, there is also Spicy India, serving various Indian dishes for a rather cheap price, also catering for vegetarians and vegans alike. I suggest trying them while sitting out on the chairs or benches of the square, and just enjoy the surroundings on a mild, nice day. You can really experience the town buzzing and it makes you feel part of the whole.

For drinks, locals mainly suggest the brew pub at Musicon, the main cultural district of the town, with the famous RagnaRock museum in the middle. The area in itself is worth a visit, and I can’t wait to try their berry flavored beer.

Just to show how strong the beer scene is in Roskilde, another popular favorite of the town is Klosterkaelderen, a beer bar with a huge, growing selection of handcrafted, special beers from all around the world, with occasional concerts.

 

What is one thing you love about your city?

I love the small town-ish, calm and quiet vibe with all its beautiful historic buildings and the mood they set in and around the city center.

View from the harbor to the Roskilde Cathedral

As an example, one of my favorite places is the main city square and its vibe on a warm, sunny day. The main walking street, which has all the shops and services that you need, leads up to the square, which lies right next to the beautiful Roskilde Cathedral and the astonishing city council building. There stands a fountain and a so called "city’s piano" that anyone is allowed to play, and they also sell cheap street food here. I love the cozy mood and the occasional small concerts, daily farmers' markets and events.

 

What is one thing you love about Denmark?

One of the main things I love here is the relative financial security, which is quite unattainable for a student in most other countries. Even though it is undeniably hard to study and work at the same time, I am getting paid with both salary and scholarship much more than what I would get back in my own country. Here I can save up a lot of money due to benefits such as SU, holiday money, housing benefit, etc., meaning I have savings for any emergency, and I can also comfortably pay for all my monthly expenses and allow myself to travel, enjoy life, etc.

My advice to anyone would be to get a job as soon as you can (yes, I know it’s hard), and compromise even if you have to scrub a lot of dirt for a living for a while (I heard about people who are not willing to do those type of jobs, yet still complain about not getting a job, which I found hilarious).

Getting a job is going to be worth it, because you will learn to be independent, self sufficient, and if you do it well, you won’t have to rely on your family for financial help at all.

Also, make a monthly expense plan (for example in MS Excel, or whatever fits you), where you break down what you spend money on and how much  you spend exactly.

Are you attending Danish classes? If so, how are they?

I am attending Danish classes in Clavis Language School, Roskilde. I took day classes for Module 1, and online classes for Module 2, currently preparing for my second exam.

Regarding the Danish education at Clavis, I have a lot of mixed emotions. To sum it up, I don’t exactly have the best experience with how they teach, however in Roskilde, there aren’t many options available for physical teaching in the government scheme of free Danish education.

The physical classes were an odd experience. I was put in a group with a mixture of people, some of whom had already been taking classes for a while, and some people only joined later. The level of our English wasn’t the same either, some of us spoke on a higher level and therefore understood the explanations and tasks better than others, some even struggled to speak English.

The school justified this way of assembling the groups with the fact that back then (in the fall of 2019), students still had to pay for classes, therefore the last couple of years showed a decline in the number of participants. Consequently, they didn’t have enough pupils to start enough groups which could have focused more on the individual needs of each student.

Another negative aspect was that we didn’t really have time to get into the grammar as much as I felt we should have, to understand the basics. We barely got any homework, and even when we did, they were not compulsory, and the teachers were not really strict on following up on our progress.

At the end, finishing only half of the book we were studying from at the time, we suddenly restarted the whole book with not only new students in the class, but two brand new teachers as well. Those of us who had been there for a month or two were sent to the examination quite suddenly and unexpectedly, and although we all passed, it was because they were extremely easy on us.

Since there are 6 modules altogether in Danish education, module 1 should correspond to an A1 level of knowledge. (Module 2 would be A2, module 3 would be B1, etc.)

As I have mentioned, the education then wasn’t free, and I paid 3000 DKK for the module, which, in retrospect, was not really worth it for the quality and quantity of education I got.

However, around the time I finished, they announced that Danish education will become free again starting next summer, so I decided to take a break and finish the first book on my own, then rejoin the classes online.

Since then, I have been taking online classes to prepare for the module 2 exam, however they also seem similarly unstructured and confusing, like earlier.

Unfortunately, due to my messy university and work schedule, I am not able to follow the classes online, however they are all recorded.

Still, I find it hard to make sense of the material, I feel quite lost and unorganized, despite my best efforts to follow the preparation. I spend what should be a sufficient amount of time on studying, writing homework, doing exercises, taking mock exams, however I feel that even though I might pass this exam too, the result will not reflect my true and real knowledge of Danish at all.

Sadly, I cannot say I am satisfied at all with how things work at Clavis, and I’m not the only one feeling like this.

Again, as I said earlier regarding the university, you won’t know until you try. It all depends on how committed you are to learning Danish, your personal motivation and the amount of effort and time you are able to or willing to sacrifice to make it work.

To mention the positive aspects too, the best would be the effort of the teachers. I could tell that regardless of their limited resources and the silly circumstances that were out of their control, some of them tried their best to give us as much knowledge as they could, answer our questions and provide us with useful information, be it physical or online classes.

The best thing is undoubtedly the fact that the education now is free again, therefore it is worth a try in case you are planning to stay here after graduation.

However, I would like to advise everyone to prepare that this type of education requires a huge amount of individual preparation, and you might be disappointed in the system once you experience the things I mentioned.

Especially if you, like me, are used to learning a language under immensely different circumstances, in a particularly structured way that can potentially lead to more success, it might be hard for you to get used to taking full responsibility for your  personal progress.

Another definitely positive experience was that the language education is strongly focused on speaking and making you practice everyday conversations that you can use in your daily life.

Also, as a side note, Clavis offers you the opportunity to talk to local volunteers, who are usually pensioners who don’t really speak English, and there is a teacher to supervise and help you with your progress, so that is an opportunity you should use if you are serious about learning Danish or staying here long term.

There is also a free Danish conversational club led by an organization called We Local, which you can join, and personal classes that are more expensive, yet possibly more effective, offered by individuals in town.

 

Do you feel involved in your community? Are you a member of any association?

I feel somewhat involved due to my own hobbies and interests both at university and outside of it. Generally, it’s a bit hard to find English-speaking events outside campus, however you just have to know the right people.

At university, I am part of the RUC choir, which is an amazing community of music loving people, where we always have tremendous fun and laughs, hold occasional concerts and organize social events outside of choir too.

Free film screening in Folkeparken Amfiteater

I am also a member of We Local/Be Local, an organization in Roskilde which aims to bring international people together by planning various events such as dinners, visiting theatre plays in English, walks around town, and they also hold a regular, free Danish conversational club for those who would like to practice speaking the language with Danes and other internationals alike.

 

What do you feel like is your biggest struggle these days?

One of my biggest struggle right now is to find free time for my passion. I’m juggling uni, work and learning Danish with my personal life, meanwhile trying to keep myself both physically and mentally healthy, and it’s not easy at all. Both my university and my work schedule are super messy, nothing is ever at the same time on any given week, and even the best and most efficient planners get exhausted while trying to make time for everything and have a proper daily, weekly and monthly agenda.

I’m also struggling with learning Danish partially due to the aforementioned circumstances, lack of time and proper motivation.

Another struggle I have is more of a personal one. I am recovering from a long-term illness, which makes it even harder for me to lead my life the way I would like to. I would advise anyone to prepare for such extraordinary situations as much as you can, especially with the ongoing circumstances. Be careful in your everyday life, keep the rules and your distance. Also, have some savings if you can, make sure you have a small circle of people you can count on, someone you can trust and talk to, be it a friend, a school psychologist or pastor.

Most universities offer some form of counselling service for the vulnerable students and are open for a confidential conversation if you are in need.

Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, and also make sure you have neighbors or roommates you can ask to get groceries in case you have to suddenly self-isolate. For instance, in my student housing, there is a Facebook group for the building complex, and a housing representative living here, whose task is to help the residents.

Getting sick is scary, and I know how lonely and isolating it can be, especially when you are young and you want to be out there, living your life. But with what’s going on right now, we have to adapt and improvise, and have a backup plan in any case.

Make sure your employer and your group mates know what’s going on with you in case you are challenged with such issues, and try not to to feel guilty or bad about not being able to participate in both study and extracurricular activities as much as you would like to.

Keep an open and honest communication and be up to date with technology like Teams, or whatever your university uses to arrange online classes and meetings.

 

What was your budget and did you manage to stick to it?

I made an approximate plan of how much living here would cost, based on different calculations I found online, but it wasn’t a very precise budget, more of an estimation. However, I made an average, and I managed to stick to it more or less.

I actually have saved up more than I thought I would be able to since then. My living expenses are currently around 6.000 to 7.000 DKK monthly, and I am able to save up around roughly 1.000 to 2.000 DKK.

 

How often do you get to travel home and how do you usually travel?

I haven’t traveled home since I got here, however if I had to, I would either take Flixbus (it takes a long time, but has a consistent, cheap price, and is environmentally friendly), or the plane (a cheaper direct flight between Copenhagen and my hometown, probably Ryanair, Wizzair, maybe Jet2).

 

How fast were you able to find a job?

I found a job online the moment I moved here, because someone posted an ad in the "International Student at Roskilde University" Facebook group and I sent my CV immediately. I had the interview in August, and started my job in September. My advice is to look out for Facebook groups, also on any websites, as well as spending a day or two going around town leaving your printed CV everywhere, as well as asking everyone you know whether they heard about something. In case you find accommodation in Roskilde, be prepared that you might have to compromise and accept a job in Copenhagen or somewhere else close by, if you don’t find a job in Roskilde.

 

Do you think you will stay in Denmark after university and what will be the deciding factors?

I am not sure yet. One of the main deciding factors will be, of course, the job opportunities after graduation (and the unemployment benefits, which might sound greedy, but can actually be extremely useful while searching for a position). It will also depend on how much I will be able to integrate in the coming years, what level of Danish I will be on, and how comfortable I will feel in the country in general. Will I feel alienated, or have a group of friends? Finally, it will also depend on my personal life and circumstances.

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