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May 26, 2021
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I study Service, Hospitality and Tourism Management at UCN in Denmark - This is my story

SSG Community
I am Christine, I come from the Czech Republic and I am a 4th-semester student at the University College of Northern Denmark (UCN). Here I'll tell you a bit about my program and my life in Aalborg until recently.
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How did you find out about your program? 

I have always wanted to study abroad. 

I have always been attracted to the South of Europe (Italy, Spain), but there was no possibility to study for free and the language was a problem as well. I was deciding between the UK, Norway and Denmark. The UK was out due to the uncertainty Brexit brought about. I chose Denmark in the end because Norway would be way too dark and cold for me. 

As I was always into business studies, I decided to study hospitality. We do not have that kind of program in the Czech Republic, only at private universities, so that was also one of the reasons why I moved to Denmark.

Blonde young woman sitting at a wooden table with the sea behind her


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

I would recommend it to people who are not sure what exactly they want to study, but who know they are interested in business. This programme is a lot about economics, marketing and communication. If I could choose again though, I would probably go for Marketing Management, which I am considering as a Top-up program at the moment. 


Did the program live up to your expectations? 

My expectations were totally different. I was always used to reading a lot of theory and remembering every word, in order to pass the exams. 

Also, all of my exams were individual before. That was a major thing I had to get used to. Group work may be good, but you have to find people who you are working well with. 

If you get someone who is not interested in what you’re doing, who comes late for the meetings, does not put much effort into the project and just waits for the others to do it for them, the result is bad. You are not responsible only for yourself, but you have to trust others in the group and make a lot of compromises. If you find nice people to work with, it may result in really good work and you can also gain a lot of experience from that, while learning how to be a team player.


To be honest, I would say that a lot of teachers are not qualified enough to teach the subjects they are teaching, so in order to understand the topic at hand, you sometimes have to put more effort to study individually and from different resources than the ones you are provided at school. 

For me, this may also be because I was going to school in person just for 7 months, and since March everything was online and will be online until the end of my AP degree. This was pretty demotivating for me, because sitting behind the computer and listening to classes, sometimes for 7 hours a day, can be pretty exhausting. 


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

At the beginning, there were many parties in school and also many events and fairs, which was great. 

We had a Friday bar where we could gather with friends, so I was going there in my free time, as well. Unfortunately, that option closed for us since the first lockdown in Denmark started. 


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

I live in a 2-floor apartment shared with two flatmates. I pay 2.850 DKK  (including water and heating) + approximately 280 DKK every three months for electricity. Our apartment is 116 m2, including a balcony. 


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

Yes. Our apartment is right in the center of the city. We have a big terrace and it's basically a house, as nobody else goes through our downstairs door. Before, I lived in another apartment with 3 guys and I had a very tiny room (8 m2), for which I paid around 3.300 DKK in total per month. 

What I would like to have known before, is that students should be careful about renting an apartment through an agency, because many of them are just trying to get money from you for nothing, and there is nothing you can do about it. 

That was our case. We were getting the rent bills of the people that had lived there before I moved in, and we had to still pay them, even though we have never met them before; we have tried to solve this with the help of lawyers.

It is always better to talk to the landlord and transfer money to him/her. 

 

How are you traveling to your university? 

I was traveling by bike, and by bus during winter. Now, since I moved to a new apartment, my school is just a 20-minute-walk away, but since the COVID-19 first wave started, I haven’t had a chance to go there.

Blonde young oman watching the sunset next to the sea


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

Yes. Aalborg is a very lively city and even though it's quite small, you can always find something to do. I am going to repeat myself but life is different during the lockdown, so there is not much to do, but that's a momentous situation everywhere, and not a fault of the city. 

Actually I would say that Danish government knows what they are doing and they do handle the whole COVID-19 situation pretty well, in comparison to Czech Republic or Slovakia, for example. 

But under normal conditions, I have everything I need within a 5-minute-walk (Netto, Rema1000, gym, work, restaurants, shopping malls, fjord, nice parks, bus stops etc.); what else to wish?!


What is one thing you love about your city? 

I love that Aalborg is a very international city and there are a lot of students here. It may be a small city compared to Prague, where I grew up, so I was afraid I will be bored here, especially during winter when it's raining all the time and you don't want to go out. 

But when you find the people you want to be surrounded by, it definitely helps a lot, because you feel like it is your second family. 

Secondly, there are many places to visit nearby, so there are many opportunities to explore the North of Denmark. 

View of hills and sea


What is one thing you love about Denmark? 

As I mentioned above, I believe that the most important thing is to be around the right people who support you and whom you can count on anytime. It makes your life much easier. 

At the beginning, I did not like that there are so many Czech and Slovak people in Aalborg but now I see it from a different point of view. It is always nice to talk to people from your own country, those who share the same or similar cultures, and who understand each other. 

And I admit this, even though my main reason to get out of the Czech Republic and come study in Denmark in the first place, was to become a more open-minded person and leave our “bitter” Czech attitude behind. 

Danish people are very nice. They may seem a little bit rude but when you have a chance to get to know them, they are very single-minded and willing to help you. Everyone speaks English here, so they do not mind speaking in English with you. 

On the other hand, it may be a problem for international students to find a job in Denmark without knowing the Danish language. 


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

I was at the beginning,  for around 6 weeks. Then, I started to work every Friday so I did not have a chance to go. And to be honest, I did not feel the need to learn the language. My plan was not to stay in Denmark after studies and I never had issues with speaking just English- every Dane knows English, even the elderly. 


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

I was a member of AIESEC for one year. I think it's very important for us internationals to join some organization, to have different friends than just the ones from university. Also, it looks good on your CV when you apply for an internship, top-up or a future job.


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

My biggest struggle was to get used to being and working from home all the time. I work as a waitress, so I cannot work during the lockdown. I was always used to a busy lifestyle, when suddenly, I had nothing to do, which scared me and made me a little bit depressed for a period of time. 

But now, I can say I am happy with my life. I found a remote internship that I really enjoy, I am taking care of one summer house which is located 1 hour away from Aalborg and the weather is getting better and better. Before, I could not imagine staying in Aalborg for another 1,5 years to continue with my Top-up. Now, applying to UCN in Aalborg is probably going to be my first priority, since I cannot imagine yet another moving process, getting a new apartment, getting to know another city, new people and so on. I can finally say that I feel like home here.


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

I came to Denmark with 8.500 DKK, excluding the first rent payment and deposit, which cost me 8.000 DKK. 

I told myself that I have to find a job immediately. I knew that if I didn’t, I would have to go back, because my parents were not able to financially support me. And fortunately, I did, in 3 weeks or so. 

Young woman standing on a dock while the water is frozen around her


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

I usually traveled home every 4 months. I was going from Aalborg to Billund by public transport, and from there by plane. I was doing my internship during the summer in Prague and I came back by car, which I still have here because there were no flights by the time due to the pandemic. 


How fast were you able to find a job? 

I signed a contract 3 weeks after I came to Aalborg. As I had a limited amount of cash, I told myself that I have to find a job as quickly as possible. 

I sent around 250 CVs and went around the city in search for a job. 

My first job was cleaning at a bowling place during the night, which was exhausting. I had to go there 4 times a week, to have enough hours for SU, so I was always tired at school, when I woke up at 4 AM because of work.

After 6 weeks, I found another job in a pizza place, where I was a waitress for another 7 weeks. Afterwards, I went home for Christmas and took SU holidays. When I came back, I found out that I do not have work anymore because I was fired. 

My boss was involved in some kind of weapon business. All the money he had from the restaurant was sent to Syria and unfortunately I found out that all of that was illegal, so after I was fired I had to deal with a whole situation with unions and lawyers. He still owes me a lot of money, did not pay me for the hours that I have actually worked, did not pay the taxes from my salary, and therefore I had to pay back two SUs. There was nothing I could do about it. The only option was to report him by my name, which I was too scared to do. 

I applied to get at least some money from the government (when the place went bankrupt), and he found out somehow and I started getting calls and messages in Arabic. I reported all of it to the police, and even the police did not tell me who is calling me, and told me they cannot do anything until I will prove something really happened. I definitely learned from that and I would recommend all students to be very careful about the contract they sign, if they get it immediately. It’s also very important to check your taxes!


My third job was in The Irish House, where I worked as a bartender, usually night shifts until 5 AM. 


Then, I went for the internship, came back to Denmark, and thanks to my friends, I got a job in a sushi restaurant, as a waitress, where I am very happy now.

View of the harbor, with frozen water

 

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

I do not know yet. It will all depend if I will find a job opportunity here or not. I am happy here at the moment, but I will probably find a warmer country to live in the future.



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