I was living abroad for the first time in 2006, when I went to the US as a 16-year-old exchange student to live with a local family. That’s where I caught the ‘travel bug’. Once I was back and finished high school in Estonia in 2009, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study and where. I decided to go to Australia and to be an au-pair. While I was in Australia, I started talking to someone who was studying marketing in Aarhus, Denmark. What really intrigued was the ‘hands-on’ study combining theory and practice – it was mandatory to have an internship in a company during your studies. Then, I heard about Dream Foundation in Estonia, an organisation who has many partner universities in Europe and further. I got some more tips from them and applied.
I’m a kind of ‘learn the theory and put it to practice’ kind of girl so this was perfect for me. I wasn’t interested in sitting in a large auditorium with 200 students, not having a close relationship with a teacher who didn’t know my name – this wasn’t for me. Therefore I sent my documents for “International Marketing Management” AP programme and was accepted at Business Academy Aarhus. I returned home from Australia in June and in August I moved to Denmark. A bit fast forward, I also did a top-up programme for Bachelor in “International Marketing and Sales” programme, which I finished in 2014.
What I learned from studying in Denmark (in an international class with 15 different nationalities):
• The teacher is NOT always right
The teaching method is based on conversation between the teacher and other students together – the communication tone is very informal (no need to raise your hand as we do in Estonia) and first names are used when approaching the teacher. Don’t be surprised when the teacher is eating a carrot or fruits during the class – that’s allowed for everyone, along with coffee.
• Project-based learning
I had to make lots of different project, alone and in groups, about Danish companies. We received a case where I/we had to solve a ‘real’ problem for a company. For example, one time a new glasses company called “Crosseyes” needed a marketing campaign in Aarhus and different awards were handed out – my group received the “most innovative” idea diploma for our proposal.
As a result for good grades and being an active volunteer at the academy, I received a grant which allowed me to take an internship abroad. After a messy company search, I ended up going to Tanzania. I say ended up, because I had already booked a ticket to Kenya, but as the company stopped replying my e-mails, I changed my mind. Instead, I went to Dar Es Salaam with a group of students from different programs from my academy. Tanzania was a great experience which showed that you need lots of patience and time before you can see any results. The time doesn’t have the same value as we do in the Western world – there’s always a tomorrow.
• Different cultures and backgrounds
I learned a lot from different cultures and backgrounds which has helped me also during my internship in Tanzania but also during my employments in Denmark. You can’t always expect the same from everyone – the way people do things is different, their skills, knowledge and pace are different. There were times were group projects were frustrating, but it was also something we had to figure out as a group, to make it work. At the end of the day, we had a deadline and had to deliver a project. You learn a lot during these periods about people’s limits and abilities to deliver – will they crack under the pressure or will they push through.
What I learned by living abroad which you won’t get from school:
New horizon, skills and knowledge
• You can’t learn from the book about how it is to live in another country
• You can’t learn from the book how to work in a group with five different nationalities
• You can’t learn from the book about the new language
• You can’t learn from the book how to figure out practicalities in a new country: a residence permit, a doctor, bank account
• You can’t learn from the book how to live and survive abroad
Being persistent and consistent
• It was me, who had to find a place to live when I came to Denmark
• It was me, who had to find a job in order to stay in Denmark
• It was me, who had to find internship for myself multiple times
• It was me, who had to adjust to a new life, language, people and culture
• It was me, who had to find a job after graduation
What am I doing now? I’m still in Denmark, currently living close to Vejle, but planning to move back to my beloved Aarhus, where I have lived for seven years. The last three years I’ve worked within e-commerce and online marketing and currently, I’m on the job hunt for the next challenging position.
My advice to ANY young person, currently in high school, out there is – GO ABROAD! Yes, it’s scary to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself, but what’s the worst that can happen?
If you have a family, you know you can always return to, what would you lose? Think about it.
You’ll thank me later. 😉
By figuring out your new life abroad will teach you tremendously about yourself as a person and will prove, you can do so much more than you ever though you could.
I know, I can always return to Estonia and I appreciate my life in Denmark. It hasn’t always been easy but my strong persistence and perseverance has kept me here. That learning curve of living abroad has been professionally and personally very steep. No school could have ever provided me that.
Get out there and explore the world, otherwise you have no idea what you would be missing out!
If you would like to read more in detail about why I’m still in Denmark after 8 years, click here.