Geoff Holmes, from Dublin, enjoyed his experience as an exchange student in Denmark so much that he returned for his Masters degree in marketing
Why did you decide to study in Denmark?
I'd lived in the south Dublin suburb of Leopardstown all my life. If you'd told me a few years ago that I'd be living in a city called Aarhus in Denmark and enjoying life to the full I would have looked at you as if you had two heads. Now at the age of 22 I'm living in Denmark for the second time.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to study abroad for the third year of my business and management Bachelors degree at Dublin Institute of Technology. Aarhus was my second choice behind Copenhagen, which had no more spaces for exchange students. At first I thought it was a disaster.
My exchange year was to take place in a city I had never heard of. Never having lived away from home before, this was the scariest thing I'd ever done, but it was something I knew I had to do for my personal development. It turned out to be the best decision I've made in my life.
Tell us about your experience as an exchange student…
I met so many great people from all over the world. It's opened my network and job opportunities. No matter where I travel there will be someone close who I can contact for help or to meet up for a drink.
Studying abroad for two semesters was very beneficial compared with those who could only study one semester abroad, like most of my fellow exchange students. It gave me time to settle, gain confidence and integrate into Danish culture.
Learning Danish concepts like 'Hygge' gave me better insight into what the Danish lifestyle is truly like and how there are many similarities and differences to Irish culture. Hygge refers to being in a cosy, happy environment - perhaps sharing a drink with a friend in a pub or watching a movie by candlelight on a cold night.
As my second semester came to an end in June 2015 I decided to stay on for the summer and attend Aarhus Summer University to gain more credits under the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS).
I got to meet even more exchange students from all over the globe and build more connections and friendships. My thesis that I'd write the following year back in Dublin would be inspired by my summer course in sports marketing.
What persuaded you to return to Denmark for your Masters?
Returning home to Ireland I found it difficult to adjust. Of course, it was great to be back with my family and friends, but I knew there was a part of me that longed to return to Denmark where I had made many more friends and felt integrated into society despite being unable to grasp the language. The Scandinavians in general are among the best for speaking good English, which was a great help to me.
In spring 2016 I decided I wanted to move back to Denmark to study my Masters. Two years is the minimum duration of the course, so I knew it was a big decision to make.
I'm now in the middle of my first semester as a Masters student in marketing at Aarhus University. I have returned to the apartment where I lived one-and-a-half years ago while on exchange. Living in the heart of the city with four Danish roommates has given me an incredible opportunity to make many friends.
How are you adapting to the lifestyle and balancing work with study?
I'm gradually improving my Danish language skills, which is important if I am to stay in the country post-Masters. This is something I think I'll do as I have been hooked by the Danish way of life. It's a healthy lifestyle where people cycle everywhere and participate in sport daily.
The Danes have one of the most balanced lifestyles where work ranges from 35 to 41 hours per week. Many workers finish at 4pm, leaving plenty of time in the evening to enjoy family time or a few drinks at the local pub quiz, a far cry from the Irish working culture of long hours and little time for leisure in the weekdays.
I'm working in a men’s accessories company called Trendhim, where I am the marketing manager for their UK market. Based in the city of Horsens, a mere 30-minute train journey from Aarhus, it is totally worth the travel as I am working in a job that is connected to my studies. Being part of a young and growing company like Trendhim is a privilege as I get to choose when I work, so I can fit it around my university classes.
What advice do you have for others considering studying abroad?
All universities should make a study abroad semester compulsory for students as it helps them grow into young adults and improve their personal development, academic prowess and life opportunities.
I had the choice of staying at home and having to pay €12,000 for a one-year Masters, where I would struggle to have money in my pocket and delay living independently away from home - or returning to Denmark, a country that invests not only in its own students but all EU students. It was an easy choice.