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Intercultural exchange - EVS in Denmark

Hello from fairy-tale Denmark!

My project started at the beginning of February 2018 and takes place in the city of Aalborg, at University College of Northern Denmark (so-called University of applied science). In my opinion, my tasks correspond to the position of a project assistant, exactly what I was striving to get and, in this way, enhance my previous experience in this field. Apart from smaller administrative tasks, e.g. registering certain contracts/invitation, optimizing excel database, email correspondence, which are familiar to me, I am also responsible for a couple of things that are certainly out of my comfort zone.



From our communication consultant, I received a task which sounded like “take our students on board of your journey. Share your contemplations on UCN, observation of Danish life style, insights from volunteer experience, impressions of Aalborg…” Nice, right? I have been thrilled with this mission ever since! So each Friday, I am expected to deliver an engaging post on any matter that I feel is relevant to share with the current students at UCN who follow the UCN International fb page. I will not exaggerate when I say that this assignment makes my life more meaningful – I am more attentive, seeking for inspiration, more up to various initiatives/activities – so that eventually I do have something essential to share with the world in my app. 150-word long Facebook posts ;)

Personally, I find this task interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, it reveals me a lot about myself, moreover, it gives an opportunity of acquiring a good experience of work with social media content and to brush up my creative writing skills.



Besides, I collaborate with UCN Ambassadors – active students who arrange regular events to add diversity to students’ social life and encourage networking. My input lies within event management area, where I do not have a vast experience either, but find it a cool area for development.

My core activity at this moment is participating in the project aimed at retention of the international students in the region through increasing their employability - value for potential employer. Within its framework, a webinar for all the international applicants for new academic year is planned, and I am executing the hosting and promoting part. I find it exciting and different from what I had to tackle on my previous job as a HR administrator back in Ukraine.

Taking into consideration the nature of my current tasks, I can conclude that this is what I was willing to do when I applied in July 2017 – some things I am confident about and I feel that my contribution is valuable and appreciated, other things I find challenging, thus I am learning, expanding my skillset and, last but not least, amplifying my professional assets for CV.

“No stress, numerous opportunities to apply my creativity, to meet plenty of interesting people, to broaden my outlook while doing truly useful things and see the result of my efforts” is my current EVS in a nutshell ;)



A few words about mysterious/bizarre Danish. I work 35 hours per week (and in Denmark regular full time job is 37 hours per week) and do not hesitate to practice my Danish at work (and actually wherever I find it suitable), so I do not attend Danish classes.

After 2,5 months of being a part of prevailingly Danish speaking team (even my sweet Romanian and Bulgarian colleagues speak Danish, when we are altogether), it feels unnatural to switch to English, which was super tempting at the beginning of my stay, since Danes are famous for their good level of English and readiness to shift to it at the first sign of necessity.

Although I came to DK in February with intermediate level of Danish, it is definitely a challenging language to become fluent at, so initially I was struggling with it, especially during lunch breaks with colleagues, when they were speaking a) simultaneously b) while chewing c) fast d) using slang and, by and large, colloquial Danish.

Another favorable circumstances concerning my Danish, is a chance to live with a host family. They are super nice, laid-back and do not suffocate me with their attention. We all appreciate personal space, don’t we?



At home, we speak Danish 99% of the time. Those rare cases when I switch to English are caused by the father of the family – a professor at Aalborg university – who sometimes feels like talking in English. It amuses him. With a certain portion of humor and respect, living with a host family appears to be a great experience. Furthermore, they have a dog whom I take for a walk 1-2 times per day - it is an amazing mood booster. Since I started living at their place 2 months ago, they have guests and paid visits to their neighbors up to 5 times and each time I was kindly invited. This fact is not only pleasant but also led to the opportunity to practice Danish in a “real-life” setting and to get to know more about Danes. Being observant always pays off!

My host family lives 30 minutes by bus from Aalborg city center. City of Aalborg is calm and neat, and in 2016 one study from the European Commission showed that Aalborg is home to the happiest people in all of Europe! Did I mention that it is very calm? J And of course very different from vibrant and sometimes too dynamic Copenhagen, where I used to live for 2 years in 2015/16. However, many small and medium scale events take place here, too. Recently, I signed up for volunteering during PRIDE Parade in Aalborg in June. Last week, for example, I attended an event on the climate change – documentary screening followed by discussion. Tomorrow I am going to board games evening –  the enthusiasts are gathering in a big hall at a former power plant building turned into cultural center.  



Among other plans for the nearest future is to arrange a small get together of 4 current Ukrainian volunteers in Denmark (including me) in Aarhus – another city in Denmark, a 1,5 train ride from Aalborg, chosen to be European Volunteering Capital in 2018. Frankly speaking, traveling is pricey proportionally to volunteer allowance, thereby requires to be planned thoroughly, yet adventurously.



During 2 months of my volunteering I went to Copenhagen twice, visited a friend in Belgium along with a one-day trip to Amsterdam and attended an awesome on-arrival training for EVS volunteers in Vejle. Apart from the enchanting feeling of belonging to the community and a well-elaborated program, I gained some ideas about other EVS projects in DK and heard points of views on life and on “make a difference” concept shared by other volunteers. It may sound as cliché, but it reminded me that everything in life is relative. What looks as a silly thing to do for me, can play a crucial role in another person’s life and be a step forward, whereas my notion of self-development may seem to be superficial for him or her.

Undoubtedly, it is a simple, obvious statement, nonetheless, we rarely recall it in order to alter the prism we look through at the world around us and perceive ourselves.


Yuliya Grytsenko, 27 years, Lviv