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Danish in Norwegian

A great study environment is one of the reasons why Lene Sundalskleiv from Norway chose to do a large proportion of her degree programme at Aarhus University. And the fact that she already understood Danish does give her an advantage compared with other international students.

“Danes can’t always decide whether I’m from Norway or Sweden. But luckily the vast majority of them can understand what I’m saying. Sometimes people answer in English. But that just makes me speak more slowly because it seems weird to talk to each other in a third language that is foreign to both of us,” says Lene Sundalskleiv from Norway. Photo: Roar Lava Paaske

Language is one of the major factors separating Scandinavian exchange students from other international students studying in Denmark.
“The fact that I can understand Danish is of course a big advantage. Lots of my friends from outside Scandinavia never go to Danish parties because most of the conversations take place in Danish not English, which means that they can’t understand much of what’s going on. Luckily this is not a problem for me,” says Lene Sundalskleiv from Norway, who is studying the 7th-semester Media Science course. She’s been in Aarhus for a year or so now, and she’ll be taking the rest of her degree programme at Aarhus University too. She chose Aarhus because she already knew the city.
“My sister studied at the School of Architecture here in Aarhus, and I visited her several times. I had also heard that Aarhus had a great study environment, and I’d already been to a few Friday bars,” says Lene Sundalskleiv.
She thinks this gave her a head start compared with many other exchange students when it comes to making Danish acquaintances.

Unrealistic expectations?

It is often difficult for internationalstudents to make Danish friends, so they tend to mix with other international students and not with Danes.
“I understand completely why this happens. It’s great that there are various introductory events for us when we arrive in Denmark. But these are only for international students, so we don’t meet any Danes until we start our course,” explains Lene Sundalskleiv.
And despite the fact that they understand Danish, students from other Scandinavian countries have to face the same problem.
“As Scandinavian students we don’t have to start from scratch like so many other exchange students because we can understand Danish alright. But perhaps we think that making Danish friends is going to be easier than it actually turns out to be,” she says.