Leaving Utrecht and The Netherlands was hard, knowing that I will not be living there again in the near future. When I left London back in June I knew I’d be back one and a half years later to finish my bachelor, and when I left Rome in September 2012, the idea of not going back obviously did not even cross my mind.
Therefore, for the first time in my life, I left a place that I will not be calling home again in the years to come.
But, as always, who knows? This whole Erasmus year was one of the most unexpected events of my life. Merely a year ago in London I would have never imagined me living in two countries during what was supposed to be my stressful third year at City University. Good news is that things did not go as expected, which is always what makes life more exciting.
I moved to Aarhus in Denmark two weeks ago. I chose this exchange programme intentionally to come live in Scandinavia for six months. Little did I know back then that I would have enjoyed The Netherlands as much as I did. From the class to my flatmates and people I have met during my numerous travels within and outside the country, I had a special and unforgettable semester.
But cheesiness aside, I have started yet another new chapter of my life. I moved to Denmark together with my whole class (as my course takes place in two Universities in a year and it is made up of only 17 people) and we all live in a massive student complex 7km away from the city centre. We have spent the last two weeks socialising with the incoming international students at the Danish school of Media and Journalism, including great nights at student bars and a nice cultural presentation by each country during last week’s introduction. The student complex, simply called Skjoldhøjkollegiet (I’m sure you can all easily pronounce it ) is quite far from central Aarhus, however I am finding it pretty amazing, mostly because my friends are neighbours and we get to spend a lot of quality time together. This complex includes a gym (I joined a few days ago and hopefully will manage to keep going) and the only way to get to the closest supermarket is to cross a forest, which I find insanely cool, especially after a 15cm snowfall.
The city I am living in is the country’s second largest, although it still feels pretty small. It has a beautiful Danish-looking centre, a harbour and a nice Deer park which I’m looking forward to visiting soon. Aarhus has been selected as one of the two 2017 capitals of culture. Last year it was Riga and Umeå (in northern Sweden) and this year a town in Belgium and one in the Czech Republic. The city is getting ready with a bunch of interesting projects, from a new library to a city overground rail system for public everyday transport, in order to innovate itself in the years to come. Besides, it is one of Denmark’s youngest and most dynamic cities. Copenhagen is its biggest competitor, but a weekend in Aarhus is definitely worth your time and money if you’re planning a trip to Denmark.
This country is also great for its art museums, and maybe it is not what you would expect to find when travelling here. Aarhus is home to a beautiful contemporary art museum called ARoS, which hosts great exhibitions and features an incredibly cool multicolour rounded plastic rooftop where you can enjoy a very colourful, original and beautiful view of the city. Another great museum in this country, which I have visited twice during previous trips to Denmark is the Lousiana Museum of Modern Art located not far from Copenhagen. It is probably the best museum I visited in my life. It combines very interesting exhibitions and a stunning location. This museum is situated on the eastern shore of Denmark’s Copenhagen region, right next to the sea and just a few miles from the Swedish coast. On a sunny summer day, enjoying a dinner at the museum’s cafe, which offers a delicious buffet with typical nordic cuisine (salmon, potatoes etc.) overlooking the sea and Sweden is definitely a must!
Now back to the present. Snow is covering the whole country, temperatures hardly go above freezing and the sun rises late and sets early. We are still quite far from the 10PM sunsets and the idyllic dinners outdoors sitting on the lawn on a sunny evening, but dreaming about them is still allowed.
It has snowed more than I expected so far and I am absolutely loving this winter wonderland. During my life in Rome I always dreamt about white snowy winters, but we hardly ever got any. Therefore living in a country where opening your curtains in the morning and seeing everything covered in a thick layer of snow is as normal as waking up to a sunny day in Rome, is pretty exciting. Obviously, Danes and Norwegians here do not find it as exciting and all they wish is for the snow to melt and the spring days to take over (but it might take a while to happen).
For now, I am enjoying the numerous parties, with new amazing people and a lot of drinks (yes, this is Denmark) and the journalism classes seem very promising so far. Weekend trips around the country are being planned, from Copenhagen to Skagen, the northern tip of the country, and many other places. I am starting Danish language courses at the end of the month, through a free programme offered by the super generous welfare state system.
Welcome to the world’s happiest country (with Aarhus being its happiest city!)