So, You Want to Go to Århus?

By Rachael Haring


So you want to go to the Århus School of Business, huh?

Good. I heartily recommend it.

But....perhaps you'd like to know a little bit more information about the school, the town, the people, and the area before you fly off to Denmark.

If so, you've picked up the right bunch of papers, because this little confessional will tell you everything you've always desperately wanted to know about Århus.

I can hear you saying, "That is all well and good, but just who is this sassy author who is supposing to tell me what's what in Denmark?" Well, I'm an alumna of Shippensburg University who has experienced the true grandeur of living and studying and doing who-knows-what in Århus. And while the international study offices at both Ship and Århus can give much information about the exchange program, they cannot give a real student's perspective, nor can they explain the most important and serious subjects facing a college student abroad, namely: parties, food, and shopping.

Just read on, true believer, and drink in these wise and pithy nuggets of knowledge. It might not be nearly as interesting as reading the feedback boards at Kriner Diner, but it's definitely shorter than War and Peace, and it just may help alleve some of your questions and queries about The Århus School of Business.

Chapter One: Getting Your Butt in Gear

First things first: you do have a visa, right? Because if you are planning to live in the land of the Vikings, you will need to acquire a residence permit from the Danish consulate in New York City. Get two (2) application forms, along with "the purple form," from the international study office there at Ship. You will need to send the purple form to Århus in order to get it signed (or, alternately, you can fax the filled-out version to them, and they will send you a new copy all signed and ready to go.) Your best bet is to call the Danish consulate yourself and ask them to send you a list of required documents. They will tell you that it will take 3 months to get a visa; this is more or less a load of bunk. Mine came in a month. BUT!!! You should still get your forms in as soon as possible, since it really sucks to be sitting around in America without a passport, worrying about when you'll get it back, glancing anxiously at the date on your plane tickets. Trust me; I know.

They will probably ask you to include proof of your financial situation, since they want to be sure that you will not go to Denmark and be a no-good bum, eating up public funds and the like. I sent them a bank account statement; anything that shows them that you're financially stable will work just fine.

Whew!! So your passport came back with a funky-cool visa sticker splashed across one of the pages. You're on your way!! Next comes packing, plane tickets, saying bye bye.....but you can handle all of that on your own. What, you want me to spoon feed ya? On to the good part.

Chapter Two: The Town that Usually Sleeps

You step off of the train (or bus) and see a city stretching before you. Danes are bustling along the sidewalks, clustering before the many busstop signs, answering cell phones and pushing a sea of baby strollers. The pedestrian shopping area is just ahead, full with so many shoppers that you wonder how there is anybody else left to man the shops. Neon signs and big billboards pasted onto the sides of the hotels and stores flash with strange words. A drunk, homeless guy wobbles past you, Ceres beer bottle firmly in hand. Busses grumble past, a multitude of bikes weave through the traffic, and the dinkiest cars you've ever seen putt cheerfully behind each other.

Don't let it fool you.

Århus' catchphrase is, "The Biggest Small Town in Europe," and it is definitely true. While this may look like something on the scale of Harrisburg, and while it is arguably the second biggest city in Denmark, it's calmer and more self-content than a sleepy kitten. And anyway, you have to remember that you're coming from Shippensburg, PA; by comparison, every reasonably big city looks super cosmo-metropolitan.

This is not to say that Århus does not have its city-like charms. There are magnificent places to eat here, a great shopping district, and more bars and nightclubs than you can shake a stick at. I'll touch on all of that later.

Okay, enough looking around like a tourist! It's time to deal with important matters, namely, finding the place where you are supposed to live. Hopefully, you have already talked to the international office at Århus and told them the date of your arrival in the city; they will then send out a "tutor" who will help you find your designated apartment. Cling tight to this lucky Dane, since he or she is your only hope of finding your way around this strange place, at least for now.

Chapter 3: Getting around

You will most likely be housed in a kollegium, the Danish term for a group of apartments not unlike a dormatory. You may share an apartment with someone else, or you may have your own room and bathroom but share a kitchen. You could be five minutes' walk from school or a half-hour bus ride. It's all luck, baby, and each kollegium is different.

In any case, you will not be living on campus, since no Danish schools provide on-campus housing. Thus, you will need a way to get to school or to town each day. There are several ways to do this.

Most people take the busses. The Århus bus system is extremely reliable, quick, clean, safe, and easy to understand with a little practice. You can buy a two-hour ticket on board any of the busses, since they all carry boxy little ticket machines who will be more than happy to swallow up all of your kroner. However, if you plan to take the bus at least once a day, I would strongly recommend the purchase of a monthy bus pass. You can get one from the Århus Bus System (Århus Sporvej) office—just exit the main train station, turn left, walk to the first road you come across, cross it, and the bus office should be right in front of you. Look for the bright yellow sign.

You will meet many people, Danes and non-Danes alike, who will tell you that you do not need to pay for the bus system. "I've never been checked for a ticket in my whole life," they will say with cocky bravado, especially if they are male. "Don't worry about it. They never check."

Do NOT listen to them. The moment you decide not to buy a pass or a ticket is the moment that the pass control officers board your bus and gruffly demand proof of payment. This is not a nice experience, and everyone on the bus will look at you like you killed someone. And while there is a chance that you will never be checked, I myself have been checked three times in the same week. Be cool, do your part, and feel better about yourself—buy a pass. Trust me, it will pay for itself in utility.

This message brought to you by the Århus City Bus System.

Another transportation option is to get a bike. You can probably find a cheap one if you ask around, check the bulletin boards, and inquire every so often in the business school's international office. The international students' center at Århus University can also be of help, I'm told. In addition, the police department has periodic auctions of bikes.

Or, you can get yourself a boyfriend/girlfriend with a car. Easier said than done, right? But it works.

Chapter 4: Shopping, tender vittles, and hip spots

Århus can be a shoppers' paradise, if only for the wide selection and close proximity of goods in the town. The main pedestrian shopping street is called Stroget; when you first exit the main train station, it is the long cobble-stoned street straight ahead of you. There are other shopping streets nearby, most notably one called Fredriksgade, running nearly parallel to Stroget. Just explore a little, and you'll find it all.

I'm not going to tell you about every store here, since that would take forever. But I will give you some pointers on some particular items of interest.

*Music: Cd's are ridiculously expensive here in Denmark, as are most things. But the cheapest place in town is a shop called Stereo Studio, located on Stroget. Sometimes, if you've got your eye on a European CD, you can actually save money getting it here instead of importing it when you get back to the U.S. But if it is something that you can easily get in America, I'd recommend that you wait.

*Clothes: This kind of depends on your taste and your gender, since there are approximately 1,000,000 different clothing shops on Stroget and surrounding areas (I could be exaggerating a tad). My favorite places include H&M, which has a little something for everyone, and Babushka, which is on Fredriksgade and carries only outlandish club clothes for gals and maybe drag queens, if you happen to be one of those. Vero Moda is also a happening place for women's clothes. If you are of the male persuasion, I've heard that 4You or Red/Green are pretty popular. In any case, you won't have any problem finding clothes in this town.

*Photos: I heartily recommend getting your camera supplies and pictures from St. Paul's Photo, within the first block of Stroget. They are very, very helpful and nice, with a good selection.

*Department stores: There are two big stores called Salling and Magasine; both of these are excellent, if a little overpriced. Salling is on Stroget, and Magasine is by the canal. If you are hungry for some upscale shopping with great variety, go to these.

*Cheap stuff: On the other end of the scale, if you want a junk store, go to Tiger. This place has everything from nail polish to silverware to toys to notebooks to candles, all for 10 Kroner (a little more than a dollar). It lies close to Magasine, on Fredriksgade. You'd be surprised how much useful stuff you can get here.

*Groceries: it is commonly accepted that the cheapest place is Netto. There are several of these all around the Århus area, even one on (you guessed it) Stroget. Just look for the big yellow signs and the little black Scotty dog. Be warned: there is not much selection here, especially not for a spoiled American like you, and their selection tends to dwindle to dangerously low levels as the day wears on. Another point to remember: you have to buy your own shopping bags, so maybe it is best to buy a reusable bag and bring it with you. The plastic Netto bags are not expensive, but it is a bit of shock to those of us who are used to double- bagging a quart of milk with impunity. And in other environmental news, if you buy soda, return your plastic bottles to the store for a few kroner rebate. Brandname Coke is prohibitively expensive here, so I suggest going for Netto's "American Cola" and "Citron Sodavand." You can't tell the difference. Really.

*Ramen noodles: Forever the staple of college students, quality Japanese and Chinese noodle packs can be hard to come by. Sure, they have them at Netto, but those aren't the best. You need to go to the Asian Importer's store near the main train station. Facing out from the train station, turn left along the street in front of you, heading up the slight incline. The store is on the left, about two or three shops along. Here, you can get noodles, Asian vegetables, candies, and some of the most beautiful chopsticks I've ever seen. If that's your scene.

*Fruits and Vegetables: An Århus institution, well-known by all of the international students, is the Fruit Guy Who Yells. He runs a stand about midway along Stroget, and as implied by his affectionate nickname, he is a young and healthy guy who constantly yells out his prices and his selection, bellowing in Danish at anyone unlucky enough to pass close by. Sometimes he continues to holler even as someone is buying something, as if demonstrating to the rest of the crowd what a fantastic deal this person has just gotten. I have no idea what his stand is called; just follow the sound of his voice and watch his expert salesmanship.

*Restaurants: the little metal kiosks sell deceptively good food, if you are used to grease and hotdogs. If you want Chinese, the Peking Duck House on Stroget sells something called a China Box; this consists of noodles, battered chicken and shrimp, and sweet-and-sour sauce, all for 20 kroner. If you want to spend more money, there are numerous steakhouses around Århus, my favorite being A Hereford Beefstouw right behind the big cathedral. The cafés by the canal are wonderful and might not cost you your entire week's budget; if the weather is warm, nothing beats sitting out in the sun and watching the Danes go by. And, if you're aching for a taste of home (hee hee), there are two McDonald'ses right there on Stroget and Stor Torv, a Pizza Hut behind Magasine, and a Subway shop across from Salling. American cultural imperialism is our best friend, but try to use them only in emergencies.

*Ice cream and candy: The Danes are big on ice cream, and this addiction shows in the fact that there is a practically 24-hour candy shop midway down on Stroget. I think they may only have soft ice cream, but their candy selection will make your mouth water. Check it out.

Chapter 5: You Mean I Have to Go to Classes, Too?

Yes, unfortunately, all is not fun and games. But the business school is pretty cool, as schools go.

I won't go into great detail regarding academic procedures, since all of this will be covered both by the handbook and by the introduction week. Suffice to say, you will sign up for classes before you go, and when you get there, there will probably be a class canceled. But don't panic: the international office will help you, and there is always a way of "bending" course requirements a little bit.

The layout of the school is not so complicated, once you've studied your map a few times. And the spot on campus that may be the easiest to find is:


Bow before this word, for you will hear its hallowed name echoed all about the halls, particularly on Thursdays. This is the night of their disco here, and while it is crowded, hot, smoky, and sweaty, it is also a lot of fun. Here, you can see Spaniards getting down with Frenchmen, Germans, Poles, and Americans; Belgians and Dutch having a drink with a few Canadian friends; Portugese chatting with New Zealanders and Danes. Get the picture? It is a multi-cultural fest of friendship every Thursday, with ample beer and more than a few beats. Maybe it is a little overrated, but if you give it a chance, it can be an awesome place to meet people and catch up with your friends. You have been warned: don't schedule any classes on Thursday nights.

What else can I tell you about the school? Well, in addition to Klubben, there are a few spots here that you might want to visit.

*Food: when the munchies hit you, the school offers two eateries. The first is the cafeteria, Canteenen, and the second is a smaller cafe-type place called Cafeen. The meals in Canteenen are frequently very, very good; just stop in and pay 20 kroner to get some warm Danish home-cookin'. There's not nearly as much choice as in, say, Kriner Diner, but it's worth a try.

*International Office: you'll be well-informed as to where this particular hotspot is located. My advice: throughout the semester, try to check the international student bulletin board as much as possible, since spaces for such things as trips, parties, and dinners fill up mighty quickly.

*Computer labs: There is a row of computer labs called the HDC— follow signs or ask to find it. Everything is well-maintained and up to date, and you'll be able to access email almost right away. Introduction week includes a computer orientation session; go to it, since these computers are a little different than what you are used to in Ship. There are a few problems, such as the lack of good printers (unless you pay extra for a printer card) and the fairly restricted hours. Here's a tip: if you are a business student, try to find someone who has a password for access to the language lab computers, since that lab is open almost all of the time and has honest to goodness laser printers. Just don't tell anyone I told you to do that, okay?

Chapter 6: Final Tips

To finish up, I'd like to dispense a few more little nuggets of advice. First of all, TRAVEL. Go somewhere; go anywhere. Denmark is a perfect north-central European location, and you can get nearly everywhere in Europe within 10 hours' train ride. You can explore Scandinavia by taking a boat up north, or you can head south, changing trains in Germany and hopping another train to anywhere you want. While I lived in Århus, I visited Amsterdam, Brussels, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Paris, Venice, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Hannover, Hamburg, London, and Berlin. All you have to do is get a rail pass before you leave (just look up 'EuroRail' on the internet) and decide how many days of travel you want to buy. The best alternative is to purchase something called a Flex Pass, which allows you to travel for any 10 days in a 2 month period. You can take weekend trips and only use two of those days, then save the rest for later. Nifty, huh? Just get out there and so some backpacking. Take advantage of this opportunity.

Second, I'd like to explain the advantages of not acting like an American. I am not suggesting that you try to hide your culture, that you should be ashamed of who you are, that you shouldn't drink Coke, etc. I'm merely saying that Europeans will respect you and your ways if you respect theirs. When I attended Århus, there were approximately 20 other Americans there (not from Ship). They stuck together, all of the time. They rarely talked to anyone but other Americans, even going so far as to save each other seats at parties. They took pictures of themselves. They went on trips just with themselves. They took no Danish language or cultural courses. You get the point. Again, I don't mean to say that you should not spend any time with Americans in Denmark. I just think that you will seriously limit your European experience if you desperately cling to your own countrymen.

Third, take a Danish language course, if you can. The International Office usually will let you know about any courses in session. You'll probably have to pay a little extra for the course, but I definitely feel that it is worth it. Besides demonstrating your interest in Danish culture, it's also very helpful when you want to read food labels and signs and what-not. You probably won't become fluent, but it will make you feel more confident when you're out amongst the Danes.

Finally, if you should have any other pressing questions or comments about anything I have written, please get in contact with me. My email address is , and you can get the rest of my contact information from the International Study Office, if you so desire. Please do not hesitate to ask me anything at all, since I'd love to help.

Århus is a wonderful school, and a fantastic city, as you will soon find out. Take lots of pictures, make lots of memories, and have a great time. It won't be difficult.

© 1999 Rachael M. Haring