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Merging into Danish society

Merging into Danish society

Nataliya moved to Denmark to study at AAU. After graduating, she prioritized learning Danish; as Nataliya says herself, even though most Danes speak English, to understand and speak Danish yourself provides you with the ability to understand the Danish culture on a deeper level. An ability that may prove to be useful.

What happened after your master thesis?

“That was a bit of a stressful time. I had to leave the dorm a month after I defended my thesis, and I knew that it was going to be difficult to find an apartment in Copenhagen. Luckily, I managed to find a room in Vanløse.

Afterwards, I was thrown into the swirling process of A-kasse meetings, job centres, and continuing with my Danish classes. It was a bit of a lonely period: all of a sudden, I went from meeting different people every day at AAU to spending much more time alone. Six months after graduating, I found the job that I have today.”


How did you find that job?

“I found it via LinkedIn. My advisor at the job centre told me that he was sure that I would find a job eventually. Due to my educational background as an engineer and the fact that engineers typically find a job fast, I just had to step it up with my Danish and my opportunities would be good according to him.

Additionally, my advisor signed me up for this ‘job café’. The purpose was to meet at the job centre every Monday and apply for jobs intensively for three hours. He told me that the job café was voluntary but that I really had to come. Yet, many people at the job café seemed demotivated: they spend most of the time watching YouTube videos. I thought to myself that I would try to be efficient when I was there – after all, it was only three hours one day a week.

One day, I saw an job ad for the firm I work in today. I could see that I did not completely match what they were looking for but my advisor at the job centre urged me to apply for the position anyway – even though I did not match 100%. I sent my CV and application letter, and two days afterwards an HR person at the company called me to ask if I would like to come by for an interview in about a month. She did not say anything about whether I matched the criteria or not; she just asked about an interview with two of the managers at the firm.

The day of the interview arrived and I had no idea what to expect. Even though my CV and application impressed the two managers they quickly told me that they could not hire me for the position that I had applied for, but because of my experience and educational background, they told me that they would try to find something for me in the company.

In the end, they hired me on ‘løntilskud’, which is an agreement where the ‘kommune’ helps financing the salary of the employee for a period. I had no concrete project to work on; I just had to be where help was needed.

That is how I developed into some sort of a ‘helping hand’ in the company – today, I continue to work in other departments than my own in the company.

At AAU, I got used to a high degree of diversity concerning the work tasks. I am happy that this diversity is also present in my work life today.”


Do you have any advice for international students at AAU concerning finding a job?

“First, I think that you must decide on what general direction you want to take in your life; for example, whether you want to work in Denmark specifically or stay on a broader international level.

If you decide on staying in Denmark for at least a year or two and you want to develop your career and life in Denmark, then I would strongly recommend that you learn Danish as fast as possible. Even though Danes are nice and the majority speak English, being able to speak Danish will help you a lot with understanding how Denmark as a society functions.

If you choose the international path, learning Danish may still be a very good idea but it does not seem to be a necessity in the same way.

I learned Danish pretty quickly myself because people in the company just started to speak to me in Danish – nobody addressed me in English. In the beginning, I felt unsure but soon I started to relax more. In general, I think that Danes appreciate that you try to learn their language – no matter how many mistakes you make.”


Based on your education from AAU, did you feel sufficiently prepared for your new work life?       

“I definitely had to catch up on some technical aspects of my new position – and the company was patient with that.

However, I felt well prepared for working in both small and big groups. Through the four semesters at AAU, I had developed great experience with working with different people. By working in big groups, I had a clear idea of how different people work together to make things function. You need to have some rules when you work in groups.

The experiences I had with working in groups at the university translated directly into my job today. Additionally, the way our teachers often pushed us into the sea, so that we had to learn to swim ourselves, resemblances real working life a lot: you often have to figure out solutions yourself in your work life. You have to learn to make important and difficult decisions yourself.”


About Nataliya Deneva

Nationality: Bulgarian 

Education: Master in Sustainable Cities at AAU CPH

Year of graduation: 2014 

Job: Surveyor at LE34


Journalist: Victor Lange // viln@adm.aau.dk

‘The good story’ is a series of interviews where graduates from AAU CPH share their their experiences with the transition phase from studying at AAU to working full-time and their advice for current AAU students. You can read the full interview with Nataliya, and other AAU-graduates, here.