GUIDE: Campus life: Accessible professors and nude races

Campus life at AU is informal – you’re on a first-name basis with your professors, and you can even run naked through the University Park. To get the most out of your time here, make sure you participate in the intro week, show up early for the Regatta, and sample the cinnamon buns from the cafeteria.

Photos: Anders Trærup og Søren Kjeldgaard.

New in Denmark – and at AU?

In this guide, four international students who have all been studying at AU for at least one semester share the top tips they wish they’d known when they arrived.

The guide has three sections:

  1. Meeting Denmark and the Danes: Good at English – and hard to get to know?
  2. Campus life: Accessible professors and nude races
  3. Danish food: Delicious pork and mouthwatering cakes – but what is up with all that licorice?


Meet your guides to Denmark and the Danes:

Xiaobo Zhang, 23 years old, from China

Studied at AU in 2017 for a semester in connection with her BSc in economics in 2017. Returned in August 2018 to take her MSc in economics at AU.

Kyriaki Karvela, 26 years old, from Greece

Started at AU in February 2017, where she’s taking her MSc in technology-based business development in Herning.

Martin Varga, 23 years old, from Hungary

Has lived in Denmark for almost three years, took an AP degree at EUC in Aalborg and has studied at AU since August 2018, where he is studying business administration (BSc).

Has been living in Denmark for almost three years. Began his studies in Denmark on an AP degree programme at UCN in Aalborg and switched to Aarhus University in August 2018, where he is now studying economics and business administration (BSc). 

Ruxandra Ariana Danaila, 22 years old, from Romania

Has lived in Denmark for almost three years, and is studying business administration (BSc).

How is the academic environment at AU different from what you are used to in your home country?

Xiaobo: “It is totally different from China. In China, students live on  campus; here students live all over the city. In China we have quizzes all of the time, the professors check the attendance, we have to turn in assignments more often and we have a test every second week. Your grade is based on all these elements. In Denmark your grade is based on your final exam and your professor won’t force you to hand in an assignment. You basically are your own boss when it comes to studying. Another thing, in China students are often not brave enough to point out if they disagree with the professor. I Denmark professors are openminded and happy to get to know a students’ perspective.”

Kyriaki: “It’s totally different! In Greece my professors didn’t seemed to be interested in the students. Especially not compared to Danish professors. Here, you almost have a collaboration with the professors and they respect you. My supervisor helped me 10 hours a day in the lab like it was his own project! Also, the exams are different. In Greece we have no oral exams, so they were really challenging for me in the beginning, but my professors helped me a lot. They are really more like tutors than teachers.”

Martin: “The academic environment is a lot less formal than in Hungary. For instance, it is OK to have a bar on campus and the way you communicate with your lecturers is really different too. I was shocked that I could call them by their first name. When I talk to my friends in Hungary, they tell me stories about how their professors do not even look at their papers when grading them sometimes. Here it seems to be a fair system and the facilities and computers are up to date too.”

Ariana: “It is like what you see in the movies! It’s very academic and there are so many events and things to do. The students are disciplined and the facilities and study places are so well put together – it’s a perfect academic environment.” 

Where do you go to study?

Xiaobo: “To the library: there’s a nice study environment, and it is easy to get materials. You can also book a study room, which can be really nice if you want to prepare for an oral exam.” 

Kyriaki: “I prefer to go to the library in Viby where I live or to DOKK1. Otherwise the cafeteria is nice too.”

Martin: “I study at home, at the library at Aarhus BSS (Fuglesangs Allé) or at The Royal Library – they have everything, a nice cafeteria and even table football!” 

Ariana: “I can’t sleep, eat and study in the same room, so I often go to the Royal Library, which is an amazing place to study, or I go to the Aarhus BSS Library at Fuglesangs Allé. The Nobel Park has nice places to study too.”

Where do you go for lunch?

Xiaobo: “To the cafeteria at Aarhus BSS­ I love the salad bar. It is not that common in China to have salad bars.”

Kyriaki: “The cafeteria on campus. But I just can’t get used to eating lunch at 12 o’clock. In Greece we eat lunch at 2 or 3 PM and dinner at 8 PM.”

Martin: “I care about what I eat, so I usually bring my own lunch. But the food in the cafeteria is good.”

Ariana: “I like the food in the cafeteria; it is fresh and there is a nice variety of food.”

Where do you go for coffee?

Xiaobo: “To the cafeteria.”

Kyriaki: “I bring it with me from home or go to the cafeteria – they have great cinnamon rolls to go along with the coffee.”

Martin: “I don’t drink coffee…”

Ariana: “Either from the cafeteria at Fuglesangs Allé or from a vending machine.”

Have you made any mistakes you’re willing to let us in on?

Xiaobo: “No, not really.

Kyriaki: “The first day in Denmark, I took the wrong train. In Greece transportation never leaves on schedule, so when the train arrived on time, I just could not believe it and decided to wait for the next train. The train was headed to Esbjerg but I was going to the campus in Herning.”

Martin: “When I moved to Aarhus, I took the first accommodation available, which was a dorm at Skjoldhøj Kollegiet in Brabrand. It wasn’t very nice and quite far away from the city. Shortly after, I could have had another place closer to campus if I had waited a little longer.”

Ariana: “One study-related mistake I made was the way I took notes in the beginning. Our lecturers advised us to work smarter not harder, but I didn’t know what that meant, and I wrote everything by hand. But I noticed how my class mates were careful about how they organized their notes in order to use them for the exams. So now I take notes on my computer and make sure to focus on what I need for my exams.”

What is your best advice when it comes to campus life at AU?

Xiaobo: “You need to know what you want to achieve – what is your goal. And then don’t get lost while having fun. Remember why you are here, because it is easy to get distracted when you study abroad. And then be open, be brave and ready to try new things.”

Kyriaki: “The busses and trains leave on time. Not sooner. Not later. That’s good to know if you want to make it to class on time.”

Martin: “Go to the Friday bars and network – it will open doors for you, and you will make new friends.”

Ariana: “Campus life is really about being all over the place and showing up at all the parties, dinners and events from the beginning of the semester. This gives you a great feeling of belonging and it's hard to establish later on.”

Complete this sentence: When studying at Aarhus University, don’t miss…:

Xiaobo: “ …Kapsejladsen*! It is one of the biggest student events, so you have to check that out. We went really early in the morning, at 4 AM. Some of our classmates went there even earlier. I have never seen so many people on the same spot here in Aarhus. The event is pretty exciting with the boat race and the nude run – which for me is a bit odd, but seems supernormal in Denmark.”

Kyriaki: “…the Danish pastries, the cinnamon rolls in particular, and also the layer cake. And take a walk in Aarhus city and allow yourself to get lost and explore the city.”

Martin: “… out on the intro week. It is great fun and a chance to meet your classmates in an informal and relaxed setting.”

Ariana: “…out on the intro week! It’s extremely important. And you don’t want to miss events like Kapsejladsen and the Student Fair either. The Student Fair is a nice place to visit if you want a job while you study in Aarhus. Also, the Student House is worth a visit.”

*Kapsejladsen: The annual Regatta, a beer relay race on homemade boats that takes place on a lake (pond, actually) in the University Park. Basically a huge (30,000 students participate) garden party involving a nude footrace and a lot of other festivities in addition to the ‘boat’ race.

The nude race 2018. Photo: Lars Kruse

Translated by Lenore Messick