It’s that time of year, just after the summer vacation, when many international employees and students arrive in Denmark. Hopefully everyone settles in well!
I still remember my first day in Aarhus, full of excitement of what was to come. I was mainly occupied with practical issues and finding people to hang out with. Who could I turn to for help or a cup of coffee?
Easier to settle today
These concerns – and many others – are common to any newcomer, but thankfully there are plenty of places to turn to today.
In 2008, International Community in Aarhus was founded due to the need for an organisation that could support companies, educational institutions, public authorities and Aarhus Municipality with attracting, welcoming and retaining international employees and their families. At the time it was unique to bring all these players together to co-operate.
Fortunately, this approach has since served as an inspiration to establish similar organisations in other parts of the country, while the service level from public authorities has also improved greatly. Therefore, international newcomers are much better off today than they were just five years ago – that’s not to say that everything is perfect, but it’s definitely better.
Networking is key
International Community serves as a catalyst for internationalisation in the Aarhus area. The goal is to make sure that newcomers settle in well.
But while we do focus on practical issues and public service, we are well aware of other and often more personal challenges: for instance, building a social circle, finding a job if you are an accompanying spouse, learning Danish, finding a school or daycare for your children, and joining a club or association where you can take up your hobby etc.
No matter the issue, it often comes down to networking. If I had 2 kroner for every time someone connected to International Community found a job, daycare, hobby or friends – or got some great advice through their network – I’d be happy to buy everyone a large Belgian beer.
Since networking can be so crucial, International Community arranges around 100 events a year. One of my favourite events is the annual Expat Reception, which always takes place on the last Saturday in August as part of Aarhus Festival.
Some 600-800 internationals come together to enjoy each other’s company – and I can’t wait to welcome all the newcomers and have a chat with all the nice people International Community welcomed years ago!
Belgium’s Tiny Maerschalk, who has worked for the International Community networking platform since its foundation in 2008, knows how it feels to settle in a new country. Dedicated to improving conditions for new arrivals, here she shares her insights about the business issues that mean the most to internationals in Denmark.