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SDUUP | Newsletter August 2020

THEME: International students - How the faculties help new international students

New international students at SDU from countries beyond the Nordic group might have a hard time adjusting to a completely new culture, where being a student means something very different than they are used to. At SDU, the faculties are in part responsible for supporting new international students in their transition.

According to Rune Mastrup Lauridsen, head consultant at The Faculty of Humanities, the faculties’ most important role is not only helping the students with the practical part of studying in Denmark – An important part of their job is also to support the students in building  relationships with other students, as well as understanding and adapting to the Danish learning culture

Cooperation between faculties benefits the students 

How faculties’ fill their role in welcoming new international students, varies from faculty to faculty. One thing they do have in common, however, is that they all arrange an orientation day for the students. The Faculty of Humanities (HUM) and The Faculty of Science (NAT) have chosen to combine their introductory courses, since it helps both faculties make sure the introductory course is as beneficial to the students as possible. The introductory course consists of 2 orientation days before the start of the semester, which focus on the practical aspects of enrolling in a Danish university.

Furthermore, another aim of the orientation days is that the students form bonds with other international students. Rune Mastrup Lauridsen believes that the bonds between international students are especially important for their well-being and how well they adapt to studying in Denmark, since it can take a long time to form strong bonds with Danish students. 

Having a strong network is important for international students 

One of the goals of the introductory course is that the international students form a network with other students at SDU. HUM and NAT achieve this goal with their introductory course, by letting the students meet both Danish students, in the form of instructors and other international students with different academic backgrounds. Furthermore, an array of subject-related and social events are also arranged for the students during the semester. 

Adjusting to the Danish learning culture can be hard 

Apart from the two orientation days, the two faculties also organise workshops, which are meant to introduce the students to the Danish learning culture and the Danish academic system. Rune Mastrup Lauridsen argues that the Danish learning environment focuses much more on teaching the students how to help themselves, than many of the learning environments, which the international students come from. Just like the other Nordic countries, students are expected to be independent throughout their studies. He believes one of the main reasons for this difference, is that Danish students are often older when they start their studies, than students in other countries.  

“When planning an introductory course, you can’t just focus on the practical stuff”, he says. In HUM and NAT’s combined introductory course, focus is thus put on helping the new international students understand the Danish learning culture. To further improve the course’s introduction to this, HUM has developed a new e-learning module called “New Student in Denmark”. The goal of this module is to introduce the students to life as a student at SDU, the learning culture, how to deal with the insecurities involved in adjusting to a new culture, and where they can find help at SDU. 

Student ambassadors are an important part of the introductory course at The Faculty of Business and Social Sciences ()

Another faculty, which has focus on social connections and learning culture in their introductory course, is BSS. International coordinator with the faculty, Yulia Tinyakova explains that they incorporate student ambassadors in the course, who introduce the new international students to life as a student at SDU and the learning culture. Among other things, they talk to the students about what attending an oral exam is like, and what it means to be responsible for your own studies. “Our student ambassadors are both Danish and international, which means that the students get some different perspectives on, what at means to be a student in Denmark. Especially the international ambassadors are important to our course, since they have been in the exact same situation as the new international students”, says Yulia. 

At BSS, students are split into smaller groups in the introductory course. Each group is assigned a student ambassador and an academic student advisor, allowing them to ask questions in a smaller forum. Furthermore, the small groups help the students get some important early social connections with other students, as they begin their studies at SDU. 

Knowledge sharing and cooperation between the faculties results in a better introductory course 

Yulia also explains that the international coordinators at the faculties make it a point to share experiences and knowledge between each other, about what works and doesn’t work in each faculty’s introductory course. Thus, they are able to cooperate with each other in creating the possible course for the new international students. 

The cooperation between HUM and NAT has proven very fruitful, especially for the students. In an evaluation of the introductory course to this year’s spring semester, 97% felt welcome at SDU. 80% felt ready to get started with their semester at SDU, and that they were ready to overcome challenges as an international student. 

Rune Mastrup Lauridsen

Head Consultant,
Faculty of Humanities
Tel.:+45 65502595

Editing was completed: 28.08.2020