University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


A retired Dane gets hired in China

Restart — For professor Jørgen Bo Larson, retired life is still full of adventure. He will move to a completely different culture, and continue his passion for working with forests.

Think of a retired life, and this image might pop up: A wooden house in rural surroundings with cows roaming, birds singing and the bright sunlight dancing in a lush garden where you can quietly reminisce about the good old days.

This image, however, is not on the agenda of Professor Jørgen Bo Larson. He is still engaged with two master’s programmes in UCPH despite being officially retired since the 31st of August. Now he has accepted a position from the Nanjing Forestry University in China where, even after retirement, he plans to continue expanding his knowledge and expertise even further.

His change in retirement plans stems from an academic exchange to Nanjing in May earlier this year. “On the first day they [the Nanjing Forestry University] proposed it to me directly and I was so surprised because it is far from just signing up a contract with them,” said Jørgen.

At the time, he had already promised UCPH to continue his teaching at least this year while the university looked for his replacement. “Sometimes I wake up during the night, and I always question myself: No – ‘Bo, what are you doing?’ Are you really able to facilitate the academic development for such a big organization?” He realized that he must prepare for the difficulties he may face and have to overcome if he wants to start his career in China.

Language is a big challenge. Apart from that, Jørgen is already aware of the pressure from facing cultural barriers due to his previous work experience in different countries. To him, Chinese culture is attractive. But he at the same time feels the need to bridge the Chinese and his own culture perspectives.

“Fortunately, I have a PhD student from China who can act as my interpreter with regards to language and culture. She can stop me on time if I am about to jump into unknown territory and end up in a situation where I cannot really understand what they have meant.”

Growing up with his beloved forests

Speaking of his expectations, Jørgen said he would like to see what China is currently striving for and where it is moving towards in terms of forestry. Since China is a major importer of wood products, he is also interested in learning how this big country can achieve a balance between sustainable production and consumption in the long run.

‘Silviculture’, ‘woodland’, ‘forest protection’, ‘tree breeding’, ‘urban forestry’ are the key terms repeatedly used to describe the official profile of Jørgen’s work. He became professor when he was 33 years old.

“I have also been the chair of the European Forestry Institute for 5 years, which is an umbrella organization with around 130 forest-related research centres and universities in Europe. I have a lot of contacts and in this sense, my international network allows me to facilitate academic cooperation in my speciality. I think this is what I bring to the Nanjing Forestry University,” says Jørgen.

When asked where I should take a photo of him, Jørgen pointed to the green map on the wall and said, “maybe in front of the European forests.”

He stood next to the green area which covers 26,19% of our planet. Now he is looking into another continent on this earth and ready to explore new possibilities for starting another life stage there.

“In my life, I take challenges all the time. I know every time you do that, you grow, and learn something new. I hope that I am able to grow wiser this time.”