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It is notoriously difficult. Yet some international students are now getting internships on the Danish job market. We talked to a few of the lucky ones to find out whether it was just luck
You’d usually expect to find international students working in bars and cafés while they study. After all, language barriers and limited networks mean fewer opportunities to score a job that looks better on the CV after graduation.
The University of Copenhagen’s ‘welcome’ page warns that it is difficult for international students to find work in Denmark, and discourages them from expecting too much from the job market.
However the increasing internationalisation of the Danish workforce means more roles are opening up for international students. Many are bucking the trend by scoring enviable internships which match their career goals. The University Post caught up with a select few of these students to hear whether it was just luck, or whether they had some choice pieces of advice.
See the University Post guide: ‘Your five step path to a good Danish job’ here.
Monika Silkartaite is from Lithuania and taking her Master’s in Law at the University of Copenhagen. She also works part-time as a legal advisor for MAQS Law Firm in Copenhagen.
“I was lucky to have connections,” says Monika. “I was an Associate for MAQS’ Lithuanian branch, so when I applied to study in Denmark, the Danish office took me on.”
Economics student Jane Kim found her internship with a tech start-up by googling her favourite iphone app. She works for Everplaces, an app which lets users save information about their favourite travel spots.
“I was a fan of the app and excited that they were based in Copenhagen. I saw on the website that they were looking for an intern, so I applied,” says Jane, adding that “I love my internship because it gives me an iconoclastic look into European tech start-up culture”.
She takes note of the relaxed working culture of Denmark.
“I rarely see people wearing suits, ties, or high heels. This could be because I work for a hip tech start-up, but I watched all the seasons of [TV series, ed.] Borgen, and it was pretty much the same,” saysJane.
Monika Silkartaite reckons that Danish workplaces are happier, and that this is a result of good communication practice.
“I like that employers communicate with the employees and try to actually find ways to improve the working environment,” she says.
International students offer a valuable contribution to Danish employers.
“I think different backgrounds bring new perspectives to Danish businesses,” says Karolina Laheado, an African Studies student from Finland. “They also offer their international networks from past roles.”
However the search for an internship isn’t always easy. Karolina searched for months before finding hers at the Danish Institute for Human Rights.
She found that the language barrier significantly limited her job opportunities. “It was frustrating not being able to apply for many jobs and internships because I didn’t speak Danish,” she says.
The language barrier may be the biggest obstacle for international students. But English-language opportunities do exist. “My workplace is very international, so we speak English 95 per cent of the time,” says Jane, who as a Korean-American faces other restrictions. Visa restrictions permit her only to work 15 hours per week.
With or without fluent Danish, Monika finds that employers are gratified if applicants at least demonstrate that they’re making an effort to embrace Danish culture.
“In an interview, it helps to mention you are learning Danish. If you show an effort, it usually pays off,” she says.
Brushing up on English skills is also a plus, according to Jane.
“I think it’s important that if you do not speak Danish, you can at least express yourself in English very clearly.”
Karolina Laheado encourages her fellow students to not be dismayed, and keep up the job search.
“Apply for all positions that look interesting to you. Many organisations value the expertise that international students have,” she says, adding a piece of hot advice. Students should not sell themselves short, but accentuate what makes them different:
“Emphasize your experience in previous countries to set yourself apart.”
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