IT'S LIKE WE'RE 20 YEARS YOUNGER AGAIN
It’s no longer called Aarhus School of Business (or Handelshøjskolen), and a lot has changed on campus over the years. Nevertheless, the place still brings back memories from 20 years ago – back when a group of exchange students were hanging out in Aarhus, playing football and drinking beer at Klubben. They haven’t seen each other since 1994, but now they are back in Aarhus to catch up and commemorate their time in Denmark.
It was clearly a happy day for the ten former exchange students, who reunited at Fuglesangs Allé last Friday, 20 years after meeting each other at the former Aarhus School of Business. On this day, all of these former students were very given to laughter and smiles, and they were excited to see the old campus and each other again.
“It’s like we’re 20 years younger again. The faces are the same, they haven’t really changed,” says Paula Sampedro from Spain, who studied French and business back then and now works as a Spanish and French teacher.
Most of the exchange students studied economics, while they were here. They have found each other again through Facebook, and out of the 60 students, 47 are members of the Facebook group. The managers of the group were in charge of organising the reunion in Aarhus on this rainy weekend in August.
“If you’d come a month ago, you’d have experienced the warmest summer we’ve had in a very long time,” says team leader in AU Alumni, Jacob Jensen, who together with student assistant Nanna Lykkegaard Mikkelsen had arranged for a tour of the campus and lunch for the group. “We were more used to this weather,” says Paula Sampedro with a smile.
Life before and after Denmark
It’s easy to tell that these are a bunch of happy people, and even though it’s been 20 years, they are still young at heart. Everyone is smiling, and it seems like only yesterday they last saw each other. A lot of friendships have been kept over the years, across vast geographical distances.
Someone mentions that they are “strategically good friends”, in the sense that it’s good to have friends who live in parts of the world that are definitely worth visiting, such as Barcelona, Amsterdam and California. Brent Cowley lives in California, and on his way to Aarhus, he stopped in Barcelona to see one of his friends from 1994:
“We always looked at our life before and after Denmark. It changed so much for the better. We were so young, but we grew so much by being here. It was so super!”
Memories from Aarhus
It’s clear that they all have good memories from their time in Aarhus, which is why they were willing to travel all this way to see each other again and see the place where they met.
”I had a very good time here. I learned other things than the content of economics. Mostly social, which is important. It was so easy for us international people to communicate. We learned to speak better English, be with other people with international backgrounds. That’s why we stayed in contact, I think. It was quite a landmark for a lot of us,” says Rob Hofstede from Groningen in the Netherlands.
Arjen Kwint, also from Groningen, says:
“It’s interesting to see what it’s like here at the school now. But also to hear how everyone is doing, and what everyone has done over the last 20 years. 20 years is a long time. You forget. But then someone tells a story and you remember. I remember playing football, especially against a Danish team. We won.”
Brent also recalls football as something special: “That was our favourite place. That was another great bonding part for us.” In addition, they held parties and took trips abroad, played theatre, hung out and cooked for each other and partied at Klubben, which unfortunately was not open on this day of the tour. Too bad, because they really wanted to see it again.
“Tak skal du haaf”
All the economics students had to take a six-week Danish course during their stay here. The two French/business students from Spain, on the other hand, had to attend difficult French classes, where the teachers commented on their work in Danish. Fortunately, their fellow students were there to help them translate the comments.
American Shannon Harman explains that Danish was very hard for them: “We tried but...” Her fellow countryman Brent agrees with her and proceeds to claim that it’s the sounds that make Danish so hard to learn. Actually, they never got around to learning a whole lot of Danish, because the people they talked to wanted to practise their English.
But then, do they remember a little Danish? “Tak skal du haaf,” yells one of the Dutch, leaving the Americans looking very impressed. I remember “tak”, someone else says, and a third person adds “tusind tak”, and then of course “jeg elsker dig”. But apart from being able to pronounce “Handelshøjskolen” with a distinct foreign accent, they didn’t remember much of the Danish language.
Staying in contact via AU Alumni
None of the former exchange students have stayed in contact with their Danish friends living in the dorms. Someone mentions the name of one of their tutors, Tine, and Jacob Jensen says that if they remember any names, he will be happy to look them up in the alumni database, which currently holds 20,000 members of which 10% are international members.
The international contacts are very valuable to the AU Alumni network, and at the dinner in the S Building, Jacob encourages all the former students to stay in contact with AU Alumni:
“Students going out, and professors as well, might find it useful to get in touch with you.” To the question of whether this is something they are open to, Brent answers in the most American way: “Absolutely!” He also says he will pass the message on to the other members of the Facebook group, who weren’t able to come to Aarhus this time round.