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Being an intern in Aarhus – the City of Smiles

Zoe Zweifler from the University of Vienna has spent four months as a Circle U. intern at Aarhus University – and here she shares her experiences and insights. With her story, she hopes to inspire others.

Zoe (in the middle) enjoying a day on the beach with her friends from Aarhus. Photo: Zoe Zweifler

How does one begin a post signaling the end of a wonderful internship at the International Center at Aarhus University for the European University Alliance Circle U.? Having thought long and hard about how I could fully honour my experiences and newfound acquaintances throughout my time in Aarhus, I’m not sure if I could sum up everything in this post. Perhaps I was also a little reluctant to write anything because I didn't want this time to pass.

Nevertheless, I would like to provide as much advice as I possibly can through this post to motivate students, academics, and administrative staff at universities and within Circle U. in order to create (more) space and opportunities for cross-university exchange. This internship abroad has not only enriched me with countless unforgettable experiences and an indescribable personal growth, but also awakened an enthusiasm for Circle U. in me. 

From Vienna to Denmark

Having recently completed my bachelor’s degree in Geography from the University of Vienna, I wanted to complete an internship abroad, but within Europe, to brush up on my English fluency before beginning my master’s degree this autumn. Denmark quickly stood out to me, becoming my favourite choice, due to its progressive reputation. Likewise, I didn't think twice when I applied for an internship at the International Center in Aarhus as part of Circle U., although I had no idea where Aarhus was exactly located, what Circle U. was and how much this time would personally benefit me.

A cosy and welcoming team

Already after my first days of my internship, I was impressed by the way the International Center worked. I joined an incredibly open-minded team that included me in every activity from day one and supported me with any problems I had, making me feel like I was part of the team from the start. I quickly realized that the Danish word hygge (difficult to translate, but probably the closest equivalent to a cosy, warm atmosphere), alongside the word tak (thank you), was truly present throughout the work culture here. Whether it was our joint team breakfasts every Friday, a bingo event, champagne tasting, a cooking evening, drinks on a rooftop, or our morning swim, it was evident that this team was doing something very right: focusing on social interaction. A great experience that doesn't necessarily make it any easier to leave this place again.

A great opportunity for students

You might be curious how I partook in such an amazing internship and what I did. If you visit the Circle U. website, you quickly learn that it is a European University Alliance consisting of nine universities. For me as a student itself, Circle U. is the opportunity to get in touch with people from other countries, to exchange knowledge, to participate in courses and programmes in the other European countries and to gain experience in the university field apart from my own bachelor and master programmes at the University of Vienna.

Varied and interesting tasks

As part of my internship, I supported an area within Circle U. that dealt with student and employee mobility between the nine universities and looked for ways to both adapt and facilitate interactions for the needs of the target groups. My tasks were quite varied, which suited me very well and gave me the opportunity to gain an insight into many areas at Aarhus University and Circle U..

I was able to participate in meetings between the university partners, organise a language programme for students at Aarhus University in cooperation with a study assistant, develop an ambassador programme for Aarhus University students, gain knowledge in web editing, help with the preparation and follow-up of Circle U. activities (e.g. online talks or physical events) and travel to Copenhagen for a meeting.

Great mentorship

Of course, I was not completely alone in this and would like to acknowledge one person who not only made sure that I was in good hands every day but also became an important person during my time in Aarhus, Lotte. Lotte is one of the many faces behind the daily operation of Circle U.. During my internship, she was my mentor (I don't really like this word, but there isn't really another one), who not only supported me and always had an open ear, but from whom I was also able to learn a lot for myself personally, especially when it comes to appreciation and care in the working environment.

Friends from all over the world

In addition to my time at the International Center with Circle U., I also had enough free time to get to know Aarhus and Denmark a little better. I spent my months in a student dorm, where I got to know people from all over the world and made new friends whom I grew fond of. We went on excursions together, explored many wine bars and brunch spots (my favourites!) and spent long evenings late into the night. I partly learned how to make pizza from Italy, learned a lot about holidays and festivals from different countries, enjoyed countless Danish pastries and dared to go ice bathing (in April, if you can still count that).

Falling in love with Aarhus

I have also grown fond of Aarhus itself, a modern, young city that, like many other Danish cities, thrives on cyclists, impressive architectural buildings, and an unwavering amount of social trust. Nowhere else have I seen public birthday parties in a library with the country’s flags on the table, people swimming in the sea in all possible weather conditions and being happy afterwards, a queue of cyclists in the morning rush hour, or unattended laptops placed in public places by students. These characteristics highlight the uniqueness of Aarhus and Danish culture, which has quickly rubbed off on me, allowing me to fall in love with this city.

My learnings and takeaways

I came to Aarhus and the International Center with the intention to improve my English language skills during my studies. In hindsight, this goal was quite small. Over these nearly four months, I not only grew personally, but also experienced what team cohesion, a work-life balance and trust really mean. I have not just improved my English skills as I had originally hoped, but I am also much more open to dealing with a new working and living environment. The last few months have required a certain flexibility and confidence in dealing with new situations and people, especially at the beginning, which has helped me to develop as a person.

I was also able to gain insights into Circle U., playing a role in shaping it (a bit) and desire to continue being a part of this alliance. I hope that more people will come to appreciate Circle U. in the future, giving it the attention it deserves.


Thank you Aarhus for the smile you put on my face (almost) every day. Thank you to the great people I met during my stay in the student dorm and throughout other activities. Thank you to the entire team at the International Center in Aarhus, to whom I hope I can give at least a little something back through this article for the wonderful time I was able to spend with you. Thank you, Circle U. and all those behind the alliance, for allowing me to do this internship in Aarhus and for the many insights I will take home with me. Lastly, thank you Lotte, for always being there for me during my time in Aarhus and making my internship so special.

These last months have been great!