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Sagar from India – mechanical engineering

Sagar Rao is 23 years old and comes from India. He is studying for an MSc in Engineering in mechanics at Navitas, which is located in the centre of Aarhus.

Why did you come to Denmark to take your Master’s?

"One of my long-term goals is to teach, and there are some criteria that I’d like to meet before that day comes - namely that I want both educational and work experience, abroad as well as at home. I think that's important if you want to be a good teacher, and that's why I wanted to go abroad to take my Master's," he says, and continues:

“So why Denmark exactly? I had a friend who applied for DTU, and that stirred my interest in the country. I looked at different Danish universities, and Aarhus University (AU) caught my eye. Firstly, because of the city: I’d never been in a city abroad that wasn’t the capital of the country, and I wanted to live somewhere that wasn’t too crowded. And then I saw that Aarhus had been the European Capital of Culture in 2017, and there was probably good reason for that, I thought. I wrote to various researchers at both DTU and AU, and to my surprise, I received a very prompt response from an associate professor here at AU, Mikkel Pedersen. His response was very motivating and enthusiastic, and I got the feeling that AU was a place with some of the values that mean a lot to me. That convinced me that it was the right place for me."

Arrival and the first days

"The first thing I did after I arrived by plane was to go to a restaurant and get something to eat. I sat down, ate a salad and thought: 'This is one of the juiciest tomatoes I've ever eaten'. Right there and then, I thought: 'Ok, this is going to be different. It’ll be a completely different from anything I’ve done before.’ One of the things that surprised me was that everything went so quietly and calmly. There wasn't really any rush hour. People were relaxed. At least until I mistakenly found myself on a bike path. I got out of a bus and was messing around with my luggage, when suddenly someone yelled at me. I’d walked out on the bike path. I rushed to the side, because it didn't look like he was going to slow down. That’s how things are in Denmark. There’s a lot of bicycles, and they have their own dedicated cycle paths. You have to remember to respect their right of way, but now I've got used to it," he says with a smile.

What surprised you most?

"It's very easy to work in English in Denmark. Everyone understands it and can talk in English. I also think that the culture is very interesting. Quite unique in fact. There’s a lot of focus on the potential of the individual, and there’s a lot of openness. Denmark has a very flat hierarchy, and that’s rare. I've never experienced this flat hierarchy before, so actually it was something of a culture shock. And it permeates everything – even on the programme. It's very positive, it's not like the lecturer just arrives, teaches, and goes. There’s interaction, and you’re encouraged to discuss and have an opinion. The professors are genuinely interested in hearing your own opinion about things; even the simplest questions are given respect and are discussed until every aspect is clear to us.”

What about the social aspect?

"The residence hall where I live is approx. 75 per cent Danes, and it's very easy to make friends. I’d heard that it’d be difficult to make friends here in Denmark, but I haven’t experienced it, at least in my dorm. I’d say that those I live with are some of the friendliest people I've ever met. Really! They might not be the closest friends I get in life, because we don't have much time to experience crazy things together, but that's just fine with me."

What would you say to someone considering coming here to study?

"There are some really good reasons to come to AU to take your Master's degree. First of all, your supervisors here will almost certainly be really, really experienced. They‘ll be extremely good at their subject. Quality over quantity matters here. There aren’t 50 professors in mechanical engineering here, but those who are here are really good. Really experienced. You learn a lot, and you can always talk to your supervisors. You’re actually encouraged to talk to them," he says and continues:

"Living and studying in Denmark will probably be quite different from any other experience you've had before. The way you study is different. The way you live is different. Your opportunities are different. And there's incredibly strong focus on the work-life balance. You’re encouraged to take time off, play sports or other activities, hang out with your friends, etc. On the other hand, you’re super focused when you’re studying. There’s a really good balance between things and that means you’re much more focused on what you’re doing. I’d really recommend that you apply to study here."

Sagar grew up near Chennai in the southern part of India.

He earned a Bachelor of Technology in mechanical engineering at the SRM Institute of Science and Technology, which is located on the outskirts of Chennai.