Photo: Vibeke Hempler

Southern European invasion of DTU

A large proportion of MSc students at DTU are from the South of Europe. They are not fleeing from countries in crisis—they are on the hunt for academic challenges.

Around half of the 1,200 international MSc students who began their studies at DTU this autumn hail from Southern European climes—i.e. they come from Latin, Greek, and Slavonic linguistic areas. Their number has risen sharply in recent years. It is possible that the tendency was given a boost by the financial crisis, but Morten Overgaard, Head of International Affairs at the Office of Study Programmes and Student Affairs, believes that it is rather DTU’s excellent reputation that is attracting young people from the South of Europe.

“And the students from Southern Europe are more than welcome here; they’re good, diligent students, they fit in easily and they generally make a positive contribution to the international study environment DTU is keen to cultivate,” he says.

DTUavisen met three of the students behind the figures, who all confirm Morten Overgaard’s observations.

Photo: private 

Guillem Aguilà Calbet, Spain

“I love the way we always end up having a beer”

Back in spring, when he was putting the finishing touches to his BSc at the Technical University of Catalonia, Guillem Aguilà Calbet started looking for a university where he could take an MSc in transport. He could have stayed in Spain and taken a few individual transport modules, but he wanted to specialize in the area. Some of his friends had become Erasmus students at DTU, and they strongly recommended that Guillem follow suit.

“They told me how much they enjoyed the teaching and the international atmosphere, so I applied for the MSc programme in Transport and Logistics—for the sake of both my career and my personal life,” relates Guillem. 

He started at DTU in August, and has not regretted his decision for an instant.

“It’s a great place to be, and the teaching is much better than I’m used to in Spain, because the lecturers are closer to the students. They are open and accommodating, so you can always talk to them. And I love the way we always end up having a beer together here, which was a pleasant surprise. Of course, we get together in bars in Spain, but only informally with friends—not in connection with our actual work. There are lots of good places on campus. I live in halls in Virum, but spend the whole day here and pretty much only go home to sleep,” says Guillem with a smile.

After Christmas, he will be making a serious effort to learn Danish, which he feels he owes his Danish classmates, and he can certainly imagine staying on in Denmark to work after finishing his studies. But nothing is written in stone ... he may well end up in a completely different part of the world.

“I can work anywhere I want to, as long as I can speak the language.”

Photo: private 

Athanasios Chalmoukis, Greece

”My goal is to become a better engineer”

Athanasios Chalmoukis had completed an entire study programme in Greece—qualifying as an electrical and computer engineer—before he arrived at DTU Electrical Engineering a little over a year ago.

“I’d actually landed a job in the energy sector back home in Greece, but I thought it was more important to rack up some international experience and try living abroad,” he says.

Athanasios had heard about DTU from his friends, but he also applied to universities in Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. He based his choices on rankings and on what he had heard from others. And it soon became clear that Denmark is a good choice for electrical engineers. He was at a conference hosted by Siemens and the speaker mentioned that Denmark is years ahead of many other countries in the field of energy, so it was a simple choice for Athanasios.He has not been disappointed. While he cannot, of course, say how things would be elsewhere, he really feels that he is making great strides in his studies, to which he is devoting 100 per cent of his energy.

“Social life? Not so much. I’ve come here to study and become better at what I do, not to take a holiday and have fun. I miss my friends back home and I’ve given up a great deal to be here. I’m living in student halls close to DTU and the people there are pleasant enough, but my primary aim is to become a better engineer. As soon as I graduate, I’ll be heading back to Greece to find work,” he emphasizes.

Photo: private 

Tiberiu-Gabriel Zsurzsan, Romania

 ”I chose DTU over a full-time job”

Tiberiu-Gabriel Zsurzsan came here from Romania five years ago, accompanied by his girlfriend—who has since become his wife. They both completed MSc programmes at DTU Electrical Engineering in two and a half years. His plan was to take a six-month holiday afterwards.

“However, I was already back at work a week later because I’d been offered a PhD—and you simply cannot turn down chances like that ...”

He is taking his PhD in partnership with the company Noliac, which designs and develops piezo-electic units, and his work is targeted at developing a non-magnetic motor for use in medical contexts, where electro-magnetic fields can disrupt the other equipment. It was almost by chance that Gabriel chose to come to Denmark. He had heard that DTU was a good place to study, but he had also applied to a university in Sweden. Strangely, his application to the Swedish university became lost, and before it was found again, he had been accepted by DTU. He has had no cause to regret this unusual sequence of events.

“I love DTU; it’s great ... amazing,” says Gabriel, who still prefers to speak English, even though his Danish is excellent.

Immediately after passing his BSc exams in Romania, Gabriel was contacted by a company and offered a job. 

“This left me in something of a dilemma: should I choose the safe option, or continue along my academic path? If I wanted to carry on studying, I would have to travel because the MSc courses in Romania aren’t good enough. I chose the academic option, and my parents thought I was crazy.”