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Helping internationals feel at home

Photograph: iStock

Text: Jakob Weizman

Elsk Aalborg International is a project carried out by the local organisation in Aalborg, providing internationals with a place to belong and learn Danish free of charge. The programme seeks out to create a bridge between Danes and foreigners alike, promoting kindness and helpfulness.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays of each week, internationals residing in Aalborg meet together at Elsk's community centre during the afternoon to learn more about Danish culture, take language lessons taught by Danes and join in a fun activity afterwards where everyone gets to know one another.

"We invite everyone to join our free Danish classes because it's important if you want to connect with Danes, but more importantly we invite people to belong in the group, have a role and be a part of something bigger," said Hanna Pedersen, who leads the project. "We have fun with different activities, cook and eat together, play games and help each other with applying for jobs, understanding the Danish system, fixing a bike and more."

“It was comforting to know that I wasn't the only one struggling to fit in.”

For internationals living in Aalborg, Elsk has genuinely helped them socialise and immerse themselves in Danish society, making friends and learning more about other cultures. Rebecca Acevedo moved to Denmark from Arizona a year ago to live with her Danish boyfriend, and believes that Elsk helped her manage through 'relocation depression,' meaning being in a new place, surrounded by an unfamiliar language.

"Denmark is totally opposite compared to the Arizona Desert. So, it allowed me to meet Danish locals and other expats, hear different stories and form bonds," said Acevedo. "It was comforting to know that I wasn't the only one struggling to fit in, and it was even more comforting to know I could be welcomed so eagerly into Elsk with no questions asked."

Pedersen believes Elsk Aalborg undertakes itself as a runway for internationals to land in Aalborg where they can take off into Danish life with essential knowledge and meaningful experiences.

"When people feel safe and have a place to belong, they can easily contribute to the bigger and better community in Aalborg," added Pedersen.

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