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Marie's journey to finding balance in Denmark

Marie is a young Czech woman who found her professional and life path in Denmark and now helps others find balance in their lives as a yoga teacher.

Photographs: Alex Flutur

Text: Natália Šepitková

Marie Kotaskova came to Denmark nine years ago. Like many other young internationals, she chose to study in Denmark. She graduated from Aalborg University with a specialisation in marketing management and international business economics. Marie is a marketing manager at a medical equipment provider company in Aalborg. Her current position was preceded by a three-month internship during her studies at the university. Although it was the time when she worked the hardest in her life to make a good impression and contribute meaningfully to the company, her efforts indeed paid off – they led to a student job and, subsequently, a full-time position at the company.

Challenges of finding a job in Denmark

Marie's success story is a testament to the power of internships, networking, and mentoring. "Securing an internship is a great starting point. Use those initial weeks to show that you are indispensable to the organisation. Networking is key. Engage with both internationals and Danes by volunteering or participating in sports activities. Stay active on LinkedIn by posting and interacting with others' content. Also, seize every opportunity to find a mentor," advises Marie. She was fortunate to participate in mentorship programs at UCN and Aalborg University. "My mentor at UCN recommended the company where I work now as they are receptive to internationals. He provided valuable feedback on my CV and insight into Danish work culture." Marie also reminds you not to forget the well-written job application, demonstrating the unique value you can bring to the company. "Emphasise why they should choose you over other candidates by highlighting your skills, experiences, and the specific contributions you can make for the specific company," she adds.

Marie acknowledges the initial challenges of finding a job in Denmark, which can vary significantly depending on the profession. However, she notes a positive trend that should fill young internationals and students with hope and optimism. "From my perspective, the situation has improved in recent years. It seems easier (but not easy) for English speakers to find jobs than nine years ago. Back then, jobs commonly available to students were mostly in dishwashing, cleaning, and similar roles. Now, I increasingly see students securing positions relevant to their fields of study." This shift in the job market offers hope for those seeking job opportunities in Denmark. However, she sees a significant disadvantage in the government's decision-making in the past about the closure of most international study programmes. "This impacted the lives of many people I've met, including international students and Danes who wanted to study in English to better prepare for the international market. Some internationals had to return to their home countries because they could not complete their studies and had to start over elsewhere."

Denmark is home

For many who decide to move to Denmark, the country's long-standing ranking among the happiest countries in the world plays an essential role in their decision. This year's ranking was the same, with Denmark taking second place. But do people also feel really happy there? "Every country has its strengths and challenges. In Denmark, the lack of sunlight during the autumn and winter can contribute to seasonal depression. And before coming here, I didn't meet as many people with mental illnesses, but it could also be generational," describes Marie, her experience with Danish happiness. "However, from my perspective, a significant portion of the Danish population is either happy or at least content with their lives. The Danish social system ensures that, almost regardless of your job, you can maintain a decent standard of living. Additionally, if you lose your job, you won't end up on the street; instead, you receive certain support. The sense of safety and security one feels living here is crucial to overall well-being."

Marie is grateful for the life she has built for herself in Denmark. Relocating here has played a significant role in her maturation. "I faced some major decisions early on, which taught me that you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it," says Marie. She values the work-life balance and the trust and responsibility she is given at work and most things about life in Denmark. "The only aspect I would like to change is the weather, but fortunately, I can easily escape to warmer countries when the winter blues set in. But in general, the Danish lifestyle suits me well, and I easily adapt to it. The early dinner times, punctuality, hygge, planning ahead of time. Also, I love the excitement everyone shares when the sun comes out." Having supportive friends and colleagues helped her adjust to living in a foreign country. Being part of a community has also been crucial. She started volunteering within the first few months of moving to Denmark, which was a great way to give back to society and an effective means to expand her network with like-minded people. Now, she considers Denmark her home despite missing her family and Czech friends, as well as warmer weather, mountains, and less wind. "And also, my mom's pickled vegetables and fruits," laughs Marie.

However, like many other internationals, Marie initially had difficulty making friendships with Danes. Many of them have close-knit friend groups from childhood, and they hardly let strangers into these friendly circles. Fortunately, she has made some new Danish friends over the past few years, which has helped her to integrate more into society. The fact that she has a Danish boyfriend also played a role in her integration. "We have been together for four years, and although we speak to each other in English, his family motivated me to learn Danish. I wanted to understand them and have 'deep relations' with them," explains Marie. "As a foreigner, they welcomed me into the family very well. In addition, his grandmother and I share the same passion for yoga. She is 93 years old and still a yoga teacher. She is one of the most energetic people I know and has so much passion for life."

"Now, she considers Denmark her home despite missing her family and Czech friends, as well as warmer weather, mountains, and less wind."

A journey towards contentment

In addition to her work in marketing, Marie found her other mission in Denmark, which changes and defines her life and influences the lives of others. It is yoga. Paradoxically, it was not love at first sight when she tried yoga for the first time. It wasn't until a few years later that she tried it again, thanks to a 30-day yoga challenge. "That experience completely changed my perspective. Yoga helped me to slow down and become more present in my daily life. It was then that I truly fell in love with the practice," Marie admits. She took her yoga teacher training in 2021 and started teaching yoga in spring 2022. "My yoga classes are grounded in Hatha yoga, which combines energetic postures to strengthen the body, stretching, and more relaxing yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. Hatha yoga aims to foster balance in both body and mind. Occasionally, I incorporate elements of yin yoga, involving longer stretches, to help students achieve deeper relaxation."

Marie confirms that interest in yoga in Aalborg is growing. People see value in going to yoga classes. Some come for flexibility, some for relaxation and inner peace, some for stress reduction, and some to move their bodies. Not only internationals but also local Danes come to Marie's classes. Some are held in English, and some are taught by Marie in Danish, as she humorously admits, with a Czech accent. "No one has ever commented negatively on the fact that I'm not Danish. One participant once said she likes it because it's 'exotic.' Some even ask, 'Are you Norwegian?'" she smiles. "Most are incredibly kind and say they can understand everything. I understand that some people prefer Danish teachers and might not return to my class, and that's perfectly okay. I don't like all yoga teachers either, and that's why there are so many of us."

For Marie, yoga represents more than just a practice. It is a lifestyle, a pathway to peace and balance in her life. But above all, it's a journey toward contentment. Through yoga, she has learned to live more in the present moment, regardless of external circumstances. Especially when she teaches, she is entirely present. "I am not a perfect yogi. I experience sadness, anger, jealousy, just like anyone else. However, I strive daily to be the best version of myself and serve others through my yoga classes and Instagram account inyogawithmarie - where I share insights on yoga and personal growth. My goal is to help people feel amazing, both physically and mentally."

Yoga may become a more significant part of her income one day. She enjoys day-to-day management and working within a team. She may consider transitioning to part-time work at her current job while teaching yoga part-time. "Additionally, I can see myself as part of a holistic health centre, where I would teach yoga and contribute to daily management. My goal is to help build a community that prioritises health, including mental wellness, creating a supportive environment for personal growth," talks Marie about her future dreams. "I am passionate about creating an environment where people can care for their bodies and minds and, for a while, forget about the world outside." She has already organised yoga workshops and mini-retreats focused on self-development, where they integrate yoga practices with principles of neuro-linguistic programming to enhance personal growth. Many of these workshops and mini-retreats are in collaboration with WellB. "I dream of one day hosting a longer retreat, either in Denmark or in a location abroad, close to water. Retreat where everyone can be fully themselves." Looking into Marie's clear and sincere eyes, I believe she can do it one day.

What Marie loves about Denmark?

I love being close to water everywhere I go. Back in my home country, the Czech Republic, we don't have the sea, and I love water. I find it super calming. Although I am not the best swimmer, just walking by the fjord, strolling on the beach, and being able to see water almost from everywhere is something I love very much. My favourite place in Denmark is Bulbjerg, a stunning limestone cliff in northern Jutland and the surrounding area. Recently, we visited the Danish island of Fur, which has quickly become another favourite of mine. It is the perfect spot for short nature hikes and watching beautiful sunsets.

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