As a non-Dane who moved to Aalborg 2.5 years ago, I was grateful to find help at the International Citizen Service with paper work concerning immigration and other questions about settling in. Through them I found out about a program that was running in Nordjylland called ‘Velkomstcentre,’ which ran a virtual network of other expats in the area as well as cultural, social and informative events to help people acclimate themselves to life in Denmark.
The International Citizen Service still exists, albeit in reduced form (see my previous post on this), but the Velkomstcentre initiative ceased to operate as of February 2014 due to lack of funding. This was a real blow to the international community here in the northern region of Denmark; whereas it felt as if someone/s cared about us and our needs while it was running, the Velkomstcentre’s closing truly left a hole: ‘Ah well, foreigners,’ Nordjylland officials seemed to say. ‘We were happy to help while the EU funded us but now you’re on your own.’
Luckily there were people who still cared and they managed to secure some funding for a ‘bridge’ project, which they named Embrace. The aim of Embrace, which is run by Business Aalborg, a section of Aalborg Kommune, is ‘to attract and retain international talent to Aalborg and North Denmark.’ The hope is that through the Embrace project, a permanent physical location – an ‘international house’ – loaded with services and organizations for international students and other non-Danish residents of Nordjylland will be established as a ‘new and improved’ version of the ICS and Velkomstcentre put together.
The leader of the Embrace/International House Aalborg project is Lasse Frimand Jensen, who is also a member of Aalborg City Council, representing the Social Democratic party. He is passionate about helping the international community in this region and has thrown himself into meeting with the various stakeholders, researching similar projects in Denmark, such as the International House in Copenhagen and Work-Live-Stay in South Denmark, and planning and organizing the future International House. Lasse grew up in Nørresundby and graduated from AAU. During his years as a student he spent time in Uganda working in international development.
Lasse is supported by Rikke Harboe, an AAU graduate of the Sociology and Culture and Global Studies programs who studied abroad in Thailand and is equally enthusiastic about building a support program for internationals in Nordjylland, and me, an external consultant on the project. Together we are doing our best to map out the needs of non-Danish residents in North Denmark and establish a permanent home to address those needs.
To this end, we would really appreciate your feedback on a survey AIESEC has created to assess what it is people really want and need when they come here from another country. We would greatly appreciate you spending about 5 minutes on the questions. You can find the survey here. In addition, there will be an information session about the project tomorrow, Wednesday, 11 March at 19:00 at DSU Aalborg, Kastetvej 24, Aalborg. You can find more information about the session here. The event is free and open to the public. So if you want to learn more and ask questions, please come!
You can also read about the International House project on Aalborg Kommune’s website here.