ITU With a Foreigners Eyes

(Written for the readIT magazine)

In this article I´ll try to convey some of my impressions of ITU from the perspective of a foreigner. I´m aware that it is always easier to criticize than to applaud (and usually more fun) so please take this text with a grain of salt.

Skipping half the letters

The language is usually the biggest obstacle when moving to a foreign country.

Fortunately, being an Icelander I´ve learned some Danish in school and the vocabulary is similar to other Scandinavian languages so that part of the transition has actually been easier than I had expected.

My fellow students have been very patient with my stammering and so far my limited Danish hasn´t gotten me into any serious problems out in the real word.

The trick with pronouncing Danish is to skip half the letters in each word, (but the problem is finding out which half).

The Danish number system and I

The Danes in general are very helpful and polite, but I have to admit the Danish number system and I have had our differences and it´s still tempting to limit my orders from a fast food menu to numbers below 50.

If only Danes could limit their eccentricity to pronouncing 71 as "one-and-seventy" it wouldn´t be much of a problem, but with insisting on "one-and-half-fours" my foreign brain has some real problems. Luckily all stores have a digital display on the cash register so when the clerk says something totally incomprehensible (like 57,75) the display comes to my rescue. (It wouldn´t surprise me if these digital displays were actually invented in Denmark in order to make it possible for tourists to spend their money here without constant confusion.)

My current ambitions are to master the number system before the end of my fourth semester, although I´m not making any promises.

Finding your way around

Before I get too negative I´ll use this opportunity to give some pointers to my fellow foreign students about finding your way around Copenhagen (although most of you have probably figured this out yourselves).

If you haven´t done so already, get yourself a copy of the green pocket version of Krak´s maps of Copenhagen. I borrowed a copy from a Danish friend when I first got here and it then took me almost three weeks of intensive search to find a bookstore that hadn´t "just sold their last copy" so I could get one of my own. I have a suspicion that there is some sort of a conspiracy towards foreign students here - but I haven´t been able to quite figure it out yet.

I probably should also say something about the Danish bicycle culture. But since I´m still trying to figure the whole thing out (and trying not to get myself killed in the process) - I´ll resist the temptation.

The four week projects

Returning my focus to the ITU, it seems that I´ve now mostly survived the four week project period and my first exams (although at the time this is written I haven´t gotten all the results yet and I´m on my way to the project exam).

The four week project period didn´t look too promising in the start. The kick-off meeting didn´t result in any concrete projects, writing my name on a list only resulted in a few very mysterious emails and the whole process left me quoting the Red Hot Chili Peppers: "Confusion is my middle name".

Luckily, I managed to find an interesting project with creative and hard-working fellow team members. Later it was an extra bonus for the ego to find out that in just over a month the website our group created ( has gotten more than 60.000 visits from all over the world and been referred to in various media.

Peculiar atmosphere

During the project period a very special atmosphere permeates the school, the work-day starts a little later and last a little longer than usual. In the first week the mood is upbeat but slightly confused, as the students try to get to grips with the project. The second week is relatively relaxed as most still believe that their projects are going well...

In the third week the moods are very varying from one group to the next. Some are on track and on schedule, others have dumped everything from the first weeks and are practically beginning from scratch. In the final week a silent desperation settles in, "nice-to-haves" are deleted from to do lists, and the "must-haves" are revaluated. The desperation then reaches its climax in the last 24 hours, when ragged looking students can be seen running from one printer to the next in search of the shortest queue, and when minor differences of opinion sometimes tend to evolve into emotional outbursts.

After three o´clock the Scrollbar fills up with red-eyed students telling war stories of their battle with time, the elements and the printers. Heavy eyelids and people falling asleep into their beers are unusually common in the bar as the day turns into evening and night.

Luckily my little group managed to keep to our time plan and we even got a full night´s sleep before D-day (D as in delivery). How the teacher reacted to the final product still remains to be seen...

This is the second article I wrote for the online student magazine (readIT) at the IT University.

The article was first published February 1st, 2005 and can be read here in the original context.

It turned out that the teacher wasn´t too pleased with our performance in the project exam, but we were not pleased with his questioning either...