(This letter is part of a series by The Indian Express where we bring you the experiences of students from different foreign universities. From scholarships and loans to food and cultural experiences, students tell us how life is different in these countries and the things that are. non-academic learning)
— Somesh Jha
I have been a journalist for over nine years and have worked with prestigious brands in India. However, there was still a thirst for more that made me pursue higher studies in Denmark. I’ve been thinking about going abroad for a master’s degree for a long time and this year I finally took the plunge and enrolled in the Erasmus Mundus journalism program to study financial journalism.
I am excited to return to journalism school, where I plan to critically examine current journalistic practices followed by newsrooms around the world and report on the global economy. I look forward to continuing to report on the Indian and global economy as I pursue my Masters program over the next two years.
How I found this program
A friend was taking this course and suggested I check it out. And I narrowed it down to this program and college and decided to apply. In the application form, there are certain questions that you have to answer about why you chose a particular course, what your plan would be after the program is over and what you want to achieve with it. They also ask for your IELTS scores. The requirements for the application are:
– Degree in the relevant field
– Documentation of your English skills if you are not a native English speaker
– At least three months of journalistic experience
Everything you need to know about the Erasmus Mundus journalism program
The program admits only 80-90 people from all applications received from around the world. Of the selected students, 20 get the merit scholarship. Although I had applied for a scholarship from the Tata endowment fund, I did not get it. I am 30 years old and age is a big factor in India when it comes to scholarships. I took a loan from a relative and will pay it back when I start earning. The price of the two-year course is 18,000 euros, 4,500 euros per semester.
This is a two-year Master’s program where all students have to spend the first year in Denmark at Aarhus University studying the core course and the second year is in a different country depending on their specialization. I will be going to City University London to study financial journalism. My course started in September. We have offline classes. I think it’s better to attend classes in person.
I chose London for my Masters in my second year as it is one of the financial capitals of the world. I am also open to opportunities in the US as they are all English speaking markets.
Before moving to Denmark, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with the Los Angeles Times business team in the US, reporting on the US economy for three months, as part of the Alfred Fellowship Friendly-OCCRP where I was an investigative reporting fellow.
I did PG Diploma in English Journalism from Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Dhenkanal in 2012-13. But I wanted to improve myself. There are no good master’s programs in the field of journalism in India. Also, studying abroad is my gateway to the outside world and the springboard to working in international newsrooms.
Differences between studying in India and Denmark
In India, in a journalism program, you are taught several subjects at the same time. For example, you study financial journalism and the history of journalism or some other subject at the same time. Here, we focus on one subject at a time, we have to finish the curriculum but we can take time to finish one subject. The course is structured in a way that helps us focus more on one topic at a time.
I have only appeared for one exam so far. Interestingly, it was a take-home exam where we had to do a week-long journalism project and at the end of it present a reflection report on our project answering why we chose the topic, how we got there, what we learned from it, how we interviewed people, how we decided the sources, how we managed to talk to those sources, limitations, problems they face, etc. Everything about our reporting and learning was in this report. We will receive the results within three to four weeks from the submission date.
Here teachers are different, they don’t like to be called teachers, ma’am or sir. We address them by name and I think it breaks down a lot of mental barriers between two people. Teachers are more open to feedback and more informal than in India. They believe in the concept of equality and are empathetic.
Danes are disciplined
Although I haven’t interacted much with the Danes (the citizens of Denmark), it has still been an enriching experience. Since students from all over the world are studying with me, I have started to make friends. We have split into study groups and will learn a lot about different cultures.
Denmark’s society thrives on a system of high trust. Citizens are law abiding and disciplined. Authority does not believe in standing in the head. But sometimes there are surprise checks and if you’re caught breaking a rule, there’s a hefty fine.
Being a non-vegetarian Delhi guy, I am used to spicy food. I find Denmark’s cuisine quite bland. To save money and my taste buds, I cook Indian food every day. Plus, preparing meals for myself is a triple incentive for me: it saves me money, I like the food I eat, and I’m becoming an expert cook. I usually shop at Indian or Asian grocers where I usually get all the ingredients. However, it is a bit more expensive than the local shops.
The main means of transport is the bicycle. People here bike to work and there are separate bike lanes. I also cycle to university.
My first Diwali in Denmark
It was my first Diwali outside India. There are 10 Indians in the batch of 90 and we have organized a Diwali party for the rest of the class. We played Indian music, had snacks and danced the night away. Although I missed my family, this Diwali was also memorable. There is no pollution here, which I have come to dislike about Delhi.
My advice to people who want to study abroad is to start early, plan well and also start saving money, a good savings buffer helps a lot. Do proper research on what you want to study and also read about alumni experiences.