by Ryan Kris
This winter I was lucky to migrate north of the border, spending three weeks in Denmark studying for my final MBA elective during an abnormally warm Nordic summer. I attended Aarhus University for their Summer University program, undertaking a subject called Using Digital Technologies for Competitive Advantage.
As a techie at heart with a passion for business, this subject delivered. Over a two-week period, we started with an overview of IT concepts and systems thinking. From here we delved into how digital technologies are transforming the business landscape.
Digital and strategic thinking were the core of the course. We explored a number of frameworks used to assess a company’s digital capabilities (or lack there of) and how these could be used to capture market opportunities and establish competitive advantage.
These concepts were tied back to fundamental economics. We studied different business models currently used by market leaders (Amazon, Netflix, Motley Fool) and looked at why many digital businesses failed during the dot com crash in the early 2000s – and the lessons learnt since.
Our contact time for the course was 9am-noon daily. The assessment for the subject consisted of two case studies, an online tech quiz and the final exam. The exam was three hours and conducted online. It was scheduled one week after the course was finished and all students take it at the same time. I completed the exam when I was in Stockholm as I had travelled there from Aarhus after the in-class work was over. The online exam was a first for me, but I managed to stay focused and got the job done.
Before and after. My online exam which I completed in my friend’s kitchen in Stockholm
Living in Aarhus
In Aarhus I had my first Airbnb experience. Airbnb lets everyday folk rent out their personal homes or spare rooms online for anyone to book from around the world. Rooms are generally cheaper than a hotel but a step up from student and hostel accommodation.
I booked a private room in a three-bedroom apartment which turned out to be right on the main strip in town along the river – the Åboulevarden. In my apartment I lived with two local Danes who become my hosts and city guides. I even got some Danish language lessons. With three extra vowels in the Danish alphabet – å, ä, ø – I needed help if I was to pronounce the street names around me.
Tough life. My balcony in Aarhus over the Åboulevarden
Getting around town was easy. Everyone bikes, so I was quick to hire one to get me from home to university each day. The town was safe and living was easy. Cafes and bars were a plenty, and night times were electric as the World Cup streamed on outdoor TVs and bars across town. We even had a jazz festival on during my stay, so there was live music on corners and streets throughout town.
That’s so hygge
In Denmark, the world’s happiest country, I encountered the concept of ‘hygge’. There is no real direct translation for this in English, but it is a cosy feeling with a social aspect. According to this definition, “Hygge has more to do with people’s behavior towards each other. It is the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality and contentment rolled into one”.
It is generally applied to many situations or experiences. Lunch with friends at the park or a nice dinner at home with family. It usually involves, food, drink and friends coupled with games or music or both. I was lucky to experience much hygge with my fellow students thanks to the great social program that Aarhus University put on and the people I subsequently met.
Our first event was a city walking tour where we learnt more about Aarhus and its history. On the tour, I met people from all the continents. A group of us soon formed as we downed our first beers at the closest pub after the walk. Our group came from all corners, Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, America, Canada and France.
- Our student crew enjoying some drinks on the balcony – so hygge
In addition to the many BBQs, World Cup matches, picnics and beer drinking we went canoeing along the Gudenåen river in the Silkeborg lakes and took a car trip to Skagen, where the Baltic sea meets the North sea. Between study we certainly had a full itinerary.
My time in Denmark was an experience I won’t forget. The study was intense but complemented what I had learnt through my MBA studies in Adelaide. After the study period I was lucky to head off to Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands for a well earned break.
Being able to combine study and doing some overseas travel is something I’d certainly recommend to anyone else going through their MBA studies here in Adelaide. If you’re considering Aarhus, Denmark as your study destination, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll share all the insights.