Meet Ernesto from Latvia
Sidst opdateret: Thursday, 10. April 2014 - 15:30 / jkj
For Ernest Jablockin, a move to Horsens in Denmark has given him the chance to strike out on his own, find career opportunities that would not have existed if he had stayed in Latvia and constantly challenged him. It has all happened due to a visit to his grandmother.
A talk with his grandmother about the future helped put Ernest Jablockin on his path from Latvia to Horsens in Denmark. It is a time that has taught the 24-year-old, in his final semester of double-degree studies of GBE and Mechanical engineering, much about the value of standing on your own two feet and constantly getting out of your comfort zone.
Here he talks about his experiences in his own words.
Grandmother’s newspaper leads to Denmark
My parents did a great job and always encouraged me to try my best in all subjects and to get a good education. While studying at school, I found most of the subjects interesting, and that turned out to be the biggest problem for me – to choose what I actually wanted to develop further after I finished high school, and perhaps part of the reason I ended up in Horsens. In the end, I thought that engineering would be a good choice, as it is actually a profession that relies on skills from many different subjects.
I had been looking on the Internet for places where I could possibly study abroad, because it would give me other options than the one’s I could find in Latvia. One day, I was visiting my grandmother, and she asked me if I had looked at Denmark. There had been something in the newspaper about how education was free there, and we looked on the Internet together, and I got the sense that it would be a good place for me to go. Through reading up on it, I got a sense that Denmark was a fair society with good health care and a free and open democracy. Professionally, I felt that a move here would give me more academic and career opportunities with engineering companies. You have a lot of famous firms such as Siemens, Maersk and Vestas that are based here.
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to go abroad to study. Even at a young age, I liked new challenges and leaving my comfort zone. Your comfort zone is safe, but it is not where you grow and develop best, I think. Physically, your comfort zone is your home – at you parents’ place and in your home country where you know how everything works.
I found the school in Horsens, and read about the Global Business Engineering (GBE) programme, that sounded very interesting to me. I liked the idea of combining engineering with communication, languages and business. I filled out application forms, participated in an interview which was held in one of Riga’s hotels in the centre, wrote a motivational essay, send translated grade transcripts as well as the results from centralized exams, English test results to VIA and got accepted. Since coming to Denmark, I decided that it would be a good idea to combine GBE and mechanical engineering, so now I am following courses on both programmes.
Living the student life in Denmark
Arriving in Denmark was an exciting and stressful experience. If you has seen the ‘Born Survivor’ TV-show with Edward ‘Bear’ Grills on the Discovery Channel you will have a pretty good idea about how I felt – of course, instead of surviving in the wild, I had a room in Horsens as a base, but Horsens can feel a bit like being planted in the middle of nature to a foreigner. I did not know anyone, had no friends, did not know the town, the language, anything.
After a stressful couple of weeks, I had this feeling of certainty that I had made the right decision. I knew then that moving here was a massive change, but a change for the better. I think changes are usually for the good, because they force us into situations where we learn and develop ourselves. Something that helped me towards settling has been my contact with my school and with IDA. Among other things, they organised a number of events I participated in, for example a trip to Lufthansa headquarters in Hamburg and a trip to Volkswagen’s factory in Wolfsburg.
Since that first, nervous time, it has been great experience. I have learned so much it is indescribable, really. I have made true friends – both Danes and other foreign students - I have become financially independent from my parents, I have learned Danish and now I am finishing my bachelor’s in the summer. It is just fantastic! I feel both satisfied with and proud of my accomplishments.
I can only base my knowledge of what it is like to study engineering in Latvia on experiences of friends studying there, but based on that, I would say that some of the differences are:
There is a strong focus on group work in Denmark, whereas in Latvia the focus is heavily on individual work.
At VIA, I think we have a focus on innovative and present-day knowledge and skills. In Latvia, focus is on theory. You could say that a general difference is that Denmark – and perhaps especially VIA –has a strong focus on practical knowledge versus the strong focus on academic knowledge in Latvia.
I can not really talk about the positive differences without mentioning money. Studies are generally not free in Latvia. Universities offer a number so called ‘budget’ places, which are financed by the government, but only the best students receive these, while everyone else has to pay. Here Danish students have a right to receive SU, which means that you can focus better on your studies. SU is, in my opinion, is the best support that government can provide to make studying easier for students. Perhaps you could say that students in Latvia have to want it more, and generally spend more time studying because they have to pay for it.
The Danish Way
Life outside school is very good. I like the Danish welfare system, and the country is well organised, structured, open and safe. It is a place where parents can let a child go out unsupervised to football, to friends or wherever and be sure that the kid will stay safe and return home. The Danish culture also seems to value openness and if you have an opinion, it will be heard.
The only major problem for me is the way that you are not allowed to stand out. Danes sometimes make fun of the unwritten rule “You cannot think that you are better than anybody else” but as a foreigner you can see its effect on many parts of the culture and society.
Compared with Latvia, it is harder to get to know people here. Danes are happy and smiling people, but strangely enough not very talkative before you get to know them a bit better.
The language is….special, and takes some study, as does the drinking culture. Once I went to the border with Germany, and I saw that a bottle of beer was cheaper than a bottle of water. I could not believe it!
A couple of funny differences between here and Latvia would be:
Jogging and cycling. People do not do as much that in Latvia.
Fashion – I have noticed that if one Danish guy with a new, fashionable haircut, you know that ¾ of Danish guys will have the same haircut within a week.
Colours – Danes use white on all walls everywhere. You cannot find white walls in many rooms in Latvia, except mental hospitals.
Punctuality and calendars – Danes usually need about a month’s notice if you want to visit them. In Latvia you just stop by.
Another unusual thing is that Danes are very direct but at the same time they don’t want to confront anyone
Having said all that, I really like it here, and would be happy to stay after I finish my education. I highly respect and appreciate Denmark, Danish culture and Danes, since they have given me so much in regards to both education and life experiences.
Future and plans
While studying here, I have found subjects like renewable energy, design of energy systems, and sustainable power production very interesting, and I would really like to work in the field of sustainable energy when I finish my studies. I believe it has a big potential already, and one that will grow in the future. Without renewable energy it will be impossible to satisfy the demand for electricity, heating and fuel. I like the idea of developing something that could work for ages and that people in the future will use.
My plan for the moment is to continue my studies with a focus on production innovation, product development. For now, I have no intention of returning to Latvia, and I could easily see myself working for a Danish company. I think the combination of Latvia and Denmark makes for a good mix, and hope Danish companies would think so too.