Charles W. Sumner is originally from the United States, but came to Denmark to study his master's degree in International Business at CBS.
Tell me a little about your background
Hi, I'm Charles, and I'm 28 years old. I moved to Denmark last June to study my master's in International Business. I'm currently in my last semester. I moved here from Papua New Guinea, but I'm originally from the United States.
Why did you choose to study in Denmark? Was it your first choice?
I actually decided to move to Denmark because my girlfriend is Danish. I was working in Papua New Guinea for about a year and a half while we were dating, and I would spend my vacations in Denmark. I realised Denmark is a pretty great place, and CBS is quite well ranked. I was looking for a career change anyway, and it all just worked out perfectly for me to come here.
How did you find the application process for a master's in Denmark?
To be honest with you, I wish I knew a little bit more about the education system in Europe. A master's degree is a lot less common in the United State, whereas in Denmark it is almost expected that students continue onto their master's. So when I was applying to CBS, I applied for the International Business degree, because that's what I had studied for my undergrad, and that's where I thought I'd have the highest chances of getting in. In hindsight, I do wish I had taken more time to read and understand the different programs as I think I would have studied finance or something like that instead. As far as the actual application goes, it was pretty straight forward. If you're from the United States you also need to apply for a visa, but I found that quite easy as well.
How do you find the process of adapting to Denmark?
I'm not going to lie, I thought it was going to be pretty easy, and overall it has been a pretty easy transition. However, there are little things that I just wasn't aware of, the weather for example. Having lived in Florida, and Saudi Arabia with hot climates, Denmark took some time to get used to. It's one thing coming to visit, it's a whole other story once you actually live through the long winters.
Public transport is also something I had to get used to. In the United States I was used to driving everywhere. Additionally, in Denmark everyone speaks English, and sometimes you even forget that it's not their first language, but with that being said, Danes will obviously start reverting back to Danish once there are a couple of them placed together. That has put some pressure on me to learn the language.
So have you started learning the language?
I have been taking the free Danish classes, and I've passed the first three modules. To me, however, there is a difference between being able to read and write it okay, and actually speaking. The pronunciation is so different, and very difficult to get right. I do have the perfect partner to practice with, my girlfriend, but at the end of the day it is still difficult.
What's the one thing you wish you knew about Denmark before you got here?
I feel like I had a bit of an advantage, because I had been to Denmark twice before I moved here. Whereas, I have talked to some of the other international students and they're telling me the first time they came to Denmark was when they started their degree here. That's impressive!
Do you see yourself living in Denmark after you've finished studying?
Absolutely! It's hard to say that my whole career will be in Denmark. I'm a little bit older, I'm 28, but I'm still in the early stages of my career. I think Denmark is a great place to be in that stage of life, because it's pretty egalitarian. The hours are great, and it's an amazing place to raise a family. I was talking to my parents over break and they were doing a bunch of research in regard to health care, and I told them that health care wasn't something I had to worry about. There are so many plusses to being in Denmark.
What are your long term goals?
In the future I definitely see myself starting my own business, and Denmark is an excellent hub for start ups. I actually started my own entertainment company back in the States, and had that for about 7 years. It was a great experience, but I do believe I was a bit too young for it to take off properly. But I definitely see a start up business as part of my future plans.
What are the main differences between studying in the United States, and Denmark?
In the United States, the education that I took was very practical, it included lots of presentations as well as simulation games. There was not much theoretical learning, and memorising of concepts. Rollins College was quite small, my class only had about 15-20 students, so there was more opportunity for open discussions, and simulations. Whereas CBS is more focused on memorisation and theoretical learning because the classes are so big.
How did you find your job at William Demant?
I was referred by a friend, and that's how I got my interview with them. That's also how my friend landed his job with them. I probably sent out more than 100 applications during my first year at CBS. Maybe it's because Denmark is a small country, but the more people I talked to, both Danes and internationals, I found that people were getting their jobs through networking. It doesn't necessarily mean that you get a job just because you know someone, but it does mean that you have got one foot in the door. Obviously it is possible to get a job without knowing someone, but it definitely makes it easier.
What is your role at William Demant?
It's a student assistant role in Business Control. My day to day includes working on top line reports. The companies we work with send in their monthly numbers, which I fact check and turn into a report for the more senior guys.
Had you heard much about the flat working hierarchy in Denmark before you started working?
I had definitely heard about the flat working hierarchy in Denmark, but it's one thing hearing about it and it's another thing experiencing it. The other day I went out to lunch with a colleague of mine along with the Senior Vice President of the company and the Senior Director. My colleague was casual about it and was talking freely, whereas I was probably a little more reserved because of the working background that I come from. It was a great experience, but it definitely takes some getting used to.
What is a challenge that you have faced while in Denmark?
Being from America, and requiring a visa to study in Denmark, it limits the amount of hours you are allowed to work per week. I believe it is a maximum of 20 working hours according visa rules and regulations. This is quite restricting when looking for a job, because a lot of jobs require 25 hours. It added an extra challenge to the application process. I'm not used to working part time, and I wish that I could get more involved with William Demant, but it's difficult if I cannot spend more time at the office.
How did you hear about young professionals in Denmark?
I actually just saw it on Facebook, and looked into it. It wasn't a huge hurdle to get in, and the benefits were great. I have been to two events, one about culture in Denmark, and the other was about tech and programmers.
Is there anything you want an international student to know before they move to Denmark?
It's never too early to learn Danish! If you really want to live and immerse yourself in Denmark, it is important to learn the language.