Helping international students feel at home
Florine Lemahieu, a master student from Northern France, is a volunteer in Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and IGroup at Aarhus University.
“You always get to meet new people, you get to hear different opinions and learn various ways to apprehend reality around you, you get to learn a lot about yourself and how you think about the world, you realise what your values actually are - that’s what I love most about being a volunteer!”
Florine Lemahieau is an open-minded and very enthusiastic young woman doing her Master’s degree in European Studies at Aarhus University. Back in France, she studied foreign languages and got interested in volunteering while being on an Erasmus exchange year in Portugal. There, Florine found out about Erasmus Student Network (ESN), a Europe-wide student organisation which supports and develops student exchange on a local and international level, and decided to join the team.
“Going on Erasmus exchange is an amazing experience. Still, when you arrive to a new country, it’s easy to get lost, especially if you don’t really speak the language. I decided to make sure that I could make the most out of this period and that, looking back, I wouldn’t have a single regret!”, says Florine.
After coming back home to France, Florine kept volunteering for ESN, creating projects that would bring local French students closer to their international peers. When she arrived here in Aarhus, she joined the organisation’s local branch. “I love staying in the international community and also I wanted to give back what I got in Portugal”.
Besides from being a part of ESN, Florine actively participates in activities of IGroup - Aarhus University student organisation that helps planning the introduction program for new international students, as well as creating ongoing fun activities through the year. It can be anything: from lectures and excursions, where international students can learn more about Denmark, to international nights with music, movies and karaoke.
The driving force behind the ESN is a group of 20 volunteers, both danish and internationals, that are keen on intercultural cooperation and learning more about each other.
“Here in Aarhus, our team consists of Danes, Czechs, Romanians, Polish, French...mostly people from Central and Eastern Europe. We don’t have a strict structure, as I experienced in Portugal or France, and we also get a lot of support from the Student House office,” Florine explains.
For Florine, volunteering is a way to meet people from different backgrounds, to get to know Danes, which could’ve been way harder otherwise, to improve society, learn new skills and gain experience to put in CV. When talking about the difference in the perception of volunteering by the young people in France and Denmark, Florine marks:
“Here in Denmark you can feel a strong culture of volunteering. A lot of people volunteer and it is something that you just do in your spare time. There’s a huge volunteering mash-up, you can volunteer in a Fair Bar, for Amnesty International and many other great deals. It’s promoted and encouraged on every corner, and it seems so easy to become a volunteer!”
Regarding her future plans, Florine is very positive and open. Right now, she’s working on her exams and learning more about Aarhus, as during this summer she will work as a guide for Visit Aarhus. After her graduation, she is planning to challenge herself and travel somewhere wild and she is sure that the intercultural experience gained while volunteering will serve her in good stead!
*Student House - is a meeting place for students from all over the world, who are studying in Aarhus for varying lengths of time. Organisation works to shorten the distance between Danes and internationals through a variety of projects - both directly and indirectly.
*Erasmus Student Network (ESN) - is a non-profit international student organisation, whose mission is to represent international students, thus provide opportunities for cultural understanding and self-development under the principle of Students Helping Students. It works in 40 countries and consists of 900 local associations.
*IGroup - Aarhus University student organisation, that does activities for international students. They assist with planning the introduction program for new international students in August and January, as well as organise activities through the year.