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Danish Design exchange builds bridges

13 Nov 2015

“One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” So asserted the American writer Henry Miller, and Melbourne Polytechnic’s Design program is now offering students the opportunity to see their industry in a new way through a student exchange with VIA University College in Denmark.

This year, Melbourne Polytechnic students, Peter Smyth and Zakharry Justice, travelled to Denmark and are currently studying at VIA on a multi-storey buildings project. In return, Soren Kjaergaard and Mathias Thorbjorn (pictured above) joined the Building Design program at Melbourne Polytechnic’s Epping campus.

It’s the first time Melbourne Polytechnic has been involved in the VIA’s exchange program, and it has been such a success that the relationship will be continued in 2016.

“It is a great opportunity for our local students who can participate in the exchange and having overseas students in class is an exciting experience for our local students and also our staff,” said Lee Petering, Senior Educator 2 - Building Design & Civil Technology. 

Soren and Mathias have found their exchange in Australia to be eye-opening in some surprising ways.

“Denmark is a tough country to build in, with temperature extremes, salt. Design and construction there is very technical,” says Soren. “There are also strict rules relating to sustainability, so for example you have to Insulate to a high standard. It’s not so here – not yet. So here we see the evolution in these areas. It’s a work in progress here.”

The Danish building industry is a world leader in the development of energy-saving products and sustainable construction. Denmark also claims to recycle 95% of all building waste, much of which is used as biofuel or reused to replace the production of new carbon dioxide emitting materials.

“It’s also interesting here to see that every house in an area looks completely different,” says Mathias, “whereas in Denmark the areas are designed by policy.”

Soren and Mathias took the opportunity of the September break to travel up the east coast of Australia, with a mandatory visit to one of Australia’s icons, the Sydney Opera House, which was of course designed by the Danish architect Jørn Utzon. They also visited Noosa, Fraser Island, and Byron Bay.

“We loved it - that’s the ‘real’ Australia,” says Soren. “Melbourne and Sydney are very much like modern European cities. We also have done lots of short trips around Victoria, and I think the Great Ocean Road was one of the best things we’ve done out here.”

There’s a serious side to studying in Australia, though. Both students believe that studying overseas provides real advantages in terms of their future career.

“It’s been good for us, as the course content we’ve studied here is a bit more creative,” says Soren. “Usually [in Denmark] it’s more technical. We’ve had the freedom to explore our ‘inner architect’. And I think you grow when you get away from your cosy surroundings; it makes you more independent. It’s also good for your resume; gives you a bit of an edge.”

There’s also the advantage of extending their English language skills.

“We need to learn English as that is what is used in the industry,” says Mathias. “The technical English is different to the conversational English we learn in Denmark.”

Both students appreciate the support they’ve received from Melbourne Polytechnic’s team.

“The teachers and people we have been working with have been great, they’ve treated us like family,” says Soren. “Our teachers have taken the time to make sure we understand what we’re learning and discuss what we’re seeing and the differences between the Danish and Australian construction industries. The administrators were all helpful and kind, and made sure we settled in well.”

Soren and Mathias return to Denmark in December, and Australian students Peter and Zakharry return to Australia in January.

Melbourne Polytechnic’s Building Design program also offers study tours to China and Mongolia for students. For more information about the courses offered, please visit our website  or call 03 9269 8333. Applications are open through VTAC.


Media enquiries should be directed to Melbourne Polytechnic Communications Officer, Anita Coia, on 03 9269 1251 or ua.ud1556193391e.cin1556193391hcety1556193391lopen1556193391ruobl1556193391em@sn1556193391oitac1556193391inumm1556193391oC1556193391

Melbourne Polytechnic operates across six campuses and five specialist training centres throughout Melbourne. The institute delivers high quality vocational education in industry-standard facilities.