Settling in the city of Aarhus has many faces

Students of the Human Security cohort went on a walking tour with David Rickerby, Aarhus’ only apparent homeless Englishman and shared their own experience of coming to Aarhus for studying.

By Kirstine Saxe Nordal

Student Jellina Keulen unfurls an umbrella as the cold winter rain starts drizzling and shake herself to keep warm in the dusk. David Rickerby interrupts himself and looks to her “welcome to my life,” he says with a hint of well-placed irony. The surrounding group chuckles as they recognize that they have to keep warm for two hours while David Rickerby is used to stay around the streets of Aarhus in all kinds of weather and times.

Around 20 students from the Human Security Cohort has gathered to walk with David Rickerby around the city center while he tells his story of living on the edge of society, first in England and now in Aarhus. David Rickerby ended up in Denmark after serving his five-year sentence for bank robbery in England. The only thing he knew upon arrival was bacon and soon after he learned how ugly the spoken language of Danish is.

David Rickerby tells his story with utter commitment.

Non-profit coffee and strange Danes
The group of students starts the city tour at the non-profit café of Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (ActionAid) before meeting David Rickerby. While enjoying a cup of coffee in the major greenhouse which constitutes the café at Aarhus Dome of Visions, the students talk about their experience of coming to Aarhus to start the Human Security program. Some have moved from Copenhagen, others from their home country, and some even directly from a third country.

Aarhus is far from being a metropolis and coming from a larger place it can seem village-like and its inhabitants not very diverse. One student has searched for diversity, to which a local student answer that sub-cultures exist, they are just not that obvious. A student was surprised by experiencing the reserved side of the Danes when trying to pad a dog, while another student strangely enough is often approached in public, especially from elderly people.

The experiences of moving to Aarhus is diverse, but the coffee is enjoyed at Café Mellemfolk.

Human Security is walking the streets
It is not always easy to settle in a new city or country, even if one has done it before. Some students also describe the difficulties of moving to Aarhus for the sole purpose of studying. Knowing the streets and getting to know people can eliminate a part of the feeling, which is also why this particular café was chosen as meeting point.

The café is a hub for Danish and international students who are interested in global development and issues and offers a diverse cultural program. The aim of the afternoon is to open a conversation about coming to a new city without knowing anybody.

David Rickerby had contacts in Denmark, but it was a mere coincidence he ended up here. He lives in a caravan but calls himself a vagabond. He is a writer and earns money from taking people on tours and depositing cans from the streets.

He knows for one what it takes to settle in a new place. “There are two sets of rules, society and cultural. If I break society’s rules, it’s bad. If I break the cultural rules, I am in serious trouble.” He explains how it is hard to start from the bottom when life has not been kind to you. “I don’t make the rules, I am just aware of them. Even though I don’t necessarily agree.”

The students from the Human Security program goes home with a first-hand description of what security, and the lack of it, can look like in present day Aarhus. Maybe even new thoughts on what it takes to settle in a new place, no matter if the incentive is studying or one is carrying a prison sentence in the backpack.


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