In September 2020, attorneys Christian Petersen and Anders Faldborg left for England to study for an LL.M. at King’s College London. Although the stay has so far been marked by Covid-19 and strict restrictions, neither of them has regretted it.
Thoughts of taking time out of their calendars and waving goodbye to Aarhus to go abroad had already begun to sprout in both of them several years ago. 29-year-old Anders Faldborg got a taste for foreign countries when he interned at the UN in New York as a student. He therefore had a burning desire to go abroad again.
30-year-old Christian Petersen was driven by a desire for a great personal experience and professional development. Both are working at Gorrissen Federspiel’s Aarhus office in Prismet, but neither knew they were pursuing the same path until they received the news in November 2019 that they had been accepted to King’s College London.
The two lawyers now share a flat in the Temple area near the university in central London – an area that normally exudes big city. “It’s usually insanely busy and people go out for lunch every day. There are many coffee shops nearby, but they are closed now,” says Christian Petersen.
Although the world changed drastically between the time they applied to King’s College London in the spring of 2019 and when they actually left, they did not consider staying home.
On the one hand there was a lot of planning and practicalities before the actual departure, as they had both given notice on their apartments and the office had arranged for them to be away for the next year. Plus the Covid-19 situation had appeared to normalise over the summer, so they were optimistic when they left in mid-September. “It’s no secret that it’s a very different stay from the one I thought it was going to be. I anticipated experiencing a city in high gear and hopefully having a lot of cool experiences and having classes at the college every day,” says Anders Faldborg, who had been looking forward to the stay abroad for a long time. “However, I’ve not regretted that I went.
The classes and experiences have been educational, exciting and fun, despite the somewhat atypical situation. Besides, the Covid-19 situation in Denmark has been largely the same,” he adds.
Together with Christian Petersen, Anders Faldborg managed to have a few weeks in London in a somewhat “normalised” state before the UK locked down again. Universities are exempt, however, which means that the two lawyers are on campus every day to have online classes.
As part of the agreement to stay open, the university has its very own test centre in the courtyard, so all students can be systematically tested. “We’re a group who meet every day and have breaks and lunch together. Everyone has come here with the aim of meeting new people, so you make it work even if there are restrictions.
Obviously we can’t just go out for a beer in a pub, but then we meet at the university instead,” says Christian Petersen.
Despite the unusual situation, they have already made a lot of new friends. In fact, Anders Faldborg feels that they have become closer with the other foreign students than they would have under normal circumstances.
“We’re all students in this strange Covid-19 situation, and it’s my opinion that we’ve moved a little closer together – not literally, but figuratively,” says Anders Faldborg.
Before moving to London, he was part of the Banking & Finance practice group at Gorrissen Federspiel. He has therefore chosen to pursue a track with international finance law on the LL.M. In addition, he has also chosen courses that focus on corporate finance, valuation and accounting. Christian Petersen, who normally works in the IP & Digital Business practice group, has also moved into international finance with a bit of competition law and consumer law on the side.
Although they have yet to experience physical lectures in one of the university’s many auditoriums, they have noticed through online lectures how different the form of teaching is compared to how it is done in Denmark. “It’s much more interactive, so you have to pay attention, and there are presentations and assignments every week. It’s really different from just reading a textbook and then showing up to lectures and sitting back,” says Christian Petersen.
Anders Faldborg has also noticed the more engaging form of lecturing, where lecturers demand active participation and may point people out and ask questions. “It’s very different from the Danish way of lecturing, and it takes some getting used to, but it’s both fun and challenging,” He says.
In addition to getting a professional boost with the latest knowledge in their chosen fields, the two lawyers have experienced a significant boost in their language skills. To get the most out of their stay, the two Danes agreed to speak English with each other as much as possible when they are at home in their apartment, so they do not have to keep changing the “frequency”.
Both are also particularly careful not to shut themselves away in their own little “Danish bubble”. “Even though we went together and share an apartment, it was important to get out and meet other people so we weren’t just sitting at home. In the beginning, we almost overcompensated by going out every day to meet others in fear of sitting on each other’s laps in the apartment, like the two Danish lawyers who had come to London,” says Anders Faldborg.
Both lawyers hope for a spring and summer with plenty of time to experience both a more thriving campus life and a London with the usual pulse – and preferably a football match. And despite Covid-19 and restrictions, London still offers something more than Aarhus.
“When you go to work in Axel Towers or Prismet, you are often engrossed in the various matters of everyday life and live in a GF bubble. That’s why I think it’s healthy to go abroad to get some perspective, so you can come back with different skills and renewed energy, and probably see things in a slightly different way,” says Anders Faldborg.
For Christian Petersen the stay provides “international outlook”, which is one of Gorrissen Federspiel’s mantras. “We’re meeting lawyers from all over the world, and it’s a great linguistic and personal experience. It’s an investment in your life that you’ll remember with great pleasure for the rest of your life. It’s much more than just studying law,” he says.
The two lawyers are scheduled to return to the Aarhus office in early September 2021.