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How I Became an International Student at the University of Liechtenstein: Interview with Laurits Louis

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Louis Kjaergaard, University of Liechtenstein.jpg

Meet Louis from Denmark, a young student that decided to pursue his Master’s degree abroad in Liechtenstein. We interviewed Louis and asked him about his amazing learning journey and what made him choose University of Liechtenstein, where he’s currently studying.

In order to inspire other students to study abroad, Louis accepted to share his story and tell us more about how he became an international student.

What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?

My name is Laurits Louis Kjaergaard, but most non-Danish speakers just call me “Louis”. I am 24 years old, from Denmark, and I have lived in England for 5 years. I am American on my father’s side and Danish-Faroese on my mother’s side.

Where are you studying right now: university and country, academic level

I am studying a Master's degree programme in Finance at the University of Liechtenstein, which is located in Vaduz, the capital of the Principality of Liechtenstein. Currently, I am in my third semester, so I have only a few courses left in addition to my master thesis.

How did you decide to study abroad?

I have always wanted to study abroad for longer than the traditional ERASMUS six-month programme. At first, I had looked into options to do my Bachelor studies abroad, but then decided to study in Denmark, allowing myself more time to think about what I wanted to do. When I became interested in Finance, that narrowed my options in regards to what master programme to pursue.

How did you decide what academic subject you wanted to study?

I was working on the trading floor at Danske Bank during my Bachelor studies. Therefore, I began to gain interest in the field and wanted to pursue it further. I was also trading my own money - quite successfully.

How did you decide on the country where you wanted to study?

Firstly, I thought about studying in one of the English-speaking countries. But I had already been to the London School of Economics Summer School for Finance, and had previously lived in England. I have also studied in Australia already and I was not overly keen on going to the United States for cost-benefit reasons. I was, therefore, wondering what the best place in the world to study finance was. Switzerland is well known as THE hub for finance and wealth management, so I researched Swiss Universities and came across this great and small university in Liechtenstein. Liechtenstein is enjoying a reputation as a libertarian place with both a high standard of living and service level, which also contributed to my choice in experiencing this unique country.

How did you look for a university abroad? Why did you decide on this one?

After I had been admitted to a number of universities in Switzerland and at the University of Liechtenstein, I went to visit each one of them to find my best fit. I am very sceptical with rankings, so wanted to experience the environment first hand and get to know the faculty. At the University of Liechtenstein, I was welcomed with open arms into this small community. In addition, it is extremely motivating when you look at the magnificent Swiss Alps from your bedroom window when waking up, or when sitting in the cafeteria or the classroom. This makes me happy every day.

How did you cover the study costs and your living expenses?

The programme is partly state-funded, so the tuition fees are low, compared to the international average. I also live in the student dormitory where prices are similar to Denmark. Living and studying in one of the richest countries in the world certainly is not cheap. However, I receive support from the Danish government and I also was awarded scholarships from private Danish foundations (which I applied to). I already had saved some money up from working. Most of my fellow candidates finance themselves through savings, scholarships, loans, and with the help of their parents.

Did you meet the application requirements from the start or did you take additional preparation? What academic/language preparation did you take (if any)?

I met all the requirements to receive a conditional offer from the university. In order to receive my unconditional offer, I had to provide my Bachelor diploma upon graduation. The university provides some chapters in statistics and finance which they advise students to re-familiarize themselves with, for a smooth transition.

What were the main challenges you had to face at your university?

The educational system in a German-speaking country is very different to what I am used to. The expectations towards students are much higher and it takes time to settle into a new location while studying hard for exams and completing other classroom duties. Students are expected to study 30 hours per ECTS, and we have a lot of courses with only a few ECTS. It is not for the light-hearted. The local community, my fellow students, professors and general faculty have been very helpful though, and react quickly to problems. I always received help with issues of tax, residence permit and other things.

What are three things you like most at your university?

Very personal study environment, with a ratio of 5 students per professor. It facilitates much more in-depth discussions and the students are very well qualified. There are many nationalities represented. At the dorms, I live with 70 people from 52 different countries.

The dedication and expertise of the professors. Most are also consultants for administration or companies or they are business professionals. We have many external professors from other universities and top-tier companies to get a different perspective on their operations. You get a more sophisticated overview with competing or complementary perspectives.

Liechtenstein as a country is truly unique, and I am honoured to be welcomed to study here.

Describe the teaching style, classes, extra activities and facilities provided by your university.

The teaching style is very open with very small classrooms. We have much more in-depth discussions across topics which were not possible at larger universities for logistical reasons. The Master’s degree programme in finance is closely linked to the CFA programme, so we use the same textbooks as many other finance programmes, however with more attention to detail and more discussions. We can choose our electives from other Master’s degree programmes, which provides us with a platform to learn from each other - students of architecture, entrepreneurship and information technology. My electives, for example, were cultural communications, social psychology and presentation skills, which provided me with breathing room from the everyday finance life.

What do you like most about the city/country you’re studying in?

Liechtenstein is characterized by a very personal environment. Its libertarian culture allows us, students, to experience what the interdependency between the state and the citizens means. It is also one of the richest countries in the world, which can clearly be seen in daily life. I like casually walking up in the mountains or next to the Rhine river. It is also a very central location, so I have visited Milan, Lugano, Zurich, Prague, Feldkirch, Lausanne and other places while I’ve been here.

What are your future plans after graduating?

I intend to work full-time within finance, private banking or asset management. I am primarily looking to work in Liechtenstein, Switzerland or perhaps Luxembourg. I have gained access to a large network and have talked to several contacts about opportunities, but it is too early to say what exactly suits me best.

Why would you recommend your university to other international students?

Liechtenstein is an unusual place to commence one’s studies. It says something about the type of people who decide to study here. They are very independent, talented, they like to take risks, they are very ambitious and they are critical towards branding. Instead, they like to make up their own minds. If you are this type of person, then I would recommend studying at the University of Liechtenstein. If you are very comfortable with being anonymous among many people around you and want to stay within your comfort zone, then I would choose a university with a more branded reputation or a local university.

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