Associate AIA, LEED Green Associate

Life Update

Added on by Douglas Sharpe.

Living in Copenhagen!

I am happy to announce that I have arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark with the worldliest of my worldly possessions, including a good ol' bottle of Jack Daniels, and we will be here for at least the next 2 months. Now that I am settled into my new domicile in Copenhagen, I can finally get back to the travel blog that has been seriously neglected over the last month. For those that have been following me on Facebook, most of you know what is up, but here on my blog I can go into more details about this exciting chapter of my life as I made a temporary move to Copenhagen - hopefully to become a permanent place to call home.

What has kept me so busy over the last month? Well, several things from the Danish Green Card process, preparing for a move to Copenhagen, and on top of that I have been studying and taken 2 divisions of the Architectural Registration Exam (ARE). Let's start with the process of obtaining a Danish Green Card and what that will allow me to do once it has been issued. I posted a previous story on the Travel Blog about how I came across this Green Card and what was required to submit, but since then I have received more information into some of the benefits that will become available. The main objective of receiving the Green Card is the ability to legally work in Denmark for the duration of the card, which can be renewed before it expires. There are a number of benefits associated with the Green Card that I will explain further.


Learning the Language

One incredibly useful benefit of obtaining a Green Card and receiving a CPR Number - equivalent to a Social Security Number in the United States - is that I can take Danish language courses at the Copenhagen Language Center. They offer all kinds of learning levels from beginner to advance, and also courses geared to specific activities such as common vocabulary used in the work place and in social settings. Oh, and it's all FREE if you have a Danish CPR number! On a side note, their logo looks a lot like the Girl Scouts of America logo, hmmm.......


Now I know what some may be thinking, why would you care to learn a language that is difficult and only used in a small country? I did some research, and if the country of Denmark were a US State it would be 21st in population - between Wisconsin and Minnesota - with 5.59 million residents. Danish is a difficult language to learn - as several residents have repeatedly indicated - but learning Danish means that you are able to also communicate with those from Sweden and Norway because the languages are fairly similar and interchangeable, and if you have been following my travel blog you know how much I enjoy traveling the Scandinavian/Nordic countries. The language similarities of the Nordic countries are somewhat comparable to how spoken and written English is similar and different between the United States and United Kingdom. In addition to being able to speak with neighboring countries, I am also hoping to be in Denmark for a long time, so it's kind of important to know the language for daily life. Even though everyone speaks very good English I still need and want to learn Danish. I am hoping that my commitment to learning at least the basics of the language will make me that much more employable than other applicants searching for the same jobs as me. Hey, it's competitive out there!


More Green Card Benefits

Another benefit of the CPR number will be my ability to have a resident's pass for transit that is substantially cheaper than the passes available to tourists. I will be doing most of my commuting on bike, but there will still be times where I need to ride the bus, S train, and Metro train because of inclement weather, convenience, urgency, etc.

One other benefit of a CPR number is I can live in a more permanent residence, and even own a home if I choose. That would only be appropriate to be a homeowner in Denmark before I ever owned one in the United States. There are restrictions to home ownership if you aren't a permanent citizen, such as the amount of homes or real estate one can own, but I'm not exactly here to be a real estate mogul so I'll just keep it simple if/when that time comes.


Just where am I, exactly, and why am I here?

Right now I am only renting a room for 2 months in a very nice area of Copenhagen called Østerbro. For anyone wondering about the pronunciation of the Ø letter, it sounds like "uh" or the "oo" sound in foot, so phonetically one would say Uh-ster-bro. This is only my second day here but it's a pretty quiet neighborhood and also convenient to prominent bus and train lines to the inner city. Oh, and one of my neighbors is a grocery store called Netto that I can just about fall out of my bed and be at their front door - alright neighborhood development and planning! Check out my location on the map, and for those who might not know the location of Denmark, it's north of Germany and south of Sweden and Norway. I didn't always know the location of this country, so I won't judge!

The 2 months that I am here will help me follow up and inquire about employment opportunities, as well as attending architecture functions that are being presented at locations including the Danish Architecture Center and also at the offices galleries of architecture firms, or even on location of official openings for a completed architectural project or installation. These are great opportunities to be seen at these events where I can do some networking and be engaged with the local architecture community. I may even have the opportunity to present my own work at an exhibition that is open for submissions, which could receive recognition, rewards, or more importantly get the attention of prospective employers.

In addition to keeping up with the calendar of the Danish Architecture Center, many of the firms I have applied to have their own calendar of events on their website and post events on Facebook where their work is being presented, or a senior staff member is giving a lecture, among other events that I could attend. For example, one of my dream jobs would be working for Bjarke Ingles Group (BIG), and this is what their lecture calendar looks like; BIG Calendar. The firms also post about the competitions that they win, and perhaps I could use that to my advantage to say "Hey so-and-so architecture firm, congratulations on winning that/those lucrative competition(s)! Could my abilities be of service for a contractual period if you are short-staffed for further project development?" All I need is for one place to hire me, even if it's for a temporary period, so they can see how much I have to offer. In the event that I am let go after the contract time is completed, I will be able to put the experience on my resume and hopefully receive a strong reference/recommendation for my next job search.

The underlining reason that I am in Denmark is because of the type of architecture that is happening here. The architecture is creative and sustainable, and the architecture firms utilize a lot of the software and technology that I put myself through hell and debt to learn at the University of Michigan. Keep a look out for future posts on the travel blog that will contain a lot of images and commentary about the city of Copenhagen and its architecture and urban planning.


Architecting Legally

In regards to the activities that have kept me busy this past month, there was none bigger than the two ARE divisions that I was studying for - Construction Documents & Services, and Site Planning & Design. I already received confirmation that I passed CDS - see confirmation image below, woohoo! - but I took SPD only 1 week ago and still waiting for the results. It's a great feeling knowing I passed the first exam in my pursuit to becoming a licensed architect with the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Before I left the US, I understood that there was a testing center in London so I had already planned to start taking the exams while I was staying with my brother who lives fairly close to London.

Now the question arises as to why I am seeking licensure in the United States when I may possibly be living in Denmark for a while, or even permanently. First of all, there is no guarantee that I will remain in Denmark for the rest of my life, and in the event that I return to the United States I want to already be licensed or be as very close to it as possible. There is still a huge portion of AIA members who operate internationally, so it's not something worthless to pursue if you're not working in the United States. In fact, all of the companies I am applying to are doing projects internationally, including in the US and Canada, and there are many crucial items to be aware of for how projects are to be completed, mainly in regards to operational and legal matters from contracts to building codes. A licensed architect knows a great deal of those items, and an international firm would only benefit from having someone staffed who knows how to navigate all of the intricacies for project development in a certain region of the world - in my case that would be the United States and Canada.

Even if I never end up returning to the US, or if a firm has no intention of doing work in the US, the architecture license is still a goal of mine and it's worth having just for understanding the process of project development including building systems, site analysis, contracts, construction documents, responsibilities and legalities, etc. The process is important to know and understand, and to my benefit of knowing the process in one region it is still applicable to other regions in terms of knowledge. Having this distinction as a registered architect with AIA will make me that much more attractive to prospective employers even in this region of the world. I have no problem in putting in the efforts to achieve that milestone because, again... hey, it's competitive out there!