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Shanta Deb, Labour Inspector (Safety), DIFE talks to Sector Counsellor Søren Albertsen about her Masters in Denmark 

Why did you want to go to Denmark for a Master study?

Risk and safety management is the field I have been working in for almost six years. There are a few universities that offer a programme in such a specialized field. Aalborg University in Esbjerg is one of them. Indeed, the quality of education and the teaching methods used at this university are recognized worldwide and made me keen on pursuing my graduate study with them in Denmark.

What was the study method and environment like?

Aalborg University is internationally recognized for its PBL or ‘Problem Based Learning’ model. While the programme is mainly research based, it also encourages students to engage in team-work to solve real-life problems on risk and safety. The course is designed in such a way that it enables students to be independent and self-sufficient in real-life problem solving.

What did you learn about Danish culture?

I had studied my bachelors degree in India in a part of the country, which was a desert; so I was prepared for extreme weather conditions. But Denmark was far colder than I expected - I used to have many many layers of clothes on. Danish food was also very different from what I typically would eat. So every  now and then I would cook Bangladeshi meals for myself or even enjoy some fast food. 

Esbjerg was very quiet and not at all crowded. It is easy to feel lonely and miss your family. But I dealt with just fine the best I could. People have a smaller circle of friends in Esbjerg than in Bangladesh and it takes time to be let into these circles of friends.

Can you use your learnings from Denmark and the Masters program in a Bangladeshi context? How can the Department of Inspection of Factories and Establishments (DIFE) benefit from your graduate experience?

As a Labour Inspector of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishment, my core job is to inspect factories and establishments, ensure that workers in Bangladesh enjoy safe workplaces and monitor the implementation of the Bangladesh Labour Law. The Risk and Safety Management graduate programme gave me an opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge and a better understanding in risk and safety management . I can directly use my knowledge and learning in my job during inspection and core tasks. 

The concept of Occupational Health and Safety is relatively new to our country and - implementations are mostly confined to prioritized sectors or industries. To establish an OSH culture of a safe workplace for all it is crucial for us that we make an effort to understand about the risks that exist in different sectors in our country’s context and mapping the hotspots or the areas that need urgent attention through extensive research. 

Research results should be reflected in policy formulation and decision-making of the regulatory authority. The program I studied was research based, therefore, my knowledge and learning can be further nurtured and used in the field of research and policy formulation and documentations.

It is note-worthy that; the government of Bangladesh is establishing OSH Institute, which will be used as a knowledge hub and training institute in the field of occupational Safety and Health. The knowledge gained from this study can be further disseminated to our colleagues and other professionals working in the same fields through training.

Was anything difficult on a personal level?

During the initial days in Denmark, the weather and language barriers were challenging for me. In a few months, I found ways to overcome those. Often, I could not read all the signs because they were in Danish. So I would take photos and use google translate to understand them.

In general, the people, landscape, climate, and food in Denmark is very different from Bangladesh. As long as you learn to accept the differences, adaptation becomes easier. They provide experiences that allow a lot of learning from differences.

Due to the social structure in Bangladesh, we are very much emotionally bonded with our family and friends. At that time, I missed my family and felt guilty for not being with them when my family needed me during those years.

Do you think the 2 years in Denmark changed you as a person?

Yes. Definitely it changed me and my views on a personal and professional level. Studying with other international students and professionals helped me to understand risk and safety from many different angels, to be open to new ideas and find different solutions to the same problem.