So, what do you talk about when you’re one-on-one with a princess? If you’re Avril Francis, you talk about the local language for a start and maybe a little bit about how different timekeeping can be when you trade tropical Queensland for the cooler climes of continental Europe.
The Griffith University postgraduate student was chatting with Princess Mary of Denmark after she was formally presented with the Crown Princess Mary Scholarship at a University of Copenhagen ceremony at the start of May.
“I spoke to her about the language and mainly about how difficult it is to grasp,” Avril says. “We also talked about a 15-minute discrepancy (that exists in Denmark) between when a class should start and when everyone turns up. I have arrived early for class a few times to an empty classroom and thought the class must have been cancelled.
“Other than that we just talked about Denmark and how much we love the country. She encouraged me to continue to learn and use the Danish language and to travel outside the big cities and discover more of Denmark, which I have done and plan to do in the coming weeks.”
The Crown Princess Mary Scholarship secured a place for Avril as an exchange student at the University of Copenhagen where the Urban and Environmental Planning student is now adding vibrant new strings to her bow, both professionally and personally.
“Denmark has a number of exceptional environmental and planning initiatives and the knowledge to be gained from studying and living in Denmark will be an incredible asset to my professional life back in Australia.”
After completing a Bachelor of Environmental Engineering at Griffith University in 2009, Avril built up five years of experience working as an environmental advisor for an international renewable power generation company in Queensland.
“I worked on a number of leading Australian renewable energy projects during this time, including the acquisition of a wind farm. My involvement in that project only confirmed my passion for sustainable urban planning within cities.”
It also fuelled a desire for further education in this area leading to Avril’s return to Griffith University as a mature-age student where she gained a 2015/16 Griffith Award for Academic Excellence.
During this time, through her involvement with Griffith Global Mobility, she uncovered an opportunity to enhance her degree with an overseas learning experience. In her application for the Crown Princess Mary Scholarship she described her interest in sustainable transport networks, active transport and the innovative urban planning concepts at work in Denmark. A keen triathlete, she was drawn to Copenhagen’s world-leading cycling culture on a number of levels.
In January 2017, while working at Energy Developments, an email dropped unexpectedly into her inbox from the international program coordinator at the University of Copenhagen. “I had expected to hear back in late December so assumed I had not been successful. I was at work at the time and was really excited.
“I had long desired to work outside of Australia and I believe immersion and involvement in my new surroundings during this exchange experience will increase my career prospects.
“My first few months in Copenhagen have been great. I am really enjoying life in Denmark. The city is beautiful and so easy to get around. I can ride anywhere and am really enjoying exploring the city.”