My room is a mess. You know the “it has to get better before it gets worse” cyclone that takes over when you’re cleaning and end up with more of a disaster than there was when you started, but you’re on the brink of an organizational breakthrough? That’s about where I’m at. Every time I pack, I decide I should take this opportunity for a full cleanse, in the spirit of Danish minimalism, and very much regret it when I’m knee-deep in sweaters an hour later. Packing for 5 months in Europe feels easier than it should be, so I’ve emptied my suitcase and re-packed it quite a few times now, wondering what I’ve forgotten.
Perhaps it’s the need to feel productive after a few long weeks of counting down to January 11th, or an underlying nervousness that something will go wrong with flights, luggage, or paperwork propelling me to distract myself, but I’ve finally made it to one day before takeoff.
I think I have felt a wave of every emotion expected. There have been nights where I was unable to sleep, too stressed about things I may have forgotten to do or if I’m going to spend all of my money in the first week. I have irrational fears that I didn’t register for classes correctly and will arrive for my first day not a student, or that I won’t be able to get through customs because my paperwork is inaccurate. I’ve rushed around in a fury making appointments with dentists, optometrists, my cell phone carrier, my hairdresser, the bank, and the DMV, while making weekly trips to Target for the one thing I forgot last time (whoops) AND while making time to see friends and family before I leave.
I get worried that I won’t have the depth and breadth of the network of friends that I maintain at UD, especially because I’m in a homestay and not living with other students. However, I started to reach out to other students living in my homestay network (DIS students living in homestays of the same area), to combat these fears. I have also started to build relationships with students from my home institution in the hopes of having a real friendship upon return. I am also interested to see how I will make friends with Danish people. I hope to join extracurricular activities through DIS to have more interaction but hope to be confident enough while out-and-about in the city to strike up conversations. I hope I can be polite and respectful of Danish communicational expectations and not look too… American. I think living in a homestay will give me the rich cultural experience I desire and help me get to know more locals in my short time. Plus, my host family sounds absolutely fantastic and I am greatly looking forward to meeting them. It is very important to me that I build a strong relationship with them, not only because they will be a great resource for me in planning my travels and integration into Danish customs, but because I think we will become lifelong friends.
I actually expected to feel more nervous than I do, but I am not surprised to find that the most overwhelming emotion I feel is excitement. There is nothing greater in life than abundant opportunity. This, of course, is present in every day. However, it seems to be more pressing now with the motivating pressure to make the most of every second spent in Europe. This semester is going to be absolutely tremendous because I have complete control over what I experience. I can decide to reach out to a new friend and make a weekend trip to Germany, the UK, or Greece; I can turn a missed train into learning the importance of being on time rather than having a breakdown; I can calibrate my internal compass by getting lost in the city; I can reach out to professors and gain specialized knowledge, especially in my core course of study, Prostitution and the Sex Trade. I am getting opportunities that most people my age do not get, and that my parents and grandparents before me certainly didn’t. For that, I am forever grateful. (Shout out to mom and dad for the support and encouragement 🙂 ) I intend not to waste a single second.
I anticipate my greatest weakness to be the same as that when I am at the University of Delaware: taking life one day at a time. I know I will be excited about everything that happens and just being in a new place, but it is so important to spend time being present in every moment. Each day in Copenhagen should be as exciting as the next! My greatest fear is that I spend time looking forward to a weekend away, roommates from home coming to visit, core course week, and find that I have rushed through 3 weeks to get to the next big event. Obviously, looking forward to any of these isn’t a bad thing, but in the sense that I speed through a day to get to an evening, or a week to get to a weekend would only be a day wasted. I once heard someone say it’s useless to hate Mondays because you’re spending a seventh of your life being miserable, and I think this translates well to my goal of appreciating every moment for what it is. I hope to slow down and find a way to settle into enjoying the little things just as much. I think a lot of this will also come from not comparing what I am doing to what everyone else is, whether that be other DIS students or friends I have abroad. There is great diversity within DIS in housing options, classes, and general approaches. I know I may compare my experience to someone living in an apartment in the city or in a core course that may be more interesting, but I need to trust myself and the program. I know what I want better than anyone else, and I think DIS very intuitively interprets and matches this. No matter what happens, I’m still spending my spring semester in Copenhagen, and I don’t think there is anything to complain about there.
There are so many things I want to do and places I want to see. I can’t wait for my classes, first of all. One of the reasons I chose to study in Copenhagen with DIS is because the academics were so intriguing and absolutely unbeatable. I know of a few field trips my classes will be going on, both within Copenhagen and outside Denmark to Amsterdam, southern Sweden, and Hamburg. Of course, I can’t wait to see Nyhavn—the tourist-y stretch of brightly colored buildings along the water, Tivoli–an old-school amusement park and gardens located in the city, and Amalienborg Palace. I also can’t wait to go people-watching in Strøget, find lesser-known local spots, and learn all about the history of Denmark as well, as I am a bit of a history nerd. I hope to visit Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Athens, Rome, London, Dublin (to see my family!), Paris, and so much more. My friends and I are backpacking for the last 2 and a half weeks of May after classes conclude, which will enable me to see so much more.
I can’t believe I’ve made it to one day before takeoff. Cheers to a great semester and my next report coming from Denmark!