I’m so sorry – I promised you a final update on my semester in Copenhagen , and I’m a little late. (But better late than never, no?)
A few things.
I made this video for my LLC family: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyli_VaTReI
And I didn’t show it to too many people, but I want you to have it. Just in case. Just in case you ever decide to study abroad in Copenhagen and want a glimpse of what it can be like.
My last week in Copenhagen was indeed a tornado. I squeezed in a trip to Ireland, stayed up way too late to finish that last arch presentation, drank a final cup of hot chocolate at Cafe Retro, biked to the Paper Islands for street food (and regretted not going earlier in the semester)… I have a very clear picture, in my head, of what that last week was like, and it makes my heart sing to think of all the fun that my friends & I had together. We had a final floor dinner at the LLC that was punctuated by packing and sitting on suitcases (and crying, ah). We exchanged Secret Santa gifts and stayed up until 4AM to see Travis off — and then everyone (everyone) woke up again at 5:30 to see me off to the airport.
I didn’t want to be left behind like I was in Spain, so I made sure my flight out of Copenhagen was early. (I’m going to be very honest with you – I wrote that “Hasta Luego – not Adios” post with an endless stream of tears blurring the screen.)
On the flight home, from Copenhagen to DC, I sat by this dear little old woman. She was very Danish – didn’t speak any English, in fact. And I used all of the Danish I knew (which is not much, mind you) to have a conversation with her. It felt like the most quintessentially perfect way to end my semester in Copenhagen – and it was on that plane, oddly enough, that I started to feel overwhelmingly nervous-excited for my reunion with the Granada qrew. Remember them? We met up exactly a week after I returned to the States from Copenhagen. It was a dream.
Returning to the Wofford campus in January was weird. There’s no other way to put it, I’m sorry. Wofford is still home – it always will be, for me – but I didn’t return to the same place that I had left behind a year before. Fair, I suppose, since I wasn’t quite the same person.
I’m very frequently asked to relay what it is, exactly, that I gained from studying abroad. Broadened horizons? A great photo album on Facebook? New friends? The question always makes me pause, just a little. I find it tricky to talk about living in another country. I’m aware of the ever-present danger of misrepresenting the culture or the people, and initially I had a nagging fear that I didn’t know – truly – what it was that I had learned, even though I am continuously discovering new connections between my time abroad and my everyday life.
But I’ve given the answer a lot of thought (a lot of thought), and after some distance and time, I think I can identify – at least a little bit – how going to school in Spain & Denmark has affected me. (I mean, in addition to the greatly improved Spotify playlist and my sudden, deep appreciation for kebab.)
I have learned the most about two things: gratitude and loss. I say “learned”, and I mean it in the deepest sense. I mean that I’ve been high and I’ve been low and I feel like I got my heart stabbed and beaten and torn out – and that somehow, miraculously, my heart stayed with me to witness some of the most breathtaking and touching and truly joyful moments I can remember. The most alive moments? Would that be better? Hm. Either way – that’s learning, eh? About how to be resolute and pick myself back up and appreciate (what a word) appreciate who is around me. Who is around me, most importantly, but also where I am and what I’m doing and where I’ve been.
Memory is so cruel – forgetting is even worse, you know – and I struggle with both. It’s my very personal struggle with change. Change. To be grateful for what the change brings and to feel the loss of what the change has blown away.
And maybe that’s just my personality. I don’t want to get too dramatic here (is it too late?), because it’s entirely possible that I am just not terribly well suited to change, and that I keep moving around and meeting new people and leaving said people anyway. But studying abroad taught me that when I am faced with those two emotions – grief and gratitude – I must always always choose to be thankful. To look at the world with an abundance perspective, with faith.
So. There you go. That’s what the study abroad experience has given me. Lessons in gratitude and loss.
(Not to mention all the language skills and architecture techniques and consulting projects and actual class material. The graded stuff. Ah, that’s probably what I should say in an interview, and leave out the whole “loss and change” shtick – but I’ll tell you here how study abroad pummeled me emotionally. Because we’re friends xoxo)
ANYWAY – it’s been a joy to write to you.
Truly truly. Thanks for keeping up with me. I’m glad I could share my experiences abroad with you, and I hope you’ll share yours with me. (Drop me a line anytime. I’m very available.) Until then, eh?
All my love, Caroline