“Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.”
“Most things don’t. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.”
I refer back to the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the movie that started my study abroad experience on the flight to London-Heathrow one-hundred three days ago. I came into Denmark with wide eyes and no real knowledge about the places I will see and the people I will meet. I had my expectations for the trip. Things I wanted to see, things I wanted to do, places I wanted to go, etc etc etc. However, just as the quote above states nothing quite happens as expected, but what does happen can be more amazing and worthwhile.
I came into Denmark on that surprisingly warm August afternoon tired from my travels but still excited to experience what Denmark has to offer. After getting onto the bus and arriving in Bronshoj, I wasn’t exactly sure what I thought. Bronshoj is a burrow of Copenhagen, but to say it is a lively place would be lying. I was initially disappointed with my housing assignment. I thought it was too far away from the actual city. I thought it was too boring of a town. I thought it lacked the adventure that I was craving as a student studying abroad. I had written off Bronshoj right from the start without even giving it a chance. I look back now and just think about how foolish I was then. Bronshoj has become like home, and I’ve learned that its not about where you live but who you live with. From the kebab guy down the street who thought I had cancer after shaving my head to my friends in my kollegium, these people have made my time in Bronshoj so much better than I could ever imagine, and I could never fathom living anywhere else. With only 20 days left I can’t help but get a sense of sadness about leaving this burrow once and for all. It is not a well known place. Heck, I remember talking to some Danes and they laughed when I told them where I lived (either they were laughing at Bronshoj itself of my initial, poor pronunciation, but that’s besides the point). All in all Bronshoj has become home to me, and I know I will miss this place I was so cautious about from the very beginning.
I came into this study abroad experience wanting to see everything. During my travels I have seen some sights I never thought I’d see, such as the Sistine Chapel and the Acropolis. For the most part I am very happy with the places I went to. I say “for the most part” not because a particular place I visited was not up to par or anything like that. No, each place had its unique charm and I’m happy I saw each of them. However, I’ve also learned that its not where you go that’s important but instead it is the people you meet along the way. These are the people that make the memories that you will cherish for a lifetime. Its not about going to the sistine chapel and seeing Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. Its about trying to sneak a picture with a friend while trying not to get yelled about by Italian security guards. Its not about skydiving in Interlaken, Switzerland, but reassuring a friend right before the jump that everything will be alright and it will all be worth it. It isn’t about climbing up to the top of Mt. Lycabettus to get a great view of Athens and the Acropolis. It is about sitting there on the bench at the top and having a conversation about life for over an hour with three of the greatest people you have had the pleasure of meeting. It is the kebab guy down the street that knows how to brighten your day. It is about your Danish friends that tease you about being American and lacking their knowledge on Danish customs. It’s the man at the Greek restaurant who treated you to free dessert just because you came to his hole-in-the-wall restaurant and loved it so much. People make the journey that much more memorable and the rest just goes by the wayside.
My high school chemistry teacher once told me not to let my education get in the way of my learning. I’m pretty sure he took that quote from someone but I’m not sure who, but regardless that quote has stuck with me for a very long time. I’ve always had an idea as to what that meant, but I was never quite sure until I looked back on my semester abroad. Yes, I took classes here and they were all very informative and educational; however, I know I have learned more just through the “abroad” portion of study abroad than from my actual classes. The lessons you learn from study abroad, whether it is about certain places, people, or cultures, all are very important and stick with you. I’ve learned a lot about Denmark and its people, but I’ve learned about things back home as well. I’ve learned to appreciate where you are from because it reflects a lot upon you when you are outside of your home. I’ve learned to appreciate the people that are important, like my family, because they have been there to support me from day 1 and will always be there for me. I’ve learned to value every person that I meet and to give everyone a chance, because your first impression of a person is probably wrong. Even though no one is perfect, everyone has that special something they can bring to the table and it’s important to appreciate them for that. I know I am talking in a lot of cliches and intangibles, but these are honestly how I feel about this whole journey. I look back with only 20 days left for this semester. Did my semester go as expected? Absolutely not. But what happened truly was the good stuff, and I’ll cherish it for the rest of my life.
Don’t worry America. I’m coming for you soon. I just have a few more things to take care of here.