I am approaching my third week in Copenhagen and time has truly flown by. Time does fly when you’re having fun, but time also flies by when everything around you is new and different. I’ve liked to describe my first three weeks so far as feeling like you have graduated college, and then immediately being placed back in freshman year all over again. Being forced to meet new people, create new friendships, navigate a new routine, engage in new classrooms, adjust to your surrounding culture, AND manage to have fun is enough changing parts to mold a whole new person. Your idea of fun is no longer texting your college friend group to go to the usual campus bar on a Friday night. You’re alone in uncharted waters; fun isn’t going to look the same during your time abroad as it did in college. Just as your fun in high school did not look the same as it did in college. That’s the one unavoidable, universal, and sometimes most brutal truth of life; everything is subject to change. Your perception on what brings you joy evolves as you evolve. And trust me, you evolve a lot (even in only three weeks!).
Today I took myself to the beautiful Botanical Gardens in the heart of Copenhagen only to end up crying to my mom on the phone for an hour. It was my first time since being here where I articulated to someone how I truly feel about being abroad so far. I explained how it’s not that I am homesick; I honestly would not want to be anywhere else than in the city of Copenhagen. I am so grateful I picked Denmark over all of the other options, it feels more familiar each day I spend here. I cried today because I just felt different; I felt so old. After having two years in college where I made best friends and spent my days goofing around on a campus that quite literally became my second home, it feels like I was dropped into someone else’s life right when I was finally comfortable in my own. There’s no more waking up 5 minutes before zoom classes and logging on in my pajamas. There’s no more after-class lacrosse practices which you schedule your entire day around. There’s no more running into 6 of your friends in your communal bathroom in your dorm hall. You’re on your own when you move to a different country, regardless of if you came with friends or not. Instead, I am waking up an hour and a half before class to pick out a vogue-worthy outfit that involves wearing shoes that are way too uncomfortable to be walking 20,000 steps a day in. I am now budgeting my meals for the week instead of walking to a dining hall and swiping a card for an unlimited buffet. My most used app is not Snapchat anymore, it’s the Metro Commuter Card app. I’m only 20 years old, but I feel like I have become 27 in three short weeks.
I am sharing this with you all because you will hear over and over again from people who have studied abroad how much it “changed them”. They’re right, it definitely changes you, but few people will be brave enough to tell you how hard that change was. While speaking on the phone to my mom, she explained how your 20’s are the most fast paced years of your life and the years that you live the most. Truly living life requires feeling it all; the good and the bad. The easy and the hard. Comfortable is easy, but the real coming of age occurs when you lose yourself and find yourself over and over again. I am sure as time goes on I will adjust to my new lifestyle here, but just know that it is OK to feel uncomfortable where you are in life at the moment. Discomfort is the sign that you’re growing. Sometimes it takes being forced out of the bubble that you grew up in to see all that the world has to offer. I wiped away my tears, hung up the phone and explored the rest of the garden with a new lightness in my step. I am exactly where Im supposed to be in this very moment. Independence is contingent on the bursting of your bubble. If I were to say one thing about going abroad to someone who is considering it, I would tell them that it does change you, and to welcome that change with open arms.