This time last year I was in “less-than-12-hours-until-I-fly-to-Denmark-for-my-final-semester” mode. This time last year I was preparing for a whole new alphabet; short, cold days; and making new friends.
In January, I thought that four months was going to feel like a lifetime. And it did at some points. Some days I wished I was back at home in the familiar. Then all of a sudden it was the end of March and I was preparing my final weeks in Copenhagen.
Over the course of four months I spent quite a bit of time at my family’s houses; learned what it truly meant to be Danish; fell in love with Ireland and Venice; walked Paris; celebrated a Queen; attempted to conquer my fears; and spent a day in the city of my first study abroad experience, London.
Having the opportunity to travel and study abroad was one of the greatest gifts my parents could have ever given. Living in a foreign countries has taught me to better balance my life, not be afraid of new experiences, and nationality truly means.
I’d be lying if I said I’m not jealous of all those currently on their way to spend a semester – or a year – studying with DIS. My time abroad was filled with some of the most challenging and empowering days of my college career. It’s honestly hard to believe that it’s all over. Of course I can go back to Europe and go to grad school, but now my mind is full of how to make the best decisions for my career and overall future.
So, for now, I’ll stare longingly at photos of current students in Denmark and plan my return.
I also want to share what I’ve learned from studying abroad with you. So here are five tips to remember when abroad!
1. Document Everything
I’m serious! Be a tourist! Take all the selfies! But please, please, please leave the iPad at home. Blog about all your silly little moments! One of my biggest regrets, in general, is that I never feel like I’m taking enough photos. That’s one of my goals for 2016 and the future: take more photos, print out photos, and just document.
My mom and I were going through her boxes of photos filled to the brim with photos from her childhood, her time in Hong Kong, and so on. And there are so, so, so many photos and it made me disappointed that I, someone who loves to photograph, doesn’t have nearly as many photos.
2. Venture Outside
Take this any way you want: take a walk through the countryside or travel to another country. It’s strange how easy it is to get comfortable in a foreign country, so it’s important to make sure you hit all the popular coffee places and wander down random streets. Sometimes the best adventures are the accidental ones.
3. Make Time for Yourself
Being abroad is filled with new experiences and you can often feel like you have to fill every moment of your days with something or surrounded by other people. However, it is so, so, so important that you spend some time by yourself wrapped up in your warm bed binge watching FRIENDS and eating kransekake and æbeskiver. Think of it as sort of a work-life balance, in the sense that being abroad can be a sensory overload and it can feel overwhelming. Listen to your body and be kind to yourself.
4. Don’t Forget About School
DIS has the reputation of not being a ‘joke study abroad school’, if that makes sense. You often hear about other programs being very relaxed and students spending a substantial amount of time traveling or out. DIS has a strange schedule where every two weeks you have a week off! To travel, spend learning about Denmark, or participate in their many break programs. (I promise this is not sponsored by DIS..) But remember, you’re still in school! Grades, for most universities, do count! And it would be such a waste if you spent all that money and didn’t do well in your classes and learned something.
5. Don’t Forget About Home
Invite your family and friends to come visit you when you’re abroad! One of my best experiences was having my dear friend Paola visit me for a week. I loved being able to show her all of my favorite spots and introduce her to Danish culture and hygge. It was also amazing to hear how she fell in love with my tiny country. I spent most of my teens and college career gushing about the little snowy, Nordic country that people got sick of it all, so it’s nice to be around someone who appreciates all of my gushing!
One of the best things about studying in the country my mom was born and raised, is that I understand know about the places she talks about. I have a better understanding of Danish culture and understand the jokes my dad makes about the sun only shining twice a year.
Have you ever studied abroad? What tips would you share?