I have three hours of commuting each day to work and school (maybe that’s why I have so many opinions? Too much time to think?). So last week, while reading some emails on my way back home, I realized — it’s August!
This exact same time last year, I was getting ready for my exchange: packing like crazy, doing a Marie Kondo kind of thing where I had to ask myself “Do I really need this? Will it bring me joy in Copenhagen?”; having many goodbye parties with people I didn’t see regularly but when they find out you’re moving abroad suddenly they want to see you; crying at everything and even telling my bedroom furniture “I’ll miss you so much”.
So guys: Welcome to your exchange. You might be at a stage where you have no idea about how everything around you works. The language, the people, the public transportation system, CBS and subjects, your new home, your new roommates: EVERYTHING is new. And here’s my first tip… while I’m pretty sure you’re in panic-mode now, and perhaps a bit homesick, please, I urge you to truly enjoy this stage, because in a few months, you’ll yearn for that newness.
Time flies when you’re having fun, as they say. And in these first few days, there’s so much to do and so little time. So I encourage you to spend a while each night (yes, even after partying hard…) to take it all in. Take notes about what you experience, the things that spark your attention and want to remember.
Before I left my home country, everyone was constantly telling me “ENJOY YOUR EXCHANGE BECAUSE IT FLIES BY!!” and as much as I hated that phrase, I will say it: Enjoy it, ‘cause it’ll soon be gone.
That’s not to say you should go crazy and force yourself to do everything and like everyone even when you don’t feel like it. But instead, find your purpose and follow it. So… why are you here? Why did you choose this city? What exactly do you need? What did you come here to get? Whatever it is, chase it and find it – Copenhagen is truly a city where dreams can come true.
Since most people don’t know you here, you can be whoever you want to be
There’s one thing I’ve talked about with many friends, and it’s the magic that many do not realize: Since most people don’t know you here, you can be whoever you want to be.
Like your luggage: You don’t need to bring everything, especially those things that you find unnecessary or even annoying. So, as open and honest as I am (I wrote that article about dating the Danes, so I’m VERY open and honest), I didn’t mention my flaws when introducing myself to everyone: “Hi, I’m Valeria and I have low self-esteem and don’t know how to ride a bike!”.
Instead, highlight your best aspects and make real connections with others based on them.
Make mistakes! A lot of them! (Safe mistakes, always).
The best anecdotes I have from my exchange are the times when I thought I’d messed it all up, and I hadn’t. Things I was truly scared to do (like getting on the rollercoaster at Tivoli Gardens after too many glasses of wine, or riding a bike to the club with a stranger on Halloween), but I dared to and now, I don’t regret a single thing.
Sometimes when I’m at the dentist (I have a terrible fear of dentists) or even having a terrible day, I close my eyes and go back to these, and so many more memories
Another phrase going around the first days of exchange was: “This is like a vacation from my everyday life,” and I have to say that it’s a bit like that, except it’s more than a vacation – it’s like a timeout, where you can enjoy and work on yourself. It’s something that’ll shape who you become as a person and as a professional. Valuable memories that you’ll be telling your kids about one day.
The Buddy dinner. The welcome party. The boat ride. The first night at the Irish Pub. The first time I entered Solbjerg Plads. Sometimes when I’m at the dentist (I have a terrible fear of dentists) or even having a terrible day, I close my eyes and go back to these, and so many more memories.
And the friends you’ll make here are people you’ll miss and carry forever in your heart. They might be people who, when you first see them, you think there’s no chance they’ll end up becoming so close to you. But trust me, they will. And when you’re back home, you’ll even miss the people you didn’t like on exchange.
And, if you’re from Latin America, please bring me home some bread!
But I won’t lie: There will be bad times too. Before exams when things go crazy, if you had an argument with someone, if you fell off your bike and twisted your foot, or any other thing – but that’s the way life works, of course. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, and the best way to go through bad stuff is to have the support of your people here, and friends and family at home.
One last thing before I end this, and this one is going to make you all say, “Oh, what a nerd”: The main reason you’re here, after all, is to study. CBS is an amazing university and I haven’t had a class that I didn’t love, so take advantage of that. There’s a reason why Denmark is among the top education systems in the world, so don’t miss your opportunity to study like a Dane while you’re living like a Dane.
I hope you all have as much fun as I did. Copenhagen is and will always be my home (so much so, that I remember exact names of streets and can give anyone directions on how to get to places), and I’m sure you’ll find a way to make it your home as well. And, if you’re from Latin America, please bring me home some bread! 🙂