Having expectations is implicit when it comes to studying abroad. I have mostly spent my summer thinking about Nyhavn and complaining about all the bureaucratic procedures I had to do. Honestly, I kept procrastinating, and I ended up coming here without European healthcare and with zero cash. I’m sorry, Mom, at least I brought a raincoat.
While on the plane, I couldn’t stop regretting my decision. I have known I wanted to come to Copenhagen since I started my degree. Yet Italy seemed suddenly a more delightful place to spend four months of life-changing experiences. All the misconceptions I grasped about Denmark began to arise. And well, the thought of “I’m not sure anymore if I want to go through this” crossed my mind way too many times in 3 hours. After meeting my buddy at the airport, things got better. She’s the sweetest.
The first week was a rollercoaster. If you go through an exchange, keep this in mind: you may find yourself ranging among being overly excited about starting a cathartic period, and feeling vulnerable, a misfit and weeping about wanting to go home to your family. Trust me; the balance comes gradually. Especially if you are like me, and you have never liked the idea of settling down, homesickness is something you’ll have to deal with anyway. I feel that several times a month.
Everything has improved. After spending three weeks here, I’m no longer surprised by spending €40 or more on my groceries, or by being charged €4 for a regular coffee. I’m only feeling a bit pissed and questioning myself all the time why I didn’t work this summer. I’ve also realized all the purely negative different things we do in Spain. Here I get paid to recycle, and I go by bike everywhere. Get prepared to feel sore and make a fool of yourself the first week; afterwards, you’ll probably enjoy it.
I tried my best, but I cannot get over how troublesome Danish is. To be honest, I could only retain two words, and I’m surviving well. And English is not even easy for me. No one talks about how tiring and irritating is to concentrate for hours to understand and speak a foreign language. My ability to express myself fell drastically, so did my patience. Yes, I’m doing great now.
Regardless of my first moment expectations, epiphanies about how amazing this country come to me often. Maybe it’s too early to make this statement, but the weather, although it’s unpredictable as hell, is not that bad. Nor are the Danes as cold and unapproachable as I thought – they only need to know you have a reason to talk to them. And I’m sorry to put this down, but they drink a lot. However, I’m starting to love the City, genuinely, as I adore coming home from a party at 2 am and feeling more secure than ever.
It seems Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world. I guess that the vast amount of time they dedicate to leisure has something to do with it. The first thing I thought when I saw my timetable was: “what am I going to do with this much free time”. Plot twist: It meant having lots of responsibilities.
Seriously, wise up, the system doesn’t take you by the hand but encourages critical thinking and personal work. I generally have two days of classes each week, and it by no means ever equals the time I have to work on my own. There isn’t continuous evaluation, which means that the whole mark falls back on the final exam or project. Good news if you plan to travel, as your professor won’t mind if you skip classes throughout the whole semester.
During the last two weeks, I had plenty of social activities. I’m genuinely happy to be in residence with other 20ish CBS students with whom I share common interests. I’ve been meeting people since the first day I arrived, and not a day goes by without thinking they are like a 2nd family. And the non-shared, 20-square-meter apartment I live in is everything my 15-year-old me could have wanted in her twenties.
I’m still adapting and trying to figure out how to manage my time and relationships, and well, my life in general. It becomes confusing and even thwarting when no one’s telling you what you do wrong. I still seldom struggle to get out of my comfort zone, but I believe it is one of the best ways to progress. Push yourself to meet new people, ask the Danes for advice, go on a ride alone, discover the City and allow yourself to be uncomfortable sometimes. I know I’ll feel vulnerable and lost sometimes, but it’s part of the experience. I’m entirely sure I’m in the right place with the right people, and that makes a whole world of difference.