My apologies on the delayed post. I got home almost three weeks ago now, and it’s taken me a while to sift through my feelings upon returning home to Chicago.
The two questions I’ve been asked the most since being home is “What surprised you most about Copenhagen?” To which I respond: the biking culture. It’s hard to imagine living in a city where over 50% of the population bikes to work/school everyday. The city was built for bikers; in that sense, it doesn’t feel like a normal “big city”, with lots of traffic and loud noise; instead, it’s quieter, calmer, yet still bustling with activity. Coming back to Chicago was a bit of a shock, with the endless traffic, noisy highways and loud city streets downtown. The second question I get asked a lot is: “were you ready to come home?” and the answer is: Yes. I loved Copenhagen, and getting to travel around Europe for a semester is an opportunity I am forever grateful for; however, it was exhausting. Traveling really takes a toll on you, so yes, I was a bit tired and missed my friends and family back home. I also missed having my own room, and sleeping in a quiet house. As much as I loved my apartment, it reminded me of a freshman dorm, and I can confidently say I am over with that stage of my life. Give me a room all to myself, a good book, warm tea, and a blanket and I’m a happy girl.
Below was what I wrote on the plane from Copenhagen back to the U.S. almost 3 weeks ago now:
Hej hej, København
It’s 10:28 am in Copenhagen (3:28am Chicago time), and I am currently writing this post on the first leg of my journey home – a flight to Amsterdam. Staring out the plane window at the beautiful blue sky, I have so many emotions running through me. Sadness, at having to leave a place I would never have thought I’d get to call home; sadness to having to leave some of the best people I’m so lucky to call my friends, who I don’t know when I will see again. Joy, at finally being able to go back home to Chicago and see my family and friends for the first time in 4 months. Happiness to go home to my own quiet home and town (city living is loud!) where I don’t have to worry about language barriers, missing the bus or accidentally locking myself out of my apartment.
I keep replaying scenes over in my head – the first day I arrived in Copenhagen feels like yesterday. I remember the fear, not knowing what to expect, arriving in a city so different from what I’m used to. And now, leaving that same city I have come to love, being able to navigate it on my own without the help of google maps. I remember the first trip I took, a cruise to Oslo, the joy of being able to travel with my friends; and the last trip I took, to Geneva, how we were all experts at traveling by then but sat around for a whole day simply playing board games while it rained outside because we loved sharing each other’s presence and just goofing around. I remember halfway through the semester when I got super homesick, and how now I am homesick for a city I just left behind all of an hour ago.
Abroad wasn’t easy. There were highs – being able to speak at least a little Danish to locals; having the opportunity to travel to so many new places; getting to meet so many wonderful new people; going to a Danish concert; and so many more things I can’t even begin to list them all out. But there were also lows – feeling as though I wasn’t making the right friends, or enough new friends; the stress of traveling; worrying about money; fear that my friends back at CC wouldn’t accept me back with open arms; trying to navigate the metric system and military time. But most of these lows were worries due to my anxiety – fears I’ve learned how to manage through years of practice, on my own and with the help of friends and family.
Last night out with my hall, we went to Tivoli!
I wouldn’t say abroad changed me. I believe everyone is growing and changing every day, we are constantly shaping who we are, whether that be in a different country or in your own hometown. The experiences I had while abroad certainly added to my growth in ways that are different than I would have gotten back on campus – but that in no way means they are better. This semester has made me realize that I absolutely chose the right school for college — CC’s block plan works the best for my learning style, I definitely need sunshine & nature consistently in my life, and the students on campus are the most attuned to my lifestyle. However, it was extremely refreshing to get to meet students from so many different universities in the U.S., who had many different perspectives on life, who taught me as much about the world as they did about myself.
I can confidently say I am ready to go home now, however. Walking through Copenhagen a few days ago with my friend from CC, we happened to walk into a jewelry store that imported all its products from the southwest. We talked with the woman who owned the store a bit, chatting about Taos, New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. I think it really hit us then that we were going home to the places we loved to travel to, and had before, with our friends back at school. We reminisced on our trips to Taos, different towns and ski hills in Colorado, and missing our campus. We agreed – we were ready to go home. Travel still awaits us back at home, as does the calming mountains, our beautiful small campus at the foot of Pikes Peak, and ski season.
It feels strange to me that I will be returning back to CC in a few short days, and not my friends in Copenhagen. I feel like I truly had a little family abroad, one that I will miss dearly. It’s always strange ending a chapter of your life, waiting around for a new chapter to begin. The limbo period can be frightening, but it can also be exciting, not knowing what adventures and opportunities lie ahead for my life. If anything, my experiences this past semester taught me to take life as it comes, because most of the time what you plan doesn’t exactly turn out the way you expect it to — yet, oftentimes these become some of the best moments in life, creating stories and countless memories that will be shared for the rest of your life. So, here’s to Copenhagen, and here’s to new opportunities the future holds.