In four days I will arrive in Copenhagen, Denmark to spend the remainder of the year. Most international students will be arriving by plane, but I will instead make my grand entrance by train. In fact, I’ve already departed for my time “abroad” two weeks ago when I waved goodbye to my parents at JFK airport, and boarded a plane for Sweden. Why Sweden and not Denmark? Did I make a mistake and book my flight to the wrong Scandinadvian country? Let me explain why I ended up in Stockholm for my first two weeks abroad.
A quick introduction first: my name is Marie and I’m from Long Island, New York. I study history at Georgetown University and will be studying sociology as my core class this semester abroad with DIS. But you’re probably wondering why I’m currently writing this pre-arrival blog post from Stockholm and not New York. Well, the short answer is that I found a cheap flight to Sweden. But really, the answer requires a little more explanation, and that explanation will encompass why I chose to study abroad in Denmark in the first place.
Four years ago, I met a Swedish girl named Greta at a pre-college summer camp. We quickly became great friends, and I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Sweden to visit her and her family, the Bjorkmans. They introduced me to Scandinavian culture and I’ve been absolutely obsessed since. When the opportunity to study abroad in Denmark was presented to me, I never looked back.
Over these past four years of knowing the Bjorkmans, I’ve grown very close to them. When they heard I chose to study abroad in Denmark they invited me to come to Europe early to spend some time with them before going to Copenhagen. A quick Google search led to a cheap flight ticket, and before I knew it I was leaving for my semester abroad at the very beginning of August.
It sounded like a great idea: an extra two weeks in Europe! Yet, I didn’t fully understand how early it would feel to depart the United States on August 4th knowing I will not return until Christmas. I was caught up in the romanticized idea of travel, without completely realizing how hard it would be to say goodbye to home and everything I am comfortable with. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been absolutely wonderful and I’m so appreciative to spend this time in Stockholm before arriving in Copenhagen. But after already being gone for two weeks, I’m quite ready to arrive in the place that I will call home for the rest of the year. My summer at home seemed to fly by in an instant. I put off packing till the last minute, thinking I had more time than I did, and it was quite a challenge when I realized I had to fit three seasons in one suitcase for the next five months. Nevertheless, I boarded a Norwegian Air flight with my overweight bag, excited for my adventure in Sweden, and even more excited for my future adventures in Denmark!
By living with a Swedish family for the past two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to ask many questions about the Scandinavian lifestyle and also the differences between Sweden and Denmark. Their responses have made me both excited, but also nervous in ways I hadn’t even considered before I left. For example, The Swedish language seems insanely difficult to me; I struggle immensely to say even one word correctly. Yet, according to the Bjorkmans, Danish is infinitely more difficult. I guess we’ll see if that comes true in a few days when I sit down for my first Danish language class. On the other hand, the concept of coziness, known in Denmark as hygge, is also present in Sweden (under a different name), and apparently it’s even more prevalent in Denmark. I’ve already grown used to this cozy feeling here in Sweden, so I’m super excited for even more coziness coming so soon!
More intellectually speaking, I’ve had the chance to ask questions about the differences between Swedish and Danish politics. I will continue this comparison throughout the semester with my core class, Cultural Diversity and Integration, which explores the differences between Denmark and Sweden’s approach to immigration and the European refugee crisis. In fact, Greta’s dad is a legal guardian for an unaccompanied minor seeking asylum in Sweden. Discussing this subject with him and his family has opened my eyes to many facets of the larger immigration problem that all of Europe faces. I originally picked my core class because I wanted to learn more about this issue, but after these discussions with the Bjorkmans, I can’t wait to dive into this topic in an academic setting and examine the problem with other students equally as interested in the matter.
Despite my excitement, I am not without nervousness for the upcoming days. I will leave the comfort of knowing the people around me and feeling at home when I depart from Stockholm, almost like leaving home for a second time. In many ways, it feels like the beginning of freshman year all over again. I’ll have to make new friends, find my way around a different city, and understand a completely new way of life. I’m worried about grocery shopping when I can’t read any of the labels, and asking for directions to street names I can’t even pronounce. However, I can confidently say that my excitement outweighs my worry. I am ready for this challenge and I know that a new home waits for me in Copenhagen, and I simply cannot wait.