a final hej hej

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”


I kept a photo of this quote on my white board in my room, and I looked at it every morning. I was challenged every day this past semester, yet I think it was the happiest I’ve been in my whole 20 years.

Here’s my behind the scenes. All the stuff that goes on behind the classic Nyhavn picture for Instagram.

Studying abroad is can be a bit difficult, especially with the things that should be simple. Going to the grocery store and translating the various dairy products–and wondering WHY yogurt would come in a skinny carton like milk at home does, ordering your coffee and realizing that there’s no milk at the end table to fix it up the way you like–you have to ask for it, always, being able to rationalize staying in for a night on the weekend because you’re exhausted and it’s cold outside, and not letting yourself feel like a loser for doing so.

You don’t see all of my low moments! Or anyone else’s either.  There was the time I was sick for the weekend, and having a cold in a foreign country is much scarier than having one at home. I lost my key one afternoon on a day that I had already spent the morning feeling really sad and lonely. I never really figured out how to use the dryer. I had to avoid a lot of foods and become accustomed to a new diet (low FODMAP-ers wya?!?). There was not a single grocery store trip I took where I didn’t shamefully pull out Google translate to figure out what I was actually buying.

And yet, I look back on these four months with some of the greatest memories I have ever had. The time that it was sunny and 75 and I had ice cream along the water at Nyhavn. I had a picnic with new friends in the King’s Garden after my first day of class. I was able to try new things, like curling and winter swimming. I wasn’t scared to do things alone: going to the movies and museums that I wanted, when I wanted. I enjoyed every cinnamon roll I had. I traveled with my class and with my friends to 9 different countries. I walked around the city without a purpose on the sunny days. I welcomed my friends and family to my new home. I was able to form a relationship with a Danish family and learn about their culture. I lived with 16 new people in my building and spent every Thursday night with them. There was so much good that came from this experience.

I’ve said this many times here, but studying abroad was something I have been looking forward to for years. Actual years. I didn’t know where I wanted to go, but I knew I had to. These past 4 months were an incredibly special time in my life that brought new everythings: a new language, new friends, new foods, new classes, new customs, and more. Copenhagen and Denmark will always have a piece of my heart. And it will swell every time someone talks about a Danish pastry or uses the phrase that they’ll need to cope with something. That’s just how its gunna be for a bit.

Tak, Copenhagen, for the most wonderful, eye-opening 4 months. I had an adventure of a lifetime. While I have all my material tokens that marked my time in Copenhagen, more importantly are the insights I gained and lessons I learned there. And with all that I took from this city, I leave it a little piece of my heart.


gwen (1)


10 thoughts on “a final hej hej

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