Just like that, my time in Europe has come to a close! I simultaneously feel like I was there for a lifetime, but also no time at all. It is surreal to be writing one final post from my bedroom back in America.
Looking back, this summer was very educational, and not just in the classroom sense! I learned so much from the experiences I had (both in and out of class), the culture I was immersed in and the people I was around. These are some of my favorite and most important lessons from a summer in Denmark and Sweden.
Everywhere Is Different… But Also The Same
Heading over to Europe, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of a culture shock. Part of me expected it to be relatively easy going to another western country and trying to get use to it for a few weeks. The other part was terrified I would be lost and confused and hungry and in over my head.
It turns out, both parts of me were right! The culture in Scandinavia was very different from what I was expecting. There was a bigger use of public transportation than I had ever seen, the language was hard to initially figure out, there were weird food combinations that frightened me. Thankfully, though, after just a few days, I figured out what was going on! I was able to grasp the new Scandinavian culture very quickly and thrive in an environment that was different but learnable.
I was also in awe about how similar everyone is though. Whether we were discussing the happiness of Denmark or the difficult political climate of Sweden, it became very obvious that the core of everyone’s experiences are the same: we are all searching for a good life and doing what we think can achieve that. This was something that became obvious to me when in Scandinavia. People, no matter where or in what situation, are trying to flourish and find a way to be happy. And I found that amazing.
There’s So Much Hidden
So many times, people get wrapped up in the biggest, grandest, most epic things to do. But so much is hidden beneath the surface of a place, we never really know what all there is to explore. The cities of Copenhagen and Stockholm are amazing, yes. I won’t deny that at all. Some of my favorite moments, however, come from when my friends and I escaped for a day and explored beyond the city line.
In Sweden, the towns of Sigtuna and Uppsala were both a nice getaway. Sigtuna is the oldest town in Sweden, and is quite a little quaint day trip. My friends and I ventured there on our last and explored the church ruins (and gelato) the city had around it. Uppsala also has a lot of wonders to behold and made for a fun afternoon out of the city!
Traveling on the regional trains also allows for a lot of reflection. Getting away from the constant hustle of the city and watching the countryside flow past you helps give you a chance to take everything all in. I always forgot how big the countries were. Exploring a new area really opened my eyes to being in another country on another continent.
Live In The Moment
I already touched on this when reflecting on my Vienna trip, but living in the present moment is such an important aspect of life. I spend so many of my days in the future or the past, but am never focused on what is happening now. When you take a moment to savor your experiences, it helps you really value and remember what you are doing.
There were so many moments that I felt completely invested in the present during, I can barely keep up! Some of my favorites included Green Kayak at Amager Strand, Vienna Giant Ferris Wheel, Biking in Krems, Tivoli, FriendShip, Copenhagen Contemporary, Islands Brygge, Thomas Dambo Sculptures, ABBA: The Museum, The Avicii Experience, Vaxholm, Fisherman’s Bastion, Lake Batalon, Fotografiska, Sigtuna…
And that’s hardly scratching the surface! I am in awe of the number of memories I made and experiences I had. It definitely helped having such a great group of people traveling with me while I was there. When you live in the present, the memories you make mean so much more to you and stay super vivid a long time after, some benefits I’m already beginning to feel.
Make Use Of Your Time
As much as we hate to admit it, our study abroad experience is a finite amount of time. But… instead of moping over the temporary aspect of the trip, you can dive into as much as possible! And that’s exactly what I did!
It is hard to balance school, tourism, eating and just normal life in general, but if you can find a way to use your time wisely, you’ll be so glad you did. For me, this meant trying my best to get out and do something most days after class before going back to my room. It also meant saving big items for the weekend. By doing this, it helped me balance the schoolwork I was there for while also exploring the city.
It’s important to find a balance of stretching yourself and following your heart too. There were some experiences I had that I never would have imagined having because it was completely out of my element (like visiting an Ice Bar!). However, I also knew that sometimes I had to put my foot down and follow my gut. This meant going alone or with a smaller group to something different than everyone else. Time is limited. Sometimes you have to split up. And sometimes you have to push yourself.
The Future Is Wide Open
I went into this summer hoping to narrow down my options for after I finish college. I can confidently tell you today… that did not happen. Rather than helping me figure out a more concise path, I now have a whole ten-lane highway sitting in front of me. But that’s okay.
Scandinavia really opened my eyes to new areas of life that I had never considered. I really loved Positive Psychology more than I thought I would. Finally getting the chance to explore Political Psychology intrigued me more than I expected. Traveling alone was absolutely thrilling.
The world is full of so many options, and my summer abroad really showed me that I don’t necessarily need to choose one right now.
That’s A Wrap!
With that, my time with DIS and as a DIS Writer has now come to a close. I had so much fun this summer getting to share my experiences with everyone. There’s so many more too, these blogs only give a glimpse into the entire time.
Who knows what will come next? I certainly don’t. But whatever happens, this summer was one of the most exciting and eye-opening summers I’ve ever had. And I have no regrets about it.