Blue (he/they), St. Olaf College, shares their advice to future students in the form of an entrancing prose poem. Read Blue’s thoughtful reflections on how traveling as a student is different than any other form of travel, with the internal journey being as drastic as the external.
Unlocking a New Continent
I am in Denmark running on a student scholarship and microwaved tea, awakened to how there is so much to be gleaned from living abroad. I hopped around the globe a bit when I was too young to realize how much of a privilege travel is. Now, 19, conscious, and ending a semester with DIS, I feel a whole new continent has been unlocked.
The nature of studying abroad is both escapism and immersion. Venturing out the familiar into all that is not. Earlier this year, the unlit semester before me unnerved me. All the pending troubles of overseas education, oh no! The ever-unpredictable COVID-19 and the shameless racism of Europe and the nagging bite of homesickness and my shaky dexterity when handling finances and surprise encounters with the hidden complications of travel and the irrepressible longing we call FOMO, staring at the Instagram stories of friends back home like a castaway on a raft staring at a cruise ship in the distance.
You Are Not Alone
It is not so much that these anxieties are unreal, it is that they are not as undefeatable as the trembling mind constructs them to be. It is a defense mechanism to shrink away from opportunity due to the possibility of difficulties. You will encounter struggles. You will overcome them. And each time, you will surprise yourself with your own resilience. The bright reality is that you are far from the first nor the only person to deal with your particular struggles, and DIS has programs in place to help support students. Discard the idea that you are journeying to Europe alone.
You will encounter struggles. You will overcome them. And each time, you will surprise yourself with your own resilience.
An absurd feature of youth is both an unstoppable ambition, yet immovable complacency, like a baby bird, restlessly squawking complaints about the place it inhabits while still being too fearful to launch from the nest and discover somewhere new. It usually takes a firm shove from Mama before the fledgling spreads its wings. I hope a well-written letter does the trick, too! Copenhagen, for me, has been a city of transformation. I invite you to discover how open the skies are here.
The Newness of it All
Preparing for trips, you only see the tongue-drying price tag, and not the invaluable, lifelong joys that are veiled behind it. Like Scandinavian social norms that challenge what you subconsciously hold to be universal truths. And a revamped Danish-influenced daily routine that feels plucked from another life. Or genuine connections with firework friends whose value is not measured in how long they last, but how spectacular and unforgettable they shone in the moment. It has been perspective-shifting and consciousness-expanding. From the sense of belonging after cleaning your housing site for the first time to the milestone victory of your first solo trip, there are joys on this side of the Atlantic Ocean you simply cannot excavate from the land back home.
Copenhagen, for me, has been a city of transformation. I invite you to discover how open the skies are here.
Say Yes More
This is the time to get out of your comfort zone. Pick up a sport, learn new recipes, indulge in a creative hobby. Say yes more. What is something you have been wanting to do for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
Reframe your mindset. Are they strangers, or are they potential friends? Is the professor garbage or do you just need to adapt to their teaching style? Is the city underwhelming or are you following a prescribed itinerary that isn’t tailored to your needs as a traveler? There is so much sweetness to be experienced whilst abroad, but it will be soured if mental ruts and ruinous attitudes tint your outlook. Pay attention to your patterns of thinking, the defeatist mantras you fall into. It can be hard to be present in a new place if you are too in your head to appreciate it.
The Reason We Travel
Perhaps your desire to travel was spurred on by highlight reels of bucket-list worthy, picturesque destinations. To this pursuit, I say, enjoy your stay! But if a little more convincing is needed, I hope to re-emphasize that the reason we travel in the first place is the development of character; the internal journey as much as the external. I have been on vacations before. I’ve done road trips and I’ve done tourism. But I’ve never been a student traveler. This new approach to experiencing a place – where you come for the expressed purpose of learning – has been crucial to my development as an adult, as a student, as a burgeoning professional, and, quite simply, as a human. I love who I’ve become. Who will you be? Do you dare to find out?
Hear Blue narrate their reflections:
More information about DIS Copenhagen: