Emily Shaw: Going Home or Leaving Home?

Name: Emily Shaw
Home University: Loyola University Maryland
Semester Program at DIS:
Spring 2014, Cross-Cultural Communication 
Summer 2014 Course at DIS:
Session 1, Danish Greenspace

I spent many years watching my friends and cousins travel the world, always hoping that one day it would be me. Sure, I vacationed with my family once, sometimes twice, a year. But on these family vacations we had never reached that colossus, Europe. I’ve spent most of my life thirsting for a taste of anything European. In lieu of actual experiences, I satiated myself with episodes of House Hunters International set in locales around the world, or read novels set in beautiful, European cities. These half-hearted experiences, though, could never replace the feeling I had lying in my hotel bed during DIS’ March break with perfect view of the Eiffel Tower exploding in a frenzy of lights. Or having high tea at The Savoy on the Strand in London. Or sitting on a stone wall in Morges, Switzerland under the strong sun, watching sailboats make their way across a clear lake hugged by snow-capped mountains with 120,000 species of tulips surrounding me.

I have found myself saying to my friends ‘Where are we?’ or ‘What are we doing right now?’ countless times, not because I was confused or disoriented, but because I genuinely could not believe that it was my life I was witnessing and not some scene in a movie with an adventure-driven plot and a heart-swelling soundtrack. Because, doesn’t it all sound a little too perfect to be real?

I hate to admit it, but I didn’t love Copenhagen at first. That first day, when I was transported by bus from airport to apartment on zero hours of sleep, lugging three large bags – no, I didn’t love Denmark. On the ride through less than quaint parts of town, parts filled with industrial buildings and highway signs, I did not love Denmark. It looked like ‘Anywhere, America’ to me. And that first day didn’t really change my mind. But the next day, when I walked down Strøget for the first time, my heart changed its mind. And over the past four months, my European dreams have come true: I have seen eight countries, thirteen cities, met hundreds of new people, and learned thousands of things about places around the world and about myself. And I have fallen in love. Not with a person – but with the Danish people and a country with a culture and set of ideals that all seem so aligned with the person I want to become.

My reality over these past few months living in Denmark has been, honestly, unreal. I’ve had absolutely incredible experiences here over the past five months: I’ve met the head of Swedish public television, had casual conversations with the owners of extremely successful food and drink establishments, chatted with the hosts of two popular Danish talk shows, and participated in a relaxed Q&A with a prominent member of Danish parliament. I even saw Elijah Wood DJ. How many people can say the same of their past four months?

I’ll admit I’m nervous to go home. Scared about my upcoming final year of college; how much everyone has changed over the course of the last year, how quickly my college experience is coming to an end. I’m afraid of making a decision about what comes next, and of having to join the real world soon. I’m sad to leave Denmark and all the experiences I’ve had here, to say goodbye to a city I love, where everything is literally right outside my front door. After knowing who I am in Denmark, I’m anxious to see who I become after Denmark.

I know I’m luckier than most, to have been able to live in such a beautiful country for five whole months, traveling the world and making this city my home. But this doesn’t soften the blow of the reality that I’ll be leaving in less than 48 hours; it still doesn’t seem real that I’ll wake up in Copenhagen on Saturday morning and go to bed in Pennsylvania. It’ll be the longest day of my life: literally, because of the time difference, but also because I’m sure I’ll feel as if I’ve left a part of myself in Copenhagen.

I’m excited to see my family, dogs, and friends… but I know that I’ll be itching to come back. Copenhagen is my home now, and I know with all my heart that this isn’t goodbye, but ‘vi ses’ – ‘see you soon’ in Danish. I’ll be back in Denmark as soon as I can – I know it’s the place I’ll be happiest, in the world’s happiest nation.

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