The Greatest Lessons I’ve Learned in my 3 Weeks Abroad

It’s wild to think that only a few weeks ago I was sitting in my bedroom in Indiana.

Now I wake up every morning to the sounds of the city in Copenhagen, my current home and one of the greatest classrooms I’ve ever stepped foot in.

I think my biggest lessons so far have been the importance of putting myself out there, leaning into discomfort, and making mistakes.

Asking for help has been something I’ve gotten really comfortable with. Although pretty much every Dane I’ve met here speaks English very well, a lot of signs, maps, and menus are written only in Danish.

Asking shop employees to help show me where something is because I can’t read the labels has become a necessary part of most trips I make to the store. Even ordering at a cafe, sometimes I’ll have to just ask what the ingredients are on certain dishes because I don’t recognize them.

A delicious shrimp & fish cake Smørrebrød (Danish open-faced sandwich), which I ordered with the help of a café employee 🙂

This is something I would’ve been very avoidant of in the United States. I would usually try to figure out everything on my own, trying my best not to “bother” people.

But this has been an important learning experience for me. People won’t know you need help unless you ask them — and they also won’t know you don’t speak Danish until you let them know (which happens a lot, surprisingly).

To have a fulfilling experience when studying abroad, look to the people around you for guidance. Most people are very kind and happy to help! 🙂

These people waiting in line at Reffen Street Food might be able to help you out 🙂

I’ve also found that leaning into uncomfortable experiences and going with the flow will work wonders.

Most of the time these experiences are only uncomfortable because they’re unfamiliar to us. But that’s when the magic happens!

An example of this would be on Saturday, when my friends and I wanted go out to watch the football game (that’s soccer, to you and me) with local fans. We were the only Americans there, and it definitely showed when we couldn’t sing the Danish national anthem at the start of the game, despite being fully decked out in Danish football merch. (They must’ve thought we were just unpatriotic Danes…)

Americans as undercover Danes… Shhh! Don’t tell!

I had never been in this kind of situation before, and my friends and I didn’t quite know what to do with ourselves at first.

But we turned the night around by using this inability to sing the anthem because we were Americans as a talking point. Some people even tried to teach it to us right then and there!

By leaning into the discomfort of being the only Americans there, we were able to fully immerse ourselves in the environment and enjoy the culture of European football fans. I’ll never forget that night!

Nyhavn on game day!

Lastly, I think the most important lesson that ties all the others together is to be yourself. Be authentic and honest in any new experience, whether it’s studying abroad or going anywhere new for the first time.

I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s said so much for good reason — because it’s important! If you can be honest with yourself and others about what you know and what you need more time to learn and understand, it’ll help you to get through the tough times. When you inevitably make mistakes, knowing these things about yourself will also make it easier to laugh it off and get going again. 🙂

I’ve got three more weeks ahead of me, and the time is definitely flying fast. It’s time to seize every moment and continue to learn and grow in Session 2!

Study Abroad This Summer with DIS:

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