Today, after a day of trains and busses and classes and pizza and chocolate croissants and sitting on top of buildings and in cute courtyards, when I walked in the door of my host family’s home to Bootylicious (!!!! lol sorry that’s the best) playing, I realized something:
I could really love this place.
If we’re being honest, the entire first week I thought otherwise. I clutched to traces of America — the Jodi Picoult book I brought from home, the Lifesavers mints in my backpack, the standard American girl way I dress (Piko shirt, olive pants, white converse — like most girls at DIS) compared to the distinctly European style I see at every turn. I found myself missing strip malls and highways and blasting country music and sitting on my couch and sitting on my porch and just seeing my parents’ faces. I didn’t want to explore or engage or any action verb that would imply interacting with my new country. When you are in a beautiful foreign country, with incredible food, missing America is just a little bit of a bummer.
I googled “homesickness while abroad” and “I left my abroad program early” and honestly several variations of both of those phrases to make sure that I wasn’t a total dud and that other people liked America more than foreign countries too. I got a bunch of articles saying “I wish I hadn’t left study abroad early” and was stumped because how could you ever regret going back to the land of comfort and Chick Fil A and your friends and Chick Fil A? I didn’t understand.
But today something clicked and I realized I could really, really love this place. I could love the ingenious churro-and-ice-cream combination that some Danish person came up with, I could love people watching on my commute home, I could love going to church and doing quiet times here, I could love quiet nights at this home that will become my second, reading book after book. I could love this family that has welcomed me so sacrificially.
But I don’t think loving this place could be as sweet if I hadn’t experienced the homesickness and general indifference about Copenhagen that I have. Somehow, I didn’t have to force myself into thinking that this was home — it just became more familiar and sometimes the funny thing I think about love is that it comes with familiarity and comfort. So, very sorry that I lied. The trick is not Beyonce. At least for me, the trick is that there is no trick. It won’t feel like home until it feels like home.
It feels a little bit more like home when I get lost on the tiny cobblestoned streets with friends from Vanderbilt, because we are making new memories together.
It feels a little bit more like home when both my host family and I let our guards down a little bit more, absolutely cracking up around the dinner table. Side note: at one dinner, I thought my host dad called our salad “garbage,” so I asked him if he didn’t like salad. He didn’t understand, so I said, “Didn’t you call it garbage?” He looked horrified and said, “No!!! Cabbage!! I called it cabbage!! I would get thrown out of the house if I called it garbage!!” It was the funniest thing. I laughed so hard.
It feels a little bit more like home when I get to powwow with other home stay kids in my classes, laughing about the culture shock moments we’ve experienced each night at our houses in the Copenhagen suburbs.
It feels a little bit more like home when I buy my second Donutella donut from The Donut Shop in two days, because I can see a beautiful tradition (of donuts and pre-class sugar highs) forming. The Donutella donut has Nutella frosting and Heath bar crumbs. Honestly I think there will be Donutellas in heaven.
It feels a little bit more like home as I sit here, at 8:24 on a Friday night, watching a Danish reality show with my host siblings after dinner. I have no idea what it is about, but they practice their English as they try to explain it to me. Honestly, I still have no idea what it’s about, but with as much reality TV as I watch at home, doing this with them is good. (But also, one of the contestants just visibly adjusted his junk on stage and these sweet 14-year-olds did not even flinch, so yes, Europe is pretty different than America.)
So while my tears this week were from missing my home so very badly, I really really really hope my tears at the end of this whole shebang will be because I will miss this place so dearly. At the beginning of the week, no one could have convinced me I would fall in love with Copenhagen. But, it doesn’t feel like home until it feels like home — and thank goodness it is beginning to!
Again, a huge thank you to all of y’all for your continued texts, emails, Snapchats, the like. I am so blessed and please know I will continue to miss the after class breakfasts or lunches, time spent in the Mayfield or Commons or Rand or anyplace else on campus, spontaneous trips to Krispy Kreme or Chick Fil A or Fido, and dance parties with you all. Please continue to update me on what is going on in your worlds — I want to overlap, even if it’s through technology and across oceans. I love you all so very much!!