Livability is apparent in every corner of this wonderful city. Missing the excellent urban planning and integrated human scale every day. Well done, Copenhagen. You’re doing it right.
Well… It’s officially been almost three weeks since that fateful tragic travel day when I left my beautiful Copenhagen and arrived in my beloved Carolinas. It’s been a whirlwind of adjustments and I lot of “firsts”..
First time driving a car again. First time going to Walmart. First time sleeping in my own bed. First time seeing friends and family again. First time eating terribly over processed bad for you junk food. The list goes on and goes.
Every time I see someone again whether it be a friend, family member, family friend, etc., a variation of the same question/statement comes from there mouths: “HOW WAS IT?!?” ” I want to hear ALL about it!!”
My response is always the same: I can’t possibly begin to tell you how incredible this experience was.
Their response: somewhere along the lines of: “I’m so glad you had a great time but I’m even happier you’re home!”
I then usually smile and laugh and that’s that. My entire experience has been “discussed” and we’ve moved on to another topic.
Granted I don’t want to be that annoying girl who is constantly boring everyone with stories of abroad adventures past but still, the whole semester should not and cannot be dismissed as a fun little trip.
Don’t get me wrong, there are several people who are genuinely interested in tales of my trip and will sit and listen to me babble on. But then when that happens I start to get flustered… HOW can I sum it up?! The most amazing experience I’ve ever had is worthy of more than just a few pictures and a few funny stories.
This has forced me to think about some of the “top things” I’ve learned or want to remember so that I can easily spurt out stories or… Basically I’ve come up with what I miss most.
1. Walking/Biking. I miss not having to drive everywhere. Walking to the grocery store. Biking to a friends house. Biking to dinner. Etc. Etc. I used to love driving but now I get an overwhelming sense of anxiety every time I get in the car.
2. The food. I without a doubt had the most delicious good I’ve ever had whilst being abroad. Especially in Copenhagen. Nothing was over processed, very few things were genetically modified, and eating meats was a treat not an every day thing.
3. Hygge and café life. I miss the relaxed lifestyle of European cities. No one is in a rush. There’s time to stroll the streets and sit in a café drinking a cappuccino and nibbling on a pastry. Danes really nailed the idea of hygge (roughly translated to coziness) and I’m trying my best to get bring it back here.
4. The people. I miss my roomie. My housemates. My friends. It’s so bizarre going from seeing and living with people all the time to not seeing them anymore… It’s almost like experiencing a death. Is that too dramatic? Probably so but I miss them a whole lot.
Ugh I could go on for days and days about how wonderful the people are, how amazing the food was, how beautiful the city and the people are, and how much I loved it and how much I miss it but in spare you all… Just be careful asking about my experience because I may not be able to shut up.
As if leaving Copenhagen were not enough of a reason to be emotional, add on the worst travel experience possible and you end up with a sweaty, tear stained, lunatic- aka me circa Sunday between the times of 3:00-5:15.
Let me lay out the scene for you:
The trip to the Copenhagen airport took much longer than expected as the cobblestones and my hefty baggage proved difficult to maneuver to the metro. Finally- we arrived and checked it. $120 later my bags were tagged and sent off to the beautiful US of A. Little did I know going through customs to get onto the plane would take so long and I made it, thankfully, onto the plane with 10 minutes to spare. Now all that was left to do was to sit and try to relax because PRAISE THE LORD I WAS COMING HOME!!
The whole plane ride I couldn’t shake the nauseated feeling that something was wrong.. My boarding pass I printed in CPH only said Washington, DC. No mention of Charlotte… “they’ll give me my boarding pass at the transfer desk” I reassured myself as I attempted to enjoy The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
The time crept slowly by… 7 hours until destination. 6 hours until destination. 4.5 hours until destination. I couldn’t sleep. I felt sick. And there was not a thing I could do about it until I landed and had phone service. “Everything will be okay. You’ll be in the States and it’ll all be good.” … HA!
After reading an entire book, watching the first half of Saving Mr. Banks, and pretending to enjoy the repulsive airplane food… We finally landed.
As soon as I could, I flipped on my phone and attempted to text my mom. Not working. “Hmm must just be bad service. I’ll try again later.”
I was already cutting it close and hoped that I would be escorted through a fast track line so that I could make my connecting flight to Charlotte and be on the way home. NOPE. I was sent through local customs and was told that I had to RECHECK MY BAGS at the United Desk.
(My CPH flight landed at 3:00… My CLT flight took off at 5:19)
It’s 4:00 and I JUST made it through customs.
PANICK stricken I stumble my way with my enormous bags to the United desk where GUESS WHAT? No one assists me. My reference number is not recognized and I cannot print my boarding pass. After being yelled at, and helping an idiot woman print her own boarding pass after three failed attempts, I am finally assisted. $100 later I am paying for my extra bag because no, that payment I made in CPH did not transfer to DC. I think that’s it but NO! “I’m sorry ma’am you’re going to need to remove 5 pounds from this bag otherwise you will have to pay $100 extra dollars…” Impossible. Absolutely impossible. Everything is stuffed to the brim there is absolutely no way this is happening. Tears streaming down my face, I fling my belongings around the room and finally readjust and am headed through security.
I am a mess. I am sweaty as hell. I am crying. I am on the verge of passing out. It’s 4:20 and I am positive I am going to miss my flight.
Looking back on it, I know I looked like a schizophrenic fool muttering to myself under my breath “DEAR LORD” “ARE YOU KIDDING ME” “DAMNIT” etc. And frantically searching through my bags for my passport which I either threw away or left at the United counter. I’m sure I made several people uneasy….
One security guard asks me what’s wrong and I tell him, without taking a breath between my words, that I am late for my flight and I am going to miss it and I CANNOT miss it, I have to get home.
I am escorted into the express lane and think that things are FINALLY okay and I start to relax… I walk through the Xray machine and the woman guard says “ma’am just step aside, someone will be here to assist you.”
I thought “HOW NICE! They’re going to get one of those cart things to speedily take me to my gate. They saw how upset I was and they’re going to help this poor little crying girl get home.”
Boy was I mistaken….
"Ma’am you have been randomly selected for an extensive search please follow me."
WHAT. I immediately burst into sobs. I just knew I was never getting home. Convulsing with tears, I am groped by this wormy little androgynous person in front of everyone in security. Bawling my eyes out as I just know that I am never going to make it home, they wipe down every inch of my belongings- even my innocent little Life is Good monkey, Maurice. My phone still has NO service so I won’t be able to contact my parents and I just know I am going straight to airport jail for acting like a crazy person. FANTASTIC.
It’s 4:50 when I am finally released (boarding started at 4:55) and I SPRINT to the train to take me to my gate. I run like I have never run before, tearing my boarding pass in half, and frantically making it to the gate at 5:10.. “You sure are cutting it close miss.” Astute observation, gate man. I run, heavy breathing, onto the plane and sit down- completely exasperated.
"Oh darlin, did you have to run here?" The sweetest southern voice sitting next to me says. "Yes ma’am, you have no idea the time I just had…."
Several deep breaths and a round of lunatic chuckles to myself later, I was up in the air listening to James Taylor serenade me about my beloved Carolina…. I was going home.
I get off the plane in Charlotte and head towards baggage. At this point I smell so bad and I am so exhausted that I am walking like a zombie towards the exit. I turn the corner to head down some stairs and I see my perfect little family at the bottom with the biggest grins and a sign that read “welcome home sister!!” I’ve never run so fast down a flight of stairs in my life. I collapsed into their arms, sobbed (this time happy tears), and all was right with the world.
If you would have told me on Sunday that I was going to be this torn up about leaving I would have laughed in your face. I was ready. I missed my family. My friends. My people. I was burnt out from an academic semester from hell and just ready to be back home. Oh how the tables have turned…
HOW do you sum up an experience such as study abroad into a bunch of words? There’s no way to accurately portray the range of emotions you go through, the relationships you create, the places you see, the food you eat, the laughs you have, etc. etc. It’s simply indescribable.
These 4+ months have been the most challenging of my life. I came to Copenhagen completely out of my comfort zone, separated from all of the people I love the most and who knew me best, and was then thrown into an entirely different universe and culture with people who did not know me from Adam’s house cat. I was terrified.
Yet, somehow, by the grace of God, I was okay. I was more than okay. How lucky was I? I had a chance to rediscover things about myself, challenge myself, and to be a version of myself untainted from any past events or relationships. I discovered my humor, what makes me angry, what I like about people, what I dislike about people, a new sense of fashion, a passion for traveling, the list goes on and on. I’ve learned so much about myself in this process and to be honest I am amazed that I was able to do it. I would be lying if I said it was a breeze- that is absolutely not the case. I had my fair share of doubtful moments and moments where I questioned whether studying abroad was the right thing for me to do, but in the end it was entirely worth it and I will be forever a better version of myself because of this experience.
There’s absolutely no way that I would have had half of the amazing experience that I did if it weren’t for the beautiful souls I was so fortunate to live with, travel with, and study with. You all know who you are, and all I can say is THANK YOU. Thank you for laughing with me (and at me), for tolerating my silliness, my singing, and my infatuation with Shrek, for caring for me and most of all for showing me that there are people in this world who are genuinely good with kind hearts. Thank you to each and every one of you for making my experience what it was and for allowing me to take part in yours. My heart is so full for knowing you and it aches at the thought of goodbye. You people have touched my heart in the best way possible and I am all the more better of a person because of it. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.