I have taken about 16,300 pictures and have shot about 34 (very) amateur video clips in these past four months while studying abroad in Europe.
These pixels tell a story of nervous excitement and astounding moments of wonder. There are many countries and cities featured which partly dot the landscape of one impeccable continent. They showcase the life of living in a foreign city in a foreign country, teaching us that learning is not limited to the classroom or that the daily nuances of life can make a regular, average day that much more exciting. They also dive into the lives of people who call these great places their home, not just sticking to the tourist trail, but rather using this trail as a backbone, branching off into the unknown parts of a city, of a countryside, of a culture.
It’s hard to believe that I can still remember starting my Denmark blog, excited to be able to regularly annotate my experiences, journeys, memories, and trials on a constant surface. Now that I have seven hours left in the apartment that I once called home for four amazingly quick months, memories of what has been and what will forever be rush back through my mind like the indescribable Gullfoss of Iceland or a raging Tivoli roller coaster in downtown Copenhagen.
The challenge now, as I write this final post to close out the latest chapter of this grand storybook of life, is to make sure that this time spent in Denmark does not go by like a Copenhagen summer sun shower. Not just because I know many people will be asking many (many, many, many) questions about everything Europe-related, but also because of the magnitude of what I actually just went through. Sure, based on much it flew, it can feel like any trip to Europe, but it’s so much more than that. I LIVED ABROAD. I lived in another country, independent (somewhat), and free to go off and make this as enjoyable an experience as possible. I had the chance and opportunity to make a city like Copenhagen my own, a place which started out unfamiliar but now is stuck on me like the first glance of the Norwegian fjords. Sure, the travel, the seeing all the wonderful sights that have been placed on earth, the frequent flying, the hostels…all this certainly have made it quite a journey, but I would be remissly denying the point of this whole semester if I fail to talk about the meat of this time, which was really spent in an around my home base of Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital city.
Taking a different way to get to class through colorful side streets, filled with vintage shops and atmospheric cafes. Watching the swans relax on the lakes as you huff and puff around it on what has been your only time in recent years where you intentionally decided to go on a run. Being that guy taking photos inside restaurants, cafes, etc. in order to capture the feelings and vibes and soul found in every nook and cranny of a place. Trying out new experiences that you might not have ever experienced in you ‘normal’ life (i.e….pubs, bars, gay clubs, champagne, helping to lead youth group, etc.). Forgetting your kilpkort in your room and making what should have been an easy 40 minute train ride into a long, stress-ridden bus and then train ride, last for at least 40 minutes longer. Voluntarily plopping yourself in an apartment building full of 19 strangers and leaving that feeling sad to have to go. Hearing other students be jealous of your core class because of how tight-knit a group you are (and how you willingly hang out together, even after your core class or study tour is over). Knowing that the locals actually understand and appreciate your view and outlook on the upcoming semester, resulting in some pretty amazing friendships with some pretty amazing Danes. Building even more godly relationships which span international borders and continents. Intentionally walking or taking public transportation out to one of the many urban neighborhoods and simply walking, snapping photos along the way (it doesn’t look touristy if no other tourists are there, am I right?). Spending the final night laughing until your sides hurt with new Danish friends whom you love to pieces. Enjoying a delicious white hot chocolate in a very hyggeligt cafe with some other amazing people, refusing to say the ‘g-b’ word.
This is what an experience studying abroad is really about. It’s not solely about the international travel, or even inter-city travel. It’s not about how many times you Skype or Facebook chat your friends and family back home, saying ‘I’m in _______’. An experience studying abroad is personal. It forces a person to look inside themselves, notice qualities that they had no prior knowledge, and be an experience which leaves a person utterly speechless and amazed by all that has happened in such a short time. It’s supposed to be a time when you can’t believe how fast it flies by because you just want to stay in this new life for a long time. This is when your travel bug NEEDS to go on hibernation for a little while, since the number of times you have dived deeper and deeper into a culture has left you in sensory overload. It’s supposed to be a time when you don’t want to leave, but you also want to head back, since you are more aware of how special the place you live, go to school, and/or call home is. It’s when you realize that the little, familiar things that seemed unnecessary before become amplified and all the more necessary.
As I leave later today for Boston (hopefully), I admit that I am not saddened. It has been a great..no…is there a word that is stronger and not as overused as amazing?…experience, with people, places, memories, and stories that will live on through these pictures and videos for years and years to come. It is gone for now, but I am determined to make it back in the air again, heading for some unknown destination, God-willing. The feelings a person receives from travel and/or living/studying abroad are exhilarating and, frankly, hard to put into words unless you experience them yourself……but it’s all extremely worth it in the end.