Finding Home

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by Elyssa Brezel | DIS Copenhagen, Fall 2015

Originally written on February 19, 2016

My first considerations of study abroad relied exclusively on the image of traveling each weekend. Seeing other cities over the course of a semester appealed to me more than the thought of a calling a country home. In a way, the home base country was the price I had to pay for new passport stamps and new adventures elsewhere in the world.

I arrived in Denmark, pleasantly surprised and unsurprisingly overwhelmed with the place I picked out of a pamphlet of options. I kept to the mandatory rule imposed by the host university: no leaving the country until our student residence visas would arrive three weeks into the semester. But once I picked up my identification card, I booked a last-minute flight to Norway, ready to see the fjords and ready to fulfill my promise to see as much of Europe as possible. 

The first time I arrived home after a weekend away, I faintly felt it. It was the feeling of knowing the subway lines, of knowing whether to wait for the late 9A bus or walk the distance instead and of knowing which grocery store sold zucchinis, a particularly difficult find in Copenhagen. It was finding home in the unexpected.

Each trip away, no matter how worthwhile and enhancing, could never trump the relief I felt when the plane landed on the tarmac at the Copenhagen Airport. I came to trust the Danes, and I felt privileged to be involved in their clan-like, protective culture. One cold night towards the end of the semester, a late-night walk home necessitated a pause on the bridge into Christianshavn as we waited for the rest of our group to join us at the top. Whereas in the United States, I’d fear an approaching figure in the darkness, I knew I was in Denmark, and I knew I was safe. He wanted to make sure we were alright, and once assured, he continued on his way. I had always been so careful with who I trusted; Denmark taught me to believe in the power of the other. 

The next wave of study abroad students have left for their new homes, and the wave to follow after is messaging me to find out about the place I treasured. I see their adventures play out on Facebook, I respond to their questions, and I know Denmark will always be an impossibly perfect imprint on my life.