Now What?? A Few Things I Learned While Abroad and What Happens Next
Hi everyone! I’ve been back home in the US for about two weeks now. I will admit that I did have a bit of reverse culture shock when I first came back. Instead of cobblestone streets and my yellow bike, I was back to driving my van in the suburbs. Instead of my favorite Danish coffee shop and pastries, I was back in my favorite pizza place because, after all, nothing beats New York pizza. I was reunited with a lot of my high school friends, some of whom I even gave advice to because they are studying abroad during the spring semester. I also turned 21 and went to Florida! Needless to say, it’s been a whirlwind two weeks of being home, but I’ve finally had some time to reflect about my incredible abroad experience before heading back to Amherst very soon.
I thought I would point out some of the most important things I gained from my time abroad, and hopefully reflect on how and why they could impact the rest of my academic and life career paths. The most important skill I gained from being abroad for four months was, for sure, a newfound independence. Before moving to Denmark, starting college a few years ago felt like a huge deal. This experience however, of being in a new city, in a new school, and having to make new friends, felt 10 times more overwhelming at first. However, having to deal with all of these new things at one time proved to be an exciting challenge as someone who could not have been more ready to experience life truly on my own for the first time. My abroad program, DIS, could not have made the transition to life in Denmark easier. We had a great orientation program, and my Social Resident Advisor hosted a courtyard BBQ for the whole building to get to know each other right away.
Besides these few introduction-type events, however, I was on my own. Left to fill my weekdays post-class, and weekends with whatever I wished. I had complete freedom in a new city. This feeling was overwhelming at times, but mostly, I would say that it was refreshing! Free afternoon? Go explore a castle. Not sure what to have for dinner? Hit up a food market with friends from my Danish class. Everything was so new and different that every day felt like an adventure. I touched on a few of these new experiences in my past blog posts, including figuring out the best ways to stay fit without my Amherst teammates, as well as learning how to cook for myself. All of these new things took getting used to, but soon became routine, causing me to automatically feel more independent and self-sufficient. I learned how to budget, how to plan trips, and how to relate to people that were not from where I was.
Something else I took away from my abroad experience I did not expect to gain, was clarity in an academic sense. I would say that I definitely focused in a little bit more on what I want to achieve and learn during the rest of my time at Amherst. Through some of the classes I took in Copenhagen, I gained a new interest in Human Rights Law, a more specific field than what I had been looking at through my LJST major at Amherst. These classes, along with my school trip to Bosnia to study war crimes, have ignited a new passion in me that I didn’t realize was there.
Oddly enough, being so far away from Amherst and my hometown gave me a greater appreciation and love for the school I go to at home. My program abroad had over 1,000 students, more than double what my class is at Amherst. I love the close-knit feeling I have walking around Amherst’s campus. It could not feel more different from a city. I also feel like even though I loved my professors at DIS, nothing compares to the esteemed life experience that the Amherst professors bring to the table, regardless of the type or size of the class. I can’t wait to go back and experience these things again.
Overall, I could not be more thankful for the opportunity to study abroad in Copenhagen. As an athlete, it was a dream come true to have this experience while also continuing to play my sport and not miss a beat back at Amherst. I want to thank the DIS program, as well as the Global Education Office, for pointing me in the right direction and for being there for me every step of the way. I would highly recommend any student who has the chance to study abroad to take it and run with it. It was more special than I could have ever imagined.