After being home for a couple of weeks and reflecting on my experience with all of my close family and friends I can honestly say it was life changing. I traveled to 10 countries in 4 months and got to see some of the most beautiful sites. I also met unbelievable people and friendships that I will cherish for a lifetime. It is surreal to think this all happened in only one semester and I feel so blessed every time I think about it. First I want to thank my parents for allowing me to go on this adventure because it wouldn’t have been possible without their support. They are truly amazing and have allowed me to explore the world far more than they both have. I am also extremely thankful to UVa and the Comm School for setting me up in such a great program and allowing me to take my classroom overseas.
I honestly can’t believe my time abroad is coming to an end. I have one week left in Copenhagen and it is surreal that I have been living here for 4 months. I think I am ready to go home, but not ready to leave this amazing place. Of course I am excited to see all of my family and friends but I am also sad to say goodbye to all of my new friends here in Denmark. It is crazy to think that in 4 months I have made such lasting friendships and I cant believe that I might never see some of them again. Obviously I will stay in touch with them, but we will never have the chance to live together for an entire semester together again. We’ve shared so many incredible memories together, and it is sad to have to say goodbye so soon. I am also having a hard time letting go of this new home I have created here in Copenhagen, and the community I have immersed myself in. A community I have come to deeply appreciate through the horrible accident that has just occurred. No one could have imagined such a horrible thing to happen to two of our own in this DIS community but when it did we all looked to each other for support. I have found myself having conversations with my new friends far deeper than some that I have had with friends from home. The boat accident really shook the community and it truly showed how great this community is. I am so thankful for this amazing experience to have brought me together with all of these amazing people.
For my 6th post I’d like to start to write a HEC how-to guide that I wish I had before coming here. There are about of things about HEC itself that I wish I knew earlier. The first thing is that HEC Paris is actually 1.5 hrs away from Paris by train and about 30 min by car. The cheapest way to get to the city is by the Savac shuttle (HEC only), but the hours can be weird. Next cheapest is the RER trains, uber pool is good if you are going with a friend, or uber x for bigger groups. There is also a HEC Facebook group, where you can request a ride, or respond to an offer for a few euros. Also, if you plan on traveling in Europe, don’t book a flight with Ryanair because it only leaves Paris from Beauvais, which is SUPER expensive and time-consuming to get to.
My return home has not been as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. I have only been home 9 days but it feels like forever. I thought it would feel really weird to be home but it honestly has not. Besides being a bit bored, I’m not sure I have really processed the fact that I lived in Copenhagen for four months and now I am home. I think I am still experiencing the initial excitement of being home and seeing everyone I missed.
Having re-read my initial letter to myself, I look back contently on the semester, knowing that I mostly fulfilled the goals which I set out for myself prior to leaving. With the exception of wishing I had met more Danes, I think I surpassed most of my own expectations going in to the semester. Firstly, I challenged myself to meet new people with an open mind, not sticking to myself, but rather constantly searching for a new adventure or activity with different people. I was worried I would only remain friends with other UVa students, but I instead forged incredible bonds with other DIS students, going on trips all over Europe with them. Furthermore, I am glad knowing that these friendships won’t end with the end of the semester, as I already have plans to visit of few of these friends at Vanderbilt next semester.
My experience abroad has certainly changed me as a person. As I have outlined in my previous blogs, this experience has taught me to be more independent and has made me more adept at handling stressful/challenging situations. It has also made me more worldly. This comes not just as the result of having seen many countries, but because of the people and cultures therein. I recall my favorite trip to Morocco, where the most beautiful 3-climate zone vistas were contrasted by stark poverty. If you had asked me prior to going on this trip whether the people of that country were wealthy, I would have been able to tell you that they weren’t. However, there is something to actually seeing for yourself the conditions in which the rest of the world lives. In this way, my abroad experience has not so much changed my perspective on the world as it has developed it. Relaxing here in the U.S.A., I have a renewed sense of the blessing that I have been given.
postcard sent 3/29
Being back in the states I have already begun to miss my previous home for the past 4 months. I miss wandering around Malasana looking for a new restaurant. I miss hearing Spanish on the streets and conversing with people from a totally different culture. I miss going to a sports bar filled with passionate soccer fans knowledgeable about the team and the sport. Thinking about these things along with countless other make me nostalgic about my time abroad. At the same time being home has been amazing. I’ve been able to spend time with my family lounging on the couch watching stupid TV shows, cooking with my mom, and playing tennis with my dad. The familiarity of life back in Arlington is comforting and very relaxing and it really didn’t take much time at all to adjust.
As my time abroad came to an end I spent some time reflecting on my experience in Madrid. I remember just a few weeks before my flight I had second thoughts about my decision to study abroad. Staying in Charlottesville would’ve been the easy way out. I already have a group of friends, I’ll only be two hours away from home, and I’m already familiar with with how things work around campus. Deciding to go abroad was a huge leap of faith for me. Countless people it would be the time of my life but I still had some concerns. I had never been away from my family for this long, I didn’t know anyone going in, and Madrid seemed so foreign to me. I remember even a week or so before leaving talking with my parents about bailing and just staying at UVA for the semester. Looking back I totally get where I was coming from but I’m also so glad I made the choice to step out of my comfort zone and try something that made me nervous. Although every day abroad wasn’t the coolest thing ever, as a whole my experience was completely amazing. I saw some amazing places, met some awesome people and lived in a city all on my own. I don’t want to get too philosophical and pretend like my trip completely changed me, but there are a few lessons that I learned through my experience that will stick with me long after leaving Madrid.
I am now just two days away from going home, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. About a week ago, I thought I was ready to return to America, as I had spent long enough here to get everything out of the experience that I had wanted coming in. And though I still believe that for the most part, and I am still more excited than ever to see my friends and family, I’m starting to reconsider how “ready” I am to leave. First off, some people have already left, and I don’t think it fully hit me that I was actually leaving until a few close friends left and I realized that I may never see them again. Obviously I will stay in touch with them, but we will never spend an entire semester together again as we did this semester. I’ve shared incredible memories with those friends, and it’s odd having to say goodbye. I initially thought of my friends and family as only in America, but I now realize I also am a part of a community here in Denmark, and I’m not ready to say goodbye. Furthermore, a tragic accident happened a few days ago on a boat, the same boat that I had been on just a day before, and it really shook the community here, including myself. However, it also made me all the more aware of how great this community is and how close we’ve become, as we mourned the losses of two fellow students. I had friends who I had never met prior to this semester, and I was now having deep conversations with them, turning to them during that hard time, again making me realize how close I had become with them. We’ve already planned trips to visit one another, but it won’t be the same as spending a semester together in this place we now call home, a bond we will forever share and will be hard to replicate again.