I am here checking in with my last blog post of the semester. I have officially been back in the United States for about 10 days and can say that I have gotten completely gotten over my jet lag. It took a few days, but things are finally back to normal in that regard. In today’s blog post, I’m going to reflect a little bit on the entirety of my experience and talk a little bit about the differences between London and the United States that I have noticed since being back.
My final weeks in Copenhagen after my last blog were amazing. The weather was still cold, but there was plenty of sunshine and two of my friends came to visit. I finally went to Tivoli, the amusement park I had heard so much about. It was so much fun, and I was so shocked at how clean it was! It was nothing like Six Flags or Busch Gardens like I expected. Visiting all of my favorite restaurants was also a fun way to say goodbye to the city. I especially miss all of the brunch plates that seemed to be offered at every restaurant.
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.
Now that I am back in good old Virginia, I can honestly say I am so grateful for every experience, challenge, and mishap that occurred during my time abroad in London. I have noticed some large changes in myself since being abroad. First off, being in a foreign, huge city and traveling so much has helped me be able to adapt to some stressful situations. For example, on my first train to the airport I missed my stop and watched as the person I was traveling with became smaller and smaller on the train platform I was supposed to be on as well. With the help of a kind stranger on the train I quickly regained composure and had a plan to get to the airport. I also think it has made me a bit more vocal. This is because while traveling sometimes it is best to just ask someone for help or directions instead of trying to figure it out yourself or by looking it up on your phone. Before coming here I strongly disliked asking others for help and would rather take more time to do it on my own. Traveling and being clueless at some points while traveling lessened my unwillingness to ask (sometimes stupid) questions.
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.