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.
The United States is more than just my home, and it is more than a place where water is free in restaurants. The United States offers unparalleled opportunity for people of all races and creeds. While we may struggle at times to achieve this vision full, we still make a greater attempt than the vast majority of countries in the world. Only after seeing the poverty and various economic systems in place throughout Europe can I fully appreciate the capitalism and rule of law present in our home country. I knew that the U.S. was a great country. Being abroad has helped to confirm this.
When I look back at the letter I wrote myself at the start of my program, I recognize just how effective DIS was in meeting my abroad goals. I experienced greater Europe, met students from local universities, and studied topics that have enhanced my business education. The program allowed me to learn about the European business and political environment, and to judge the benefits and drawbacks of working overseas. Copenhagen was an ideal home base for the semester. As I accurately predicted, the degree to which the Danes spoke English took away a significant cultural barrier and aided in my assimilation. Also, the act of flying more than 20 times in 4 months certainly “developed my skills as a traveler” (see original blog post).
One such key skill that I grew as a traveler this semester was vigilance. I recall when my friends and I visited a street market in Marrakech, Morocco. I was chatting with a vendor about a small glass turtle when I felt a pressure on my left hip. When I turned I noticed a young child of about five years walking briskly away from me. Upon checking my pockets, I noticed that nothing was missing. However, I warned my friends to move their items to their front pockets and to be on the lookout. Now that I am home with sufficient time to reevaluate that situation, I realize that this child was not intending to steal what was in my pockets. As I have now confirmed via reports on the internet, pickpockets in Morocco send out small children to tap the pockets of the patrons (presumably wealthy and ignorant tourists) and see in which pocket the valuables are located. While I felt upset at the time that my personal items were under siege, it is easy to understand why some in that country have resorted to stealing. The quality of life is not great, and there are very few new jobs being created to earn an honest living. Though I cannot condone this sort of behavior, I can understand it.
Another topic that I broached in my initial blog post was stereotypes about Danes. I mist admit that going into this semester I knew very little about Denmark. So little, in fact, that I couldn’t even associate a stereotype with the culture. Instead, I leaned on stereotypes about Scandinavians in general. I referenced how they won’t all sound like the “Swedish chef” when they spoke, and noted their focus on the arts and public spending. As the semester wore on, I was introduced to stereotypes that specifically concerned the Danes. For one, Danes love the color black. They dress head to toe in dark colors, and give you sideways glances for wearing bright colors. This stereotype held true throughout the semester. Another interesting stereotype that I heard upon arriving in Copenhagen was that Danes were stuck up. After spending a semester in Copenhagen, however, I realize that people were confusing the Danish tendency to mind one’s own business and talk to those they know as arrogance. In reality, Danes were very polite when I approached them in bars, parks, etc.
It was a wonderful semester, but I am thrilled to be home and starting what wil be a very important summer. I have had very few challenges reintegrating into American society, mostly due to the fact that four months just isn’t very long. It is certainly long enough develop a stronger perspective on the world and learn about a new culture, but not long enough to forget one’s own. I have enjoyed jay-walking here in New York City since I have been back. It is a major benefit of living in a large American city. While my experience this summer will be aided by the classes and case studies I participated in this semester, it will not be shifted. I cannot say that Copenhagen has vastly altered my career trajectory. It has, however, given me a new perspective with which to view markets and firm operations.
It is with the above forward-looking notes that must sadly conclude my study abroad correspondence. I have enjoyed every minute of the process.