I’m back on campus after having just spent the last semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark and I’m better than ever. Yes, I had an amazing time and I loved traveling around Europe, but I learned the hard way that it isn’t always Instagram worthy moments. People only think it is, because who wants to post a photo of themselves just lying in bed or struggling to translate everything in the grocery store or sitting alone on the metro? I had to carefully curate my abroad experience on social media. The abroad experience is more than just those amazing captured moments. It’s about learning to be an adult, except its twice as hard because you have to do it in a completely new country. But now that I’m back and all the wiser, I want to give the lowdown to those who are thinking about studying abroad or those who had extreme FOMO while watching my Snap Stories about the REAL abroad experience. It’s not always sightseeing and eating waffles.
Keeping Yourself Alive
Studying abroad is an immediate jump into adulthood. Since Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in the world ($7 for a cup of coffee, just to put it into perspective), I couldn’t just eat out every night. I had to cook. One small thing was that I had never cooked in my life. So, with a little help from my mom via FaceTime, I taught myself. I learned how to make edible and, might I add, enjoyable food. I can now whip up a mean homemade Bolognese. Yelp gives it a 10/10.
Remembering You Have Classes
I got so caught up in the fact that I was in a new city that I totally forgot my purpose for actually being there. You still have to somewhat “study” during your study abroad experience. You can’t just be like “oh, I’m going to skip classes to go on a booze cruise with my friends to Norway for the week,” because you still need to pass your classes. Also you can’t just roll out of bed to go to class, because you have a 20-minute metro ride ahead of you. That commute is imperative to calculate into your routine.
Traveling is Draining
The best part about studying abroad in Europe is that it is easy to travel throughout the EU. When I first traveled to Munich, I didn’t know you didn’t have to go through customs or show your passport. For a good 30 minutes I truly believed I had entered Germany illegally. However, my first week there I was meeting a ton of people who had plans to travel around Europe. Due to my social anxiety and my own personal FOMO, I frantically made several weekend travel plans with friends from college. I only had a weekend in each city I visited, so there was no time for nap breaks! I needed to see everything to get the most out of my experience. And it was worth it, but once I got back to Copenhagen I needed to sleep for a week straight. Also I had about 30 cents to my name after the semester was over.
Realizing One is Truly the Loneliest Number
I spent most of my days alone. By myself. Not a single friend in sight. And it makes sense. I lived in a single. I would wake up, commute to school, go to class, commute home, cook dinner, watch seven hour-long episodes of Gilmore Girls, and then go to bed. As a student abroad, you are a commuter. I lived a little outside of the city, so it was an effort to go into the city on a school night to see friends. I was exhausted after my day because of all the commuting and sitting in classes, so once I was back in my apartment, I was there for the night. At least I had Rory and Lorelai by my side.
Dealing With Darkness, My Old Friend
Another reason I wanted to just stay in my room once I got home was because at 3:00pm it would be pitch black. And for me, I equate darkness with bedtime. Also, I should have realized this was going to be the case – I was in Scandinavia: the land of cold and darkness. Who wants to be outside when it’s windy, dark, and freezing? Now you can understand why watching seven hours worth of Gilmore Girls a night was necessary.
Now, if you’re thinking, “who in their right mind would want to study abroad?” don’t jump to conclusions. Everything that I learned abroad definitely made me a more independent person. I became a local in a completely new city, who was able to finally navigate her way around without even looking at Google Maps. It was a nice peek into the post graduation, real world life. I seriously feel like I can take on anything now – learning to cook can really do that to you. I do encourage people to go abroad. It may not be as glamorous as it looks on your news feeds, but it is an experience you’ll always have with you.