I have been home for a while now and now that I’ve had some time to relax I’ve been able to process my experience! For the most part, the expectations that I had set for my program were met. I loved my classes and living downtown in Copenhagen was a blast. I think that my program did a good job navigating the pandemic because I felt very safe the whole time I was there. The things that I didn’t expect that were challenging were out of the program’s control. Like the heatwave, for example, was hard because I was on the 6th floor of my building with no air conditioning! But it did make me go swimming more which I loved.
FEA asked me to set three goals for my trip before I departed. The first one was to connect with professors and other students who are interested in education and health care. My professor for my child development class was passionate about making quality education accessible for all young children. She was not afraid to talk about the flaws of the system and it helped form my perspective on how it can be improved. I also met a lot of students who are going into the healthcare field, and we frequently discussed it because Danes don’t pay out of pocket for their healthcare, it is paid for by their taxes. These were interesting discussions to have and they expanded my perspective on healthcare issues.
One of the things I’ve learned throughout college is that even though not every class I take is career-related, I can think about ways I can use what I learned to be a better clinician. Although I did not take any healthcare-related class I learned about ways that nature and play can be incorporated into healthcare for young children.
My second goal was to form friendships with local people in Copenhagen. I set this goal because I wanted to branch out and connect with Danes. This goal was more difficult than the first one because the people I lived and went to class with were all other students from America. I was able to meet other Danes my age on school trips and when I was out and about in Copenhagen. I really enjoyed getting to chat with the tour guide on a food tour that I was on because we compared her experience going to college in Denmark with my experience going to college in America. There were other times where I got to chat with Danes, but I didn’t see them enough to form any friendships with them. However, studying abroad has shown me how fun it is to learn in a new place. I’m interested in hosting study abroad students from other countries when I am older! Maybe if I do that, I will be able to connect with people from other countries on a deeper level.
My third goal was to learn more about Danish culture and how to say common phrases in Danish. I definitely learned a lot about the culture after living there and studying for seven weeks. I also learned a lot of common phrases, which I wrote about in my Week 7 post!
One thing that changed about me is that I am less likely to consider things to be “normal” because of how all countries do things differently. These can even be little things, like asking for a check at dinner instead of waiting for the waiter to bring it. One of those isn’t the “normal” way, it just depends on where you are. The same goes for the things I learned in my class, like how Danish teachers supervise kids differently than American ones.
While my trip was great overall, I did face some obstacles. The biggest one was missing my family and friends. I wouldn’t necessarily call it homesickness, because I wanted to be in Denmark and explore new places. I just wished my family and friends were with me! It was hard to be away from them for almost two months. But this allowed me to be by myself and go out of my comfort zone. I’m used to traveling with people I’m familiar with, so this was the first time I was on my own. I got to visit places by myself, which had some positives to it. I could stay as long as I wanted to and make all of the decisions about where I went. I’m very grateful that I got to do this because it made me more independent.
My trip taught me a lot that I will be able to use in the rest of my education and future career. I have one more year at Portland State University where I’m getting my degree in psychology. Then I plan to go to grad school for occupational therapy. I’d like to work with children in schools, so I’ll be able to apply Danish early childhood concepts to my job! Nonetheless, I made the best memories in Copenhagen that I will cherish for the rest of my life!