This past spring, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Copenhagen and started a travel blog as part of their student media team. “Goodbye, Copenhagen” is my farewell piece!
It’s been a month since my time abroad in Denmark has officially ended. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t feel real: that I’ve been living and breathing on another continent for the past four months. It feels equally unreal that I’m suddenly back in the States after those four months, and that life is just back to “normal”—if there was ever such a normalcy in the first place.
My last day in Copenhagen was full of melancholy as I walked to the same old grocery store, rode the metro back to my apartment, and followed the same old route to take out the trash. Knowing that this would be the last time I would be seeing all these uninteresting, yet endearing sights, I couldn’t help but wish that my time in Europe would last a little longer. But everything has to come to an end. I wanted to share some of the precious memories, places, and people that I’m grateful for.
Hygge in Copenhagen
“Hygge” is a Danish term that doesn’t have an exact translation to English—but it refers to a general feeling of coziness and warmth. I like to think of it as the feeling I get drinking hot chocolate in the winter, wrapped in a comforter and with my favorite book in hand. Denmark has a cold climate, so it seems all the more appropriate that such a central part of Danish culture is related to coziness. Some of the things that brought me hygge were movie nights (at home and at the nearby Cinemaxx), studying at Studenterhuset with the classic coffee & croissant combo, and biking to the beach alone to enjoy the sea breeze. Like this, I came to appreciate the ability to take life slowly, one step at a time, and to appreciate the simple things. I don’t think I ever got tired of being able to just stop in the middle of the street, take a look around, and think, “Wow, I’m in Europe right now.” Knowing that my time was limited probably made even the littlest things feel profound. But if you think about it, life is itself limited, so I’m hoping to continue and bring that slower attitude back with me to my relatively fast-paced college life back home.
One point that really struck me was discussing the Danish education system in my Danish Language & Culture class (would highly recommend taking for anyone interested in DIS!*) The teacher brought up how most Danish students would take one or two gap years after high school—if not more. There’s never one “specific” way to spend your gap years; but the general idea was to take the time to learn more about the world, and about yourself, before continuing on to college and settling on a career path. Later on, we even went to a local Danish high school and talked to students, getting to ask about specific plans for their gap years: traveling the world, working at a parent’s business, getting involved in the community— amongst many others. I found it super fascinating that it was such a given, in Denmark, to be able to take the time to discover what you wanted. And it got me thinking back to my time as a high school senior—did I truly know what I wanted to do? No. Of course not. And even now, as I’m about to finish my last year in college, I’m only just starting to get a sense of what I think my strengths and weaknesses are. There’s no way that almost four years ago I could have known these things about myself with such certainty. In fact, my clearest memories of senior year were scrambling to write college essays and applications—trying to craft a perfect “image” and “brand” for myself. It’s only now that I realize how much of a stretch the whole idea is. But it’s also sad that before, I had always thought that it was the norm.
Being in Copenhagen has given me the opportunity to hold so many precious people, memories, places, and experiences close to my heart. I started writing this farewell post about two weeks ago—but it took me another two to complete it. Before then, the list of things I wanted to say about Copenhagen felt like they were overwhelming; at the same time, when it was just me and the blank page, the words suddenly vanished. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to let go of my memories here; I feel saying goodbye to this and to my blog feels a little too permanent. But as they say — you never know where life will take you. So I guess it’s hej hej for now, Copenhagen. I’ll see you again someday.
*DIS Study Abroad in Scandinavia – popular study abroad program for undergraduates.
Ever since starting a travel blog about my time abroad, I always knew that I would have to write a beginning post, and a goodbye post. Writing the first post was easy: I could go on and on about all the worries I had, all the anticipation and excitement, and how I looked forward to traveling. But writing the last post was a lot harder than I had thought. Looking back, it felt like almost every moment of those four months in Copenhagen had been special; and I didn’t know what words could even come close to being able to describe those emotions and feelings. I kept thinking, writing, and rewriting. I came to accept that there was no way I could encompass all of 4 months into one post; so here is the final version that I have settled on.
Joanna Tan is a Biology and Computer Science major at Williams College from Brooklyn, New York. In her free time, she likes reading webtoons, watching e-sports commentary and listening to pop music. She’s interested in pursuing a career in software engineering or working in systems biology research after college. This is her second year as a Girls Write Now mentee.