How Studying Abroad Helped Me Lose Myself

The best thing I have done for myself this semester is deciding not to buy a bike. As ironic as that sounds (since I live in Copenhagen, a place where biking is so prevalent), I feel I shall have to defend my stance. Because I do not have a bike, I walk. I've taken the bus for emergencies, but I made a pact with myself this semester that if I wanted to get to know Copenhagen and all of its parts, I needed to walk on the cobblestone beneath me.

Each 20-25 minute walk to and from school was me-time. I observed the runners on the lakes, mothers and fathers rushing their kids to school, and the insanely attractive businessmen and women dressed in tailored suits or power-jackets. I saw dogs prancing along for their morning walk after having to go to the bathroom for so long, and I saw relationships flourish outside of the Glass Market when sharing meals with friends. I got to see children running around on playgrounds and couples having lunch in parks, sharing love and sunshine. I have seen drunk teenagers peeing in front of my house (literally on the gate), migrants hiding under shelter in storms, and guards now standing 24/7 outside of the synagogue. More than once (or a thousand times), I saw Amnesty workers, UNICEF, and Care workers waving their hands in my face, one after the other, informing me of more of the world’s disasters. I saw the good, the bad, and the hungry. Though a bike seems more “culturally” fitting, I chose to walk, and I am thankful for every moment in the rain, sun, and never-ending wind.

As I said, these walks gave me time to breathe, think, and listen to myself, as well. My cell phone stayed in the off-position until I reached DIS. Recently, I have been paying more attention to what Denmark has done for me. Especially with all of these end-of-term reflection papers. Before I left, a few of my friends had gone abroad, came back, and said, “Being abroad didn’t really change me. It was really cool though!” That was the most I’d receive after asking about six months of their lives. When I come back, I shall say, “Being abroad helped me lose myself.”

Now you must see this and immediately ask, “What terrible thing happened that made you lose yourself? Why not find yourself?” My response? I have been given the chance not just to be completely independent, but also to realize that parts of me were broken down to their foundational states and reincarnated. I feel as if my fourth grade self (the one with nerdy Harry Potter glasses and a collection of Pokémon cards) was reborn. But I was also able to peek into my future as the woman I hope to become one day. I went from expecting to go to law school or grad school right after Kenyon to understanding that I am not ready – and that is more than okay. I learned that my passion for animals has been ignored, cooking will always be my number one passion, working in the legal system in other ways is possible, my parents are the soul mates of my world, and I oddly like doing the dishes.

I look back and realize this: If I had chosen to put my money away in a safe somewhere or put it towards going to graduate school instead of studying abroad, then I would not understand myself as I do today. Especially if I hadn’t studied abroad in Denmark, where the rebel, the confident woman, the goal-seeking go-getter, and the can’t stop-won’t stop human being in me have been released. These feelings may appear extreme to some and unprecedented to others. But maybe some people will read this and understand. Either way, my fourth grade self would probably just give you a hug and walk away, because we always need a little more love in our lives.