Pre-departure thoughts: coursework, expectations, hopes and fears

Only a few days left until my departure for Copenhagen!  I can’t believe how fast this last week has come up.  I began the whole application process over a year ago, fumbling through my options and creating quite a headache at the study abroad office.  I started with Ukraine, jumped to London, considered Australia and Scotland, and even thought about South Africa.  I asked a million questions and spent hours on Google researching my possible destinations.

With about a month left until the deadline, I stumbled upon Copenhagen.  I didn’t know much about Denmark.  I’ve heard about it a few times before – its egalitarian society, low crime rates, high taxation, utopian aspirations.  Sounded pretty interesting, and it was somewhat off the beaten path.  As the days went by, I realized how perfectly Denmark fit into my course work.  I’m particularly interested in religion/politics; Denmark provides a fascinating case study where religion supposedly plays an insignificant role in daily life, and I’ll be conducting some research on this issue while abroad.

I’ll be taking 5 courses: Humanitarian Law & Armed Conflict (my “core course”), Kierkegaard’s Authorship (Copenhagen’s famous existential thinker), Muslims in the West (a sociological approach), EU-US Relations, and Danish Language & Culture.  When I’m not reading or studying, I plan on exploring as much as possible, both in Copenhagen and beyond.  DIS (Danish Institute of Study Abroad – the program that is organizing my whole semester) provides many immersion opportunities, and I am even going to Bosnia and Herzegovina with my core class to study the Yugoslavian civil wars.

I will be living in a dorm-style apartment with one other roommate and several other Americans living on my floor, and together I think we’ll all be able to handle the proverbial “culture shock” a little better!  To be honest, I’m quite nervous going abroad, and though I’m really excited to go to Copenhagen, I’m not even sure if I want to leave Georgetown in the first place!  I really have it all on the Hilltop – a solid friendship network that’s already 5 semesters strong, world-class faculty, a gorgeous campus, and all of the perks of living in the political capital of the world (I think rather highly of DC!).  I could not imagine being anywhere else but Georgetown.

Why in the world would I want to leave it all?  For a city on the other side of the world filled with new strangers, new laws, new food, new culture?   It’s certainly a leap of faith – and a giant one at that.  There’s a lot of risks involved, especially compared to a place like Georgetown, where everything is just so familiar.

What exactly am I nervous about? About making new friends in a culture where people are supposed to be relatively private and keep to themselves; leaving old friends behind in the States; the dark winter months, where the sun rarely comes out during the day; new social norms that may take some time to adjust to; commuting to class every day on the public buses and subways; meeting my “visiting family” for the first time.

A lot of friends ask me why I’m leaving.  I ask myself the same question, and I can’t really give a definite answer.  The risk itself must be compelling.  DC is great, but there’s just so much more out there to see, so many more people to meet, so many more things to do.  Sure, I’ll be tossed into some cold water.  There will be plenty of mistakes and unexpected moments along the way.  I will unintentionally say something stupid in Danish and get lost downtown more than a few times.

But when I come back in May or August or whenever, I bet I’m going to say it was all worth it.  I’ve always been more of the optimistic type, so let’s roll the dice.  I think they’re weighted.

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Posted on January 7, 2013, in General and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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