Monday, March 22, 2010

Things I Think About: Passed Milestones, A Pause

I have been here longer than I will be.

The halfway point of my time in Denmark slipped by without my notice. I arrived in Denmark January 4th. My return ticket is June 22nd. It's now March 22nd and I only have two months left in Denmark!

I have seriously thought about changing the date of my return flight. I am legally allowed to stay in Denmark until July 15th, though my lease for my house ends June 30th so I wouldn't have anywhere to stay for two weeks. Of course I could travel that whole time. Traveling is fun but very costly, even more so in the summer high season.

I'm beginning to be anxious about my time here, to be honest. I know everyone has already said studying abroad is one of the best experiences. I'm just reaffirming that it is.

It's anxiety about the three major components of my life here: academics, traveling, and my "normal" life in Århus.

The academic component is more pressing now that the end of the semester is within sight. Even though I have fewer exams and essays than a normal semester in the States, I hear grade inflation doesn't happen here. Additionally, I am more and more pulled away from Århus and back toward MSU because I need to prepare for medical school in the fall. More and more information is coming from CHM for incoming students. In about a week I may find out if which pre-clinical campus I'll be assigned to.

Traveling is an important component of my experience here. I've managed to go (or to book tickets) to some places I always dreamed about: Amsterdam, Oslo, London, Berlin, Brussels, Prague. But I've yet to go to  just as many other priority destinations: Paris, Ireland, Spain, Greece, Istanbul, Krakow. And the sand is slipping quickly.

I also feel a tension between staying in Århus and traveling. When I'm traveling, I'm not  This may come off sounding ungrateful for the opportunity to travel around Europe but I like the people here in Århus. We go to the city center. It's not a UNESCO World Heritage Site but it needn't be. We go to free concerts at the music hall. It's not the Vienna Philharmonic but it needn't be that either. We go to the town's museum. It's not the British Museum but it doesn't matter. We sit around the table eating pasta and drinking cheap beer. All these things make me happy too. I'm not here on an extended sightseeing trip; I also want to get to know people too. When I'm back in the States, I will tell people, "I have been to Prague and it is beautiful there." But just as important, I want to be able to say, "I have a friend in Prague." Two kinds of relationships with the city. The two are not the same. 


I was about to publish this entry when I saw my friend Beth, an American studying abroad in Milan, write about similar feelings of cultural shift and adaption. She also included this graph of cultural adjustment!

I think I am farther along than the marker on this graph because I am "anticipating return", which is to say I am panicking at the realization that I will return to the U.S. very soon. I don't want to leave!

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