Frosh Out of Water: Lessons Beyond the Classroom

Image by Augustine Ng.

My time in Copenhagen is coming to an end. No longer will I hear a dozen accents every day, have the freedom to drink outside or struggle with my lacklustre Danish skills.

Leaving is bittersweet.

But I find myself looking back on the friends I’ve made and the experiences I’ve had. And the thing is, even though I came to Denmark for school, I learned more outside the classroom than inside.

I learned the difference between an accent from Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. I learned that counting in Danish is almost as bad as counting in French. I learned that the Equipment Distribution Centre in the RCC is one-of-a kind and I should never complain about it again.

I learned that I am incredibly lucky to live with my sister in downtown Toronto and be within an hour of home. I’ve never had to worry about being alone because my family supports me every step of the way. If anything, I learned that I am ridiculously dependent on my mom for literally any sort of life decision and I should appreciate her more.

I learned that time zones suck for keeping up with your family and for watching sports. I learned that waking up at 2 in the morning to watch the American League Wild Card game (and seeing the Blue Jays get the walk-off win) was totally worth being half asleep in class the next day, even though your classmates will think you’re crazy. I learned that baseball games are a great excuse to call your dad and talk for three hours. I also learned that every time you do this, your dad will mention how this would never have been possible 20 years ago and that kids these days have it so easy.

I learned that everyone has their own rules for card games and you’ll spend more time arguing about the rules than actually playing. I learned that having a bar underneath your school is kick-ass and convenient for Friday bar. I learned that I still lack the hand-eye coordination for ping pong and beer pong but I can hold my own in flip cup.

I learned that parties are always the same, which is both disappointing and comforting. That you spend just as much time getting ready as you do at the party. That we dance to the same songs with music that’s too loud while singing off-key. That planning how to get home should always be your priority but crashing on a friend’s floor is acceptable in a pinch.

I learned that the Danish flag is used to celebrate everything from birthdays to Christmas. I learned that explaining Thanksgiving to Europeans is significantly more challenging than you would think. I learned that navigating IKEA is even harder when you don’t speak Swedish or Danish.

I learned that trying to cook Thanksgiving in a dorm kitchen requires more Macgyvering than I thought possible. But that sharing part of your culture and home is something special and rewarding. That being in a new city, country, continent with new people is the opportunity to share and learn about yourself (and all your Canadian idiosyncrasies, eh).

I learned that I am so lucky to have had this opportunity. I learned that Toronto will always be my home, but that I’m not bound to it. I learned that I have friends all over the world whom I’ll never forget.

I learned that exchange is a chapter in my life that I would read over and over again.