My experience from studying abroad for a year in two different countries:
As I’m getting ready to go back to the United States and face responsibilities such as applying for law school, working a job, applying for fellowships, and seeing myself in the near future where I no longer will be in college, I am relentlessly denying my departure. As cheesy at it sounds, being abroad for a year in two different countries (India and Denmark) has been such an eye opening experience. I was constantly challenging my values and perspectives, and being uncomfortable. It has awakened my repressed feelings for being an Asian-American female growing up in the US and Korea, while also realizing again and again the kind of privilege that I have. This left me uncomfortable and at times disgusted, simply not knowing what to do. Being abroad I experienced many different emotions and feelings, allowing myself to become an even more empathetic passionate person.
When officially deciding to study abroad my sophomore year, I wanted to travel the world so I can find myself and become a different person. My motivation mostly was, “to come back as a really cool person.” I have been struggling with anxiety and depression that has left me feeling like an overly emotional sensitive person. I wanted to be cool. For me going abroad was an opportunity to overcome my anxiety and depression; or at least I thought it would. And now that I have completed a years worth of classes abroad and am leaving Denmark in less than a week, I can say that travelling did not get rid of my problems. I was and still am the same me whether I’m in India, Korea, or Denmark and my problems were like a shadow following my every step. But I have learned awfully a lot about my identity, made drastic changes in my life that are very important to me, and now feel closer to myself. I am still the same person I was as a year ago. I’m still here. But a lot of my perspectives have changed and I feel different about many things such as the environment; I did not realize how much I loved and wanted to serve for the environment. And now as I’m biting off my nails, finishing off my final papers, eating some pistachios that someone left in the kitchen for lunch because I’m awfully broke, I’m thinking to myself “I’m one of the coolest human beings I know!” Not because I studied in India and Denmark or “saw the world,” but because I realized I am such a strong individual being. I was able to emotionally connect with people that I do not speak the same language with, feeling a bond beyond language. I feel so passionate about sustainability and empowering women. I no longer feel the need to constantly prove myself to others. I finally accept myself at its purest form.
Once I come back to the US, I know I will be asked by family and friends about my time in India and Denmark and yet probably will not be not deeply interested enough to hear all the minute meaningful details to me. The list starts from a lecture I had about an organization called Shik Shantir that made me question capitalistic education, deciding to become vegetarian, learning to make the best chai from my India host dad, being absolutely humbled by Danish host parent’s unconditional love, an interesting conversation I had with my Danish professor on prison and recidivism, realizing that I love cooking for other people (banana oatmeal cinnamon pancakes to be more specific), falling off my bike in front of a large crowd and not being embarrassed, and much much more. The list goes on and on. How do I make up my abroad experience if I’m barely managing to narrow down what I want to say here?
I really don’t want my journey of being abroad to be over. The Danes are finally out that the weather is nice. I haven’t eaten enough pastries yet. I don’t want to leave my amazing friends who have supported me through my lowest of the lows or my host parents Lilly and Lars who are the most loving people I have met. I haven’t accomplished all the things that I wanted to do being abroad. But I have to go. As I mentally prepare myself, instead of shoving down all my memories through a drain, I put this journey on hold and slowly relive all the happy and sad memories from this past year.
Thank you, India and Denmark, for showing me an incredible year and helping me grow as an individual.