Studying abroad can be rewarding – but remember where you come from!
Like most dramatic changes in a person’s life, moving to another country to go to school makes you compare it to what you used to have. There are a lot of differences between the American lifestyle and the Danish one. This much I learned from being thrown headfirst into the Danish culture. It can be difficult to adjust to a new place, but it’s worth it to experience a completely different way of life. Student exchange can show you what really matters in life.
One of the first things I noticed when moving from San Francisco to Denmark was that suddenly, I was breathing in clean air. 40 percent of Denmark’s energy comes from wind power, according to their tourism website. The wind turbines can be seen all around the south of the islands and in the surrounding waters. These turbines were Denmark’s clean power in action.
After I adjusted to smog-free lungs, I started to realize how relaxed everyone was around me. None of the Danes seemed particularly concerned about all the bills they had to pay and the internships they had to work once they graduate. This may be a foreign concept to a lot of American students, but not everyone in the world worries about job placement and paying for rent. The Danish government not only pays the tuition of college students, but also gives them a stipend each month of around $300. It’s almost as though the Danish government wants their college students to value their education and actually benefit from it.
The hours I went to school were very odd for me. It felt like being back in high school. School days began at nine in the morning and continued until 3 in the afternoon. We would do homework in the afternoon, and do the same thing all over again. The seemingly monotonous school day was surprisingly relaxing.
All of these things seem like great strides that the United States could also follow, but there were downsides to these programs.
Upon returning home, I experienced what I had been told was called “reverse-culture shock.” The United States State Department describes reverse-culture shock as “the psychological, emotional and cultural aspects of reentry.” Adjusting to the busy life I had grown accustomed to back home was difficult, and I just wanted to go back to my tiny room in Denmark.
But Denmark is a country of 5.6 million people who are all Danish. Immigration to the country is made difficult by the government. There are a lot of rules about who is allowed to immigrate in the country, including only those who speak the language and a lot of preventative tactics to keep refugees out of the country. The peace experienced in Denmark came at a price. That price was homogeny.
Being back in San Francisco reminded me of all the diverse people in the world who come to this one city to be themselves. I can imagine that it’s difficult for anyone to adjust to moving to a different country and back, but it’s important to remember the place you came from and all it did to shape who you are.