Denmark – Expectations of Traveling Abroad – by Michaela Campbell. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[The Seventeenth Century Canal Ring, in Amsterdam, North Holland]
Once I began telling friends and family that I had been accepted to attend a study abroad program in Europe to learn about the ‘Science of Happiness’, I was bombarded with congratulatory remarks, questions about the study program, and a few looks of concern. The looks of concern were fleeting, and only appeared on my father’s face the day I told him I would traveling abroad in mid-May. He was grateful for the opportunity I had been given, but like any concerned father, gave me a quick, useful lecture on being cautious wherever I traveled. My mother on the other hand, was concerned with the lighter tasks such as shopping for necessities, changing my phone plan, etc.
Both of my parents gave me different expectations as to what my encounters would be like in Europe. Due to my father’s lectures, I expected that I would be uptight while walking around in the big cities that we were scheduled to live in and visit (i.e. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Oslo). I also expected that the locals in these neighboring countries would have a somewhat negative and even annoyed attitude toward a group of college students from the US visiting their countries. However, my mother’s preparedness for the trip made me comfortable and relaxed for the nine-hour flight that was ahead of me, and excited for the new memories I was about to create.
[In Nyhavn, Copenhagen (København), Denmark]
After landing in Amsterdam, and gaining a good night’s sleep, we took on the city, and I found myself more calm within the city than I have been at times in my home-city of Duluth. The constant stream of bicyclists and small, European cars gave off a friendly, yet busy vibe. The expectations that had been infringed upon me by my father had been completely demolished within three hours of walking about the city. By the end of our three-night stay in Amsterdam, I didn’t want to leave for the next city. My fellow classmates and I even joked about taking time off to live in the city for year or two.
Our next city, Copenhagen, left my classmates and myself with feelings of joy as we finally had the chance to chat and meet with local Danish students to discuss a variety of topics. We conversed about the upcoming American presidential election, Donald Trump, free education and health care, among many other topics. In these moments I found that these students did not see us in a negative light, and were not annoyed by our presence either. This was another moment where I was glad that my expectations set by my father had been wrong. These students were excited to learn and discuss why our countries run the way they do, and how change can be brought to either side. Even people that we would meet on the street throughout the city always seemed to be smiling as soon as our American accents started flowing. This is what made me excited about traveling to other places; knowing that in every city, there is someone that appreciates you trying to broaden your horizons.
Overall, traveling to Europe far exceeded my expectations. I did not expect to relate with people of another country, but I did. I did not expect to become so happy in a place that was thousands of miles from home, but I did. Lastly, I did not expect to become as attached to a country that prior to this trip I’d only seen on a map, but I did.
[This essay is based on Michaela’s participation in St. Scholastica’s Denmark and Happiness Study Abroad Trip supervised by Professor Karen Petersen.]
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