Indiana University Overseas Study

Ashli Hendricks

I’m spoiled. Spoiled as in suppurating, blackening-in-the-blistering-heat-of-a-baking-sun spoiled. I am curdled cottage cheese.

Why?

I’m about to embark on a six-week academic study to the “happiest place on earth.”

Yes, I, Ashli Hendricks, am flying to Copenhagen, Denmark.

What I’m packing emotionally is far more interesting than the “non-logo t-shirts and pants of subdued colors” teeming at the zippers of my suitcase. This is not my first sally forth across the pond. This isn’t even my first time living there. (See: “spoiled” above).

Admittedly, this will be my first time taking interest in more than the backs of my parents’ feet as I shuffle from site to site. A young sprout, cleaved from all I knew, I moved to Germany when I was eight years old and grew up on American Army bases until my junior of high school. I was a teen. I didn’t have the patience to be “worldly” or “cultured.”

I was only a well-rounded traveller in that I made my way well around the world.

Today, I’m a hodge-podge of nostalgia, regret, and excitement, bristling with a number of things called “feelings” at the idea that I could rectify my failure to be a nuanced nomad.

In that regard, this trek is fascinating to me. Not only because I’m wondering whether it’s possible to experience culture shock in a place I grew up, but also because I’m rediscovering my past through kids. Kids! Mythical little hope harbor-ers! Kids who are also foreign to their own society, like I was when I first moved to Europe.

For the first three weeks, I’m taking a class called Children With Special Needs, learning how Danes integrate students with learning disabilities into mainstream courses. For the second, I’m adventuring on a study tour to Amsterdam to meet immigrant and refugee children, to learn about their stolen childhoods and feelings of displacement.

I can’t imagine a more enriching way to experience this launch into a new atmosphere than with kids who feel out of place, whether mentally or geographically, but are still desperately optimistic in trying to communicate.

Given my history, I identify with both.

Also given that the only Danish I know is the kind I sell and smuggle home from the bakery on my college campus, I, too, will be at a bit of a loss. Or a lot of losts, depending on my ability to read a map.

True, I managed to survive eight years of Germany with only a surface knowledge of directions to the nearest water closet. But on this voyage I plan to immerse myself. I am determined to have this place instilled in my heart.

Adventures are forthcoming for the following reasons:

I like biking. I want to fill a basket adorably brimming with bread and have a picnic, conflabbit.

I like rollercoasters. Copenhagen is beholden to the Bakken, oldest amusement park in the world (EEEEE!!!!!) and Tivoli Gardens, a sprawling plethora of gorgeous gardens and rides.

And yes, I like long walks on the beach. Copenhagen is resplendent with boardwalks. Wharfs. We’re talking miles of sand in which to squidge my toes, stretching as far as my bare little piggies can wee wee wee all the way to.

I’m headed to the “happiest place on earth” and I know it will live up to its name. Even if I’m still not sure how to pronounce it.

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