Indiana University Overseas Study

Ashli Hendricks

I’m a fussbudget. My brain is an arena where self-contempt and resignation like to box each other out. But with the first session over and a few of my classmates already heading home, I can’t fathom how in this criminally short period they’ve managed to get enough. I’ve gone from planning an exit strategy to an exist strategy, now that my main question is not how I’m going to survive this place but whether I can go on without it.

I’m looking at the world and don’t believe I’m standing in it. Language withers. This is the kinda beauty people wage wars and sail ships for. It’s surreal, like this is Inception and I’ve mastered lucid dreaming, except I’m not nearly imaginative enough to be the architect behind all this. It’s a weird contradiction because this island feels made for me.

Proof of this exists in the square’s vegetarian Mediterranean buffet (my three favorite words other than “all-you-can” eat).

But the striking appeal to my interests goes beyond cous-cous and chocolate pizza. This city is a bigger, better version of everything and everywhere I already adore.

Copenhagen is actually super reminiscent of B-town, and not just in the eerily similar names of bars and alleys (Kilroy, Odd Fellow, Atlas). Its charming street performers could easily be straight out of Kirkwood if “Someone Like You” were warbled with a husky Danish accent. We’re talking daily guitars, games, and gold-painted men. Marathons and fruit markets. The free-town Christiania is a replica of the hippie-dippie People’s Park. The reading and croquet played by reflecting ponds mirror the Wells arboretum (except every park here needs/provides a map). It’s endless: the fickle weather, the public transportation…even the week of Distortion, which was essentially an elongated frat party of street drinking and live club music, not unlike IU’s infamous Little 500.

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Watching the World Cup in a pub, there were even wild Hoosier-Hysteria-like chants of “USA” and “I-believe-that-we-will-win” being drummed into tables so fervently that the erection of my spine’s Army brat discipline collapsed.

I’m a huge welter of emotion in the glory of this nostalgia.

Especially since Copenhagen’s also inciting weepy remembrances of Germany, where I grew up. The immaculate little backyards remind me of my mom slaving away in our garden everyday only to eye our neighbors’ flowers and develop jealous suppositions that Germans snuck out to personally “fertilize” their roses. She insisted it was the only way they could be making those colors pop.

The fathers here are younger, hairier-headed versions of my dad once biking the canal trails with me and my three sisters trailing along behind.

But even though Copenhagen is a weird accretion of everything I harbor in my heart, I’m also learning so much about the world and myself that I always wanted to.

Example: I don’t “meander.” I’m an ambulant, restless kinda lady. But Danes force you to bask in stillness. You see what it means to build a life, what it means to be in love with your life, where and how you orient yourself, and not just geographically.

Dinner lasts for hours. I mean that quite literally: four hours. You gotta hound these waiters for bills given their expectations for diners to prate on about having their palates graced by Andersen Bakery and their feats of breathlessly scaling the Round Tower (both because of the massive spiral hike and the stunning view at the top).

As soul-corrosive as it’s been for me to spend even one sunlit second in my dorm, I have to appreciate that even moments of repose have worth.

With this new image of the universe, I wake up everyday, sunlight or raindrops splashing on my sheets, ready for a paradise where everybody’s dashingly handsome and finds a hobby in taking delight. And I know this isn’t a summer fling, my life is just newly alive with possibility.

Even though I’m allegedly peregrine, the fact of this place being a microcosm of my experiences and being a desirable destination, albeit a more expensive one, have me feeling guilty for turning a blind eye for so long. I have to be happy with what I have because it’s literally what constitutes the “happiest nation in the world.”

I’m keeping lists of every tiny nicety inspiring hope in me. I’m looking for the good. And it’s so easy.

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