Indiana University Overseas Study

Ashli Hendricks

I’ve been back for a month. My last day in Copenhagen was Independence Day, which is an ironic time to realize my crippling dependency on the people I’d gotten to know during my six-week stay.

I spent Independence Evening stumbling around a beach playing “soccer,” because falling is allowed to be called a sport when there’s a ball. The summer sun doesn’t really set in Scandinavia, but there was still this sweeping, aching nostalgia riding out across the sky, a weighty ambedo of everything drawing to a close. Maybe if I threw fistfuls of sand into everybody’s eyes and ran, they’d be blind to the future. I could convince them to let me stay.

soccer on the beach

Inspired by the World Cup

But I had to leave. So I did.

And all this stuff I’ve spewed in posts about new outwardness and positivity that I thought would settle with my wrinkles years from now was suddenly zapped. I was parched by ordinary people with ordinary desires, these simpletons, these peasants.

the high dive

It’s higher than it looks.

I was frustrated with what a gross, insincere cliché it is to say life is changed after a study abroad: What do you mean happy isn’t just the way I am now? I have to work at it everyday? I can’t hire those little Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 maintenance men that I took so much pleasure in drowning? Fix a gear here, a yawning abyss of boredom there.

The inconvenient, obvious truth is that I’d just left the happiest place in the world, and even having written about how similar it is to B-town, the fact of the matter is they’re different.

Copenhagen is an inescapability of love, a factory of it. I almost swore off my lifelong revile of “settling.” I wanted forever, a family, a lame Sears frame in which I never pictured myself. I wanted to be the wrinkled old friends on a train platform, linking arms and singing; the toddlers giggling as they were allowed to captain our castle-moat ferry; even the French bulldogs in every sidecar. I understood why my teacher came to this place fifteen years ago and never left. It was a city of airport reunions, a city in love with love.

But on one visit to a Danish autistic pre-school I learned about a game to teach the kids not to be sore losers. The “loser” of the round who didn’t win candy got a small paper heart that read “pyt med det,” essentially meaning “oh well” or “no big deal.”

Pyt med det

Life lessons start in kindergarten

If a six-year-old can internalize compromise and mental fortitude, then so could I.

“Pyt med det” was still my phone’s lockscreen in Bloomington, but I’d forgotten why. There wasn’t a dorm of 50 adventurers ready to carpe their diem to remind me. There wasn’t a class trip agenda forcing me onto a train every morning.

church of our savior

300 feet, slick with rain and sweat. That’s a fear grin.

But when I stepped outside of my comfort and transportation pass zones, I learned this: just because something’s not who I am, doesn’t mean it’s not who I could be in the two minutes to wait in line for the world’s oldest rollercoaster or the 40 kroner it takes to scale Church of Our Savior’s corkscrew spire. If I expect my attitude to be different than when I left Indiana, I can’t live the same way I did now that I’m back.

I have to be as open-faced as smørrebrød sandwiches.

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