On Adjusting

I live in my own apartment, in a foreign country.

A year ago, I would’ve never thought that statement would be true. And now, it is. I also wouldn’t have thought that I would have been able to handle it as well as I have. I’ve always been quite independent, but it’s easy to get lonely. Despite meeting lots of really amazing people here and the sense that I’m beginning some deep, meaningful friendships, it can be hard to come home to an empty kitchen, empty room. There isn’t even a cat to greet me — besides a (kind of creepy) paper one taped to my wall (see my last post if you’re confused). Cooking alone can even be a bummer because you don’t have anyone to impress with your resourceful, look-at-how-much-money-I-saved recipes.

I’m not sure how many students have lived alone while studying abroad– but it wasn’t what I was expecting. Four weeks away from everything familiar has seemed like a lot longer than a month. I’m not going to say that studying abroad is all roses and is easy and is going to be this picturesque experience where you discover the meaning of life. But I think it can be better than the idyllic daydream that I imagined it would be like.

There’s three main things that have truly helped me adjust to my life in Denmark. For anyone living alone for the first time, or is in a completely unfamiliar place (mentally or physically), maybe these will help you too.

1. Go for walks. 
Nothing has helped me cope more than getting out of the house and going for a long walk. First of all, European cities beg to be explored on foot and walking is the best way to get to know one. Yes, the weather is cold and rainy and windy here, but it hasn’t stopped me. Maybe it’s the endorphins, maybe its being genuinely curious about where I live. Taking the bus is one thing– and necessary at times– but the view out the window is only so much. You miss the details: the tucked away bakery, the park with swans making lazy circles in the water. Walking around Aalborg has made me appreciate the present moment more than anything else.

The hill behind my apartment has some amazing views of my little town and the fjord.
The hill behind my apartment has some amazing views of my little town and the fjord.

2. Be open. 
I can’t stress this one enough. Say yes to more invitations, even if you wouldn’t normally. The more I’ve said yes, the more I’ve experienced and the more connections I’ve made. It helped me become more vulnerable and willing to get to know people.

Good times, good people.
Good times, good people.
The greatest coffee in Denmark!
The greatest coffee in Denmark!

3. Love yourself.
This should be a rule for any situation, but I’ve found it especially crucial for my particular experience.  Whether this means exercising or binge-watching Netflix, go for it. There’s even simple things like eating healthy and drinking more water or taking a really long shower that have improved my outlook. I’ve also found that it’s been hard to “check in” mentally with myself while I’ve been here, simply because I’ve been constantly preoccupied with something. Journaling has helped– it forces me to sit down and gather my thoughts. Often I’ll realize things that I hadn’t even thought of, things that had been internally shut up, just waiting for me to recognize them.

Fastenlavnsboller: creamy, chocolaty pastry of paradise. Like I said, take care of yourself.
Fastenlavnsboller: creamy, chocolaty pastry of paradise. Like I said, take care of yourself.

To end on a positive note: the sun came out today and it was beautiful!


4 thoughts on “On Adjusting

  1. Wow! Enjoyed this. I can feel your thoughts! Not been to Aalborg, but sounds like parts of my lived life. When I left home for Philadelphia, it truly felt like another country. Memorable, foreign to me, being from California, and adventure around every corner!

    Are you going to get a bicycle when the weather gets better? Walking is still the best!

    Grandma Rogene


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