Rose, Bud, Thorn

Rose: a semester of personal growth. Thorn: mono. Bud: applying the lessons learned.

An entire semester wrapped up in three categories. But is it really that simple? Never.

Abroad has made me confront some of my worst anxieties, but it has also made me learn how to deal with them. The beauty of my experience is rooted in this. I know I hate not having control; I know I get stressed with new people and places; I know I am impatient. These so-called ‘flaws’ are aspects of myself I had to face. Whether it was dealing with numerous traveling issues or trips to foreign countries with new classmates, my triggers continued to come up. I was far from my main support system and the time difference didn’t make things easier. Yet, I’m here. I wouldn’t call those previous, personal descriptions ‘flaws’ anymore. I confronted what made me feel weak and I was forced to really look them in the eye.

What could I truly do about a flight delay or an awkward silence with new friends? I could do what was in my control. I could find out all the information about my flight so I was aware of the situation and how it would affect my trip. I could ask my peers questions at dinner about their lives in which I knew so little about. I could take it all as a learning experience. By choosing how to respond to a situation, I could take back just enough control to where I was comfortable.

At the end of many camp days, orientation trips, or gatherings, the question of ‘rose, bud, thorn’ is the usual routine. What’s the best thing, the thing you’re looking forward to, and the worst thing that happened to you in this set time frame? It’s such a broad question, but I won’t lie — I love going around the dinner table at school or with new friends to hear their highs and lows. But I do always struggle to wrap up my experience in a matter of three things. Tackling my abroad ‘rose, bud, thorn’ came a bit easier for some reason. I think that was because, for one, my answers are quite broad. And two, I had to attempt to neatly wrap up the semester in some sort of bow because it was such a nuanced and, at times, confusing series of events. Laying every detail out would’ve been overwhelming, exhausting, and unnecessary in my opinion. So without further ado, here’s my study abroad rose, bud, thorn.

I’m always one to end on a high note in attempt to practice optimism. I will forever ask to hear the bad news and then the good. In turn, let’s start out with my thorn. I wouldn’t say this is necessarily ‘bad news,’ but I’ll say it was a difficult, challenging aspect of my time in Europe. Simply put, mono didn’t make my transition to Copenhagen smooth-sailing. I’m not going to get into the intricacies of the Danish medical system. If you are curious, you can read that here. However, I want to reveal how my time with mono became a ‘thorn,’ if you will.

First off, I was ill. Pounding headaches, body aches, chills, and the worst sore-throat I ever imagined were daily occurrences. It seems like an obvious ‘thorn’ choice. There were other moments in the past four months were I felt out of my comfort zone and felt lost. Whether it was airport troubles or cultural misunderstandings, I was faced with many things one might assume are my ‘thorn.’ But I honestly had trouble finding a clear answer to the ‘bad’ aspect. With my changed mindset from the previously linked blog post, I didn’t see any of this as a ‘thorn.’ It was tough and I won’t lie — there was anxious moments, tears, and frustration. Yet I was doing it on my own in a foreign country and I always managed to ground the experience as a teaching moment. I was learning how to manage my emotions and lose some of that control I so deeply yearned for in the past.

Now on to my ‘rose.’ I know I described it in an incredibly broad terms — a semester of personal growth — but it was so hard to encapsulate all that this experience has done for me. It’s impossible to pinpoint one moment that stood out above the rest. It was the remarkable people I came to know, the understanding of other ways of life, and the independence I was forced to become comfortable with. I think my ‘rose’ might better be summed up with a feeling. Proud. I am proud of myself for finishing the semester and truly living in another, unfamiliar city. Does that sound cocky? Sorry. I also know that many people could do it, I just wasn’t sure if I was one of them. But I’m left not just standing, but happily walking away from the experience. If you told me four months ago when I sat on my Kollegium bed for the first time without a single extra pair of clothes (tip: put an extra pair of clothes in your carry-on like they tell you) that I would feel this way, I would have laughed. I would have laughed when I got my Epstein-Barr Virus diagnosis or when I experienced by fifteenth flight delay. But I proved myself wrong I suppose.

Bud. “Applying the lessons learned.” This doesn’t make much sense without reading all of my past blog posts. (Blog page here. I won’t judge you if you never read them or never will, but I assume if you are reading this you might at least contemplate it…). I can’t put all the lessons I learned into a summary. Ok, I’ll try (top five, bullet point-style):

  1. Be Here Now (I thought I knew what this meant, but I didn’t really put it into action until this semester. Worrying about “what could happen” doesn’t benefit the current moment.)
  2. Everyone’s going through something ‘behind the scenes’ (I always believed I was empathetic — but when you are surrounded by people who are also adjusting to an entirely new city, it’s much more clear to see you are not alone in your struggles.)
  3. Denmark has the best pastries (but does not know what a good bagel is).
  4. The US has a lot to learn from Denmark: reliable and clean public transport, free healthcare, and strict gun ownership laws (Not to say Denmark is perfect, but the US could take notes on a few things).
  5. “Thorns” can turn into “buds” (the bad can teach you how to achieve the good).

Signing off of this blog… for now. I can never say anything for sure.

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