So, I’m in Copenhagen. And I’m going to be completely honest: I’m scared shitless.
It’s been almost three years since I arrived in Uppsala for my semester abroad. It was the first time I’d ever lived away from home and the longest I’d been out of Canada. I remember standing on the train from Arlanda airport with my overweight luggage and heavy winter clothes, hoping I was getting off at the right station because it was too dark to see anything. Then I went outside on the snow-covered pavement and thought, “Now what?”
The nice thing with studying abroad with my old university is that so much gets planned in advance by both the home university and the one abroad. In a day’s time I would have access to a room that was already reserved for me. Before leaving I was partnered with a buddy in Uppsala who gave me directions to the closest hostel so I had somewhere to stay the first night.
I remember getting to the hostel with a suffocating feeling in my chest. I’d experienced it before, just a few months earlier when I was travelling Europe by myself for the first time and feeling panicked and unsure whenever I got to a new city. A day’s worth of travelling through multiple time zones left me disoriented, so I took a quick walk through the city centre before going back to the hostel to shower and sleep so I could forget about the stress I was feeling about being somewhere new.
Once I was in my room the next day things already felt a lot better. I had a place to call home, I could unpack all my luggage, and I’d even made a friend while waiting in the queue for my room key. Things weren’t perfect – I didn’t have an internet access code yet, for one – but in two days’ time my classes would start and then I would have something to do while getting used to living in Sweden. And if things didn’t work out, well, in six months I’d be back home.
That’s what’s missing for me right now in Copenhagen. I didn’t have it in London either, and it made me so stressed that I eventually chickened out of my plan and went home after two weeks. This time I’m determined not to give up, but that doesn’t make the experience any less terrifying. The suffocating feeling has lasted more than just a few hours this time around. While I feel I’ve planned better this time than for either Uppsala or London, I can’t control how much things cost, or when or even if there’s going to be a room that’s right for me. I don’t know yet when I’ll be taking the supplementary course for my masters. I don’t know when I’ll have a job. There’s no orientation for people who decided to move somewhere just for the hell of it.
For now I’m taking things one small step at a time. A part of me longs to be driving back to Germany with my mom right now and snuggling my cat in eleven hours’ time, but living there for nineteen months has taught me that I won’t be happy there. I have to do this. If not in Copenhagen, then somewhere else. I’m just going to have to power through. After all, once the suffocating feeling was gone, I didn’t want to leave Uppsala. Hopefully I’ll feel the same here.