Nabila Chalissa Alifa Maura–INA AFS to DEN YP 22/23
It was May 11th, 2022.
“Selamat kami ucapkan atas terpilihnya Adik sebagai peserta AFS Year Program ke Denmark!”
I was at a loss for words. I had been waiting for that email to come and May eleventh was finally the day.
I left my country on September 1st last year, 2022. All felt strange. It was my first time being apart from my family. It was my first time going on a flight alone. To go and study abroad has always been my dream. But little did I know, leaving all my loved ones was the hardest part. When I sat on my airline seat, a sense of relief rushed through me, acknowledging the fact that half of my dream came true. But that was also the moment when I realized, I’m on my own now. “Mixed feelings” is the perfect term to describe it.
I arrived in my host country — Denmark, the day after. Never in my life have I thought of stepping foot and continuing my education in this country. In fact, the name “Denmark’’ never popped up in my head. Simply put, Denmark has never been on my shortlist of exchange destinations. I didn’t know a single thing about Denmark, except for Viktor Axelsen. I was so clueless about my host country. The moment I reached here, everything was new to me. Everything was strange and different. But one thing I knew for sure, is that I would fall in love with it.
It was sunny when I arrived at Copenhagen Airport. 16°C with a blue sky and bright sunshine. But still, the first word coming out of my mouth was “how cold”. Coming from a tropical country where every day is a dog day made me put on my jacket when all the Danes were using their T-shirt and shorts in the ‘lovely warm weather’.
Coming to Denmark and getting to experience all its four seasons is very interesting for me. I experienced my first autumn, winter, and also spring. I saw, touched, and ate snow for the first time in my life at the age of 17. Although there is a lot of windy, rainy, and gloomy weather (which we usually call ‘The Danish Weather’) when the sun is out, it’s so beautiful that you can’t resist going outside.
Of all seasons, my favorite is spring. Warm, colorful blooming flowers, not-so-crazy wind, and simply hyggeligt. However, all four are very beautiful in their own ways. It was amazing to see that a single place could look different from one season to another.
Another thing I love is how practical it is to commute from place to place. In Denmark, public transportation is on another level. It is super on-time to the point that you worry if they have a delay for a minute or two. Not to mention that the Danes love to bike. If you go to Copenhagen, the capital, you will see bikes everywhere you go. You will not be bumped by a car or motorcycle, but you might get bumped by bikes and therefore people will keep telling you to watch out for the bikes, not the cars. Well, it is what it is. Denmark and bicycles are just something you can’t take apart.
Speaking about the school system, it’s very different from what I had back home. No uniforms, no strict-school-rules, and very digitized. They use computers most of the time and I rarely see notebooks. One of my biggest cultural shocks is that we call the teacher by their first name, without any title, which in Indonesia is considered disrespectful. In my first 2 months, I was too scared to call teachers by their names, so I ended up asking nothing when I had tons of questions in my head.
I have been in Denmark for 8 months and now I’m living my Danish life. I love the concept of “hygge” which is about taking time away from the daily rush to be together with people you care about — or even by yourself — to relax and enjoy life’s quieter pleasures. Moreover, Danish food surprisingly suits me, ‘the picky eater’, well. Rugbrød, lakrids, and marzipan might not be my favorite, but potatoes, frikadeller, and Danish butter are the best.
Looking back a few months ago, I wasn’t able to understand the language. Danish sounds very strange to my ears. Those three extra letters (æ, ø, å) used to confuse me a lot. Now, not only I can understand it but I can as well enunciate it. There were some problems and misunderstandings at first, however after living here, integrating into the society, and understanding the culture, I eventually found my way out.
I would say being an exchange student has changed and given me a lesson on how I view the world, how I value my life, and how to appreciate the very small bits. And let me tell you, being on an exchange has now been the greatest thing that ever happened to me.
It is May 11th, 2023.
Autumn has passed and so has winter. Falling leaves are over and snowflakes are nowhere to be found. Spring is about to end and summer is on its way. I’m now two months away from leaving “home” for home, even less. It was hard leaving for Denmark, but now that I think about it, it will be harder for me to leave Denmark.
Nabila eight months ago would be wondering “When will my exchange year end? I miss home”.
Nabila now would do anything to make her exchange year in Denmark last forever.
Why? Because this is her home.
Denmark is now her second home.