My first host dad’s car parallel parks itself. He just presses a button, lets go of the wheel, and the car does all of the work. How nice would be if life were like that, if something else could take care of the hard things while you just sat back?
As nice as that would be though, it would also be a bit boring. If your car always parks itself, then you’ll never get the satisfaction of learning to do it on your own. Am I making sense? Probably not, so to make it simple: Dealing with the tough stuff makes the good stuff even better.
Everyone says that the second half of the year is the best part, and I can see now that’s pretty true. The winter was hard because it was so dark and there wasn’t much to do and I just missed home so much, but in the past few weeks things have slowly been turning around, and now I’m just like a huge bundle of optimism!
Last Thursday Emma came and visited me, which always means a good time. Her piano teacher from back home is on tour around Europe, and he was playing Friday night in Copenhagen and he gave us tickets. I’m not really a huge jazz person, but Emma is my best friend so of course I would go with her. The whole experience was probably the most grown up thing I’ve ever done. We dressed up all classy (I even wore a blazer!) and then all by ourselves we found our way to where the concert hall was. I think it was the first time the two of us have done something without messing it up. And the music was actually really good. It’s not something I would normally listen to, but it was kind of relaxing to just sit there and listen to the music and just...be. And then after the show we snuck backstage so that Emma could see her old teacher and the guy he was playing with. They are such amazing musicians, and it makes me wish I hadn’t given up on every musical thing I tried when I was younger.
Saturday afternoon Emma headed home and I went over to my first family’s house. I love visiting them so much, and I love how even though I haven’t lived there in four months, as soon as I walk in I right away feel at home. That night we went to see We Will Rock You, and woooow it was soooo good! I actually don’t even have the words to describe how much I enjoyed it. It was the UK cast, so they all had wicked cool accents, and the music was really good, and the lead actor was really hot. Overall it was a really fun night!
And then Sunday was moving day! If you aren’t, or haven’t been, an exchange student, then it might be hard for you to know what it’s like to try to become a part of someone else’s family. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it just doesn’t. And with Rotary, where you have 3-4 families, the honest truth is that you won’t connect to all of your families in the same way. Anyone who read my Three Months in Denmark post knows how heartbreaking it was to leave my first family. I just connected with them so well, and I really felt like a family member. I didn’t talk much about leaving my second family, but leaving them was sad on a different level. My second family was so different from anything I had ever known, and at first it came as a bit of a shock. The sad thing with them was that just as I was beginning to feel at home, I had to leave because of the cats.
And then there was my third family. My third family was really nice, but I just couldn’t find my place in their family. With my first family, I remember feeling at home right from day one. Of course it took a while for them to feel like my family, but I was never not at home with them. Becoming a part of someone else’s family is hard, but once you’re in, I think you’re ultimately in for life. Obviously not on the same level as the rest of the family, but with my first family, I feel like I will always sort of be an honorary family member. I honestly feel like ten years could pass, and then if I saw them again it would feel like I had never left them. With my third family though, I sort of felt like an observer. I don’t feel like I have that same family connection, and it’s frustrating to figure out why.
It is scary just jumping into someone else’s life, and if the host family isn’t there to catch you, then it’s nearly impossible to make the leap. My first family understood how I was feeling; they had hosted before, and Therese had gone on her own exchange, so they really knew how to make me feel at home. But my third family was a first time host family, and to be honest, I don’t think they know very much about what it’s like to be an exchange student, or at least that’s the impression I got.
Having a host mom who acts like your mom makes things a lot easier. My first host mom gave me a hug every night before bed, and it’s little things like that that just made me feel so at home. I know that I shouldn’t compare families, because the point of living with multiple families is to experience something different, but I can’t help it. When one thing works better than another, it’s human nature to want to know why. Even after three months with my third family, I just couldn’t make the connection. My host mom was really really nice, but she never felt like my mom. I couldn’t come to her crying like I could with Susanne or my mom at home. Asking a stranger for a hug when you’re sad is scary, and I liked that I never had to ask my first host mom, she just knew if I was sad, and that’s something that I really missed when I left that family. I also did more things with my first family. Just small things like going grocery shopping, or if my host mom was going to pick someone up, I’d come along for the ride, and some evenings my mom and I would watch TV together, and it was things like that that made me feel close to her.
But just because I didn’t feel as close to my third family doesn’t mean that I didn’t learn a whole lot from them. Observing someones family for three months can teach you a lot. They spent all of their time together, and although that’s not something that works for me, it’s got me thinking that maybe my family at home could spend a bit more time together. I like having my room and spending time alone in there just talking to my friends, or watching TV, or reading or whatever, but I think once I get home I will make an effort to spend more time with my family.
Anyways, Sunday I moved to my new family. Leaving was sad, but in a different way. It was more like, sentimentally sad. (Is that the right word?) As in, another stage of my exchange is over, and even though I didn’t fit in perfectly, I still had a lot of good times with the family, and I was used to living there. They did a lot of really nice things for me, and took me to see a lot of places and of course I am very grateful to them for opening their home to me, and in those three months I really feel like I learnt a lot, so also for that I am very grateful to them. I hope to keep in touch with them, because they really are nice people who played a big part in my year.
This move was really exciting though because I was finally moving to Julie’s family!! Julie is the 2010/11 outbound from my host club, and we talked a lot last year when she was still in Denmark and I was still in Canada, and I have been looking forward to living with her family for a long time now! Of course, Julie is in Australia, so sadly I’m not living with her, but her family was the first one I knew about, and that’s a really special thing, the first person from your host country to contact you.
Her family is really sweet though! I’m living with her mom, Charlotte, and her little brother and sister, Aksel and Marie, who are 12, and so far I’m really happy. They live right in the center of Copenhagen, which is SO beyond amazing, I can’t even describe it. The buildings are all hundreds of years old and it’s so gorgeous and I’m also right in the middle of everything. It’s the perfect place to finish my year. And I already really love my host mom. She understands what a roller coaster this whole thing is, and she’s super, like, motherly and I just think that it’s going to be a really good fit. Sunday Charlotte, Aksel and I went skating, and then Monday afternoon we went for a walk to Nyhavn (the colorful harbor) and then yesterday we went to the library and I got some kids books and movies in Danish to help me practice, and then we went to this cute little cafe and we sat outside in the sun and it was so great! I’m really really happy! And my birthday is on Friday! So overall this week has just been really awesome. I’m really determined to just enjoy every second I have here and to really make the most of the time I have left and to not let a single experience slip away.
I’m sorry this was so long, but there was so much to say and a lot of it was really hard to find the right wording for, but I hope some of it made sense and that you got a little glimpse into the confused mind of an exchange student who just wants to find her place. And if it seemed confusing or scrambled to you, well, just be glad you aren’t actually inside my head.
Så, farvel for now!