“We can never turn back the pages of time, though we may wish to relive a happy moment, or say goodbye just one last time, we never can, because the sands of time continue to fall, and we can’t turn the hourglass over.” — Unknown
So I’m home now, right back in the exact same place where I was last summer, and the summer before that, and all the summers before that. It’s weird, being home. Leaving Denmark was just the hardest thing. My first host mom, my counsellor, four of my friends, and of course my last host mom and Emma were there.
From the second we walked into the airport, everything was CHAOS. There were so many people, the lines were insane and there was no room to navigate all of my stuff. I had done self check in the night before, so I could go right into the baggage drop line, but Emma couldn’t. My host mom went off with Emma, and I went by myself. Things had been a bit tense at home that morning, so I was already a huge ball of stress, not to mention I was a mere hour away from saying goodbye to my Danish life.
I had my awesome friends there though to help me figure things out, which made it a bit better. My counsellor saved the day when she showed up too. She was super calm and took over everything. The line to drop my baggage was so long, and then I finally get to the front, and the SAS Bitch was like, you have too many suitcases. So sue me, I had three suitcases. Did she not realize I wasn’t just going on a two week holiday?? I had my whole life in those suitcases! Obviously she didn’t care though, because she sent us away and told us to get it town to two bags and my backpack. Again, thank God for my counsellor, because I was freaking out all over again. I opened my smallest suitcase and threw all of the contents into my two bigger ones, and then Susanne packed it nicely so it all fit. I did have to part with some of my food and a few shirts, but in the moment I didn’t care at all, I just wanted it to be over.
So then I had two 32 kilo suitcases, when I am only allowed one 23 kilo suitcase. I had come into the day expecting to pay 300kr in extra bags, so when she was all like, ‘That’ll be 750kr,’ I was not prepared. Susanne was awesome and covered it, and then I payed her back with all of the cash I did have on me. I definitely hadn’t wanted to spend that much on bags, but I didn’t want to waste my last few minutes with everyone arguing with the airline lady. I just wanted to be with the people I loved for one last time.
We all met up at the Starbucks, and that was when it started to sink in. It was over. The best year of my life, over. I had said a lot of hard goodbyes already. Saying goodbye to Simone the night before had been so hard. She is one of my best friends, and even more, she’s the sister I had always wished I’d had. And I didn’t want to leave. Her, or anybody for that matter. I didn’t want to leave my amazing life.
But standing there in the airport, it hit me, that was what I was doing. I wasn’t at the airport to see off a friend like I had numerous times in the past few weeks, I was there because it was my turn.
We didn’t have a lot of time, so the hugs started right away. Both Susanne’s gave me letters to read on the plane. The first person I hugged was counsellor Susanne. She has been in my life the longest, and she has been the one who has been there the entire year. Whenever I was sad or needed help or anything, she was the one I went to. I feel like in my first family I had a really good relationship with my host mom, if I was sad or just needed to talk or whatever, I felt totally comfortable going to her, but even though I loved my other three host moms too, I didn’t feel the same way, so once I left my first family, my counsellor was the one I went to. So hugging her, everything just flashed through my mind. My first day, driving with her home from the airport, in September talking about school, all of the times we talked throughout November when I needed to move families early because of the cats, when I went over around Christmas, and tried Risengrøl for the first time, and I was so surprised when she told me that’s what they left for Santa. And there is so much more that unless I write a novel, won’t fit into this post. I couldn’t find the words to thank her enough.
And then next was my first host mom Susanne. She is a second mom to me, but saying goodbye to her was a million times harder than it had been to say goodbye to my mom last summer, because I don’t know when I’ll be back in Denmark, and even when I am, I will never truly get to be back. I remember when I first got to Denmark, and was homesick, she would give the best hugs. And even after I moved families, whenever I saw her, I’d get a legitimate mom hug, and ask any exchange student, there’s not a lot of things better than that. And then in the airport I just couldn’t admit that this was the last time I would hug her for I don’t know how long. It was just, I don’t even know, so heartbreaking.
I said goodbye to Charlotte next, and I don’t even think either of us knew what to say. It just didn’t feel real that this was the end. I had talked to Julie for months before I came to Denmark and she left to Australia, and it was just to crazy that now it was goodbye.
And then I had to go back to counsellor Susanne one more time. She gave me some final words of advice, and then I had to go. My friends ignored the passengers only line, and went right up to security with me, but for my host moms and Susanne, that was it. We went up the escalators and I looked back and they were all waving and I just wanted to turn around and run back to them and beg them to keep me, but I just had to give one last wave, and then look forward, and just keep walking.
All year it had been me, Claude, Emily and Chelsea. We had always gone out together, had sleepovers together, shopped together, pretty much everything. So saying goodbye to Emily was especially sad. And my newbie Bec, who even though I’ve only known her 6 weeks, I love so much. And Laura, my first Australian friend, and Brittany who I had some seriously awesome times with on Eurotour, and the weeks after. Saying goodbye to my friends was so hard. They were the people who made year so much fun. They were the ones who I had the craziest times with, and who I could tell anything to, because they all just got it. They were the ones who I’d have sleepovers with and we’d lay awake in the dark just talking about all of the amazing things we want to do with our lives.
I’d been in that spot near the security area so many times, but I’d always been the one waving off the person who actually walked down the hall. The end of that hall had always been some elusive unknown that back in January when I said goodbye to Hannah, I couldn’t wait to experience, but then in June seeing off Nova and Chelsea, I had no desire to go down that hall. But that day, it was my turn, and as much I didn’t want to, I had to give my final hugs and then keep walking forward.
Luckily I had Emma with me, which softened the blow of leaving Denmark. We sat on the plane together, watching our home, and our exchange year, disappear beneath the clouds.
In Frankfurt I walked Emma as far as I could to her gate. We hit a road block though, at passport control. I wasn’t leaving from the same area as her, so I couldn’t enter into her section. So in front of passport control was where our journey together ended. I suppose it’s fitting, our time together ended just as awkwardly as it had begun. We sat down, not talking, refusing to admit what was about to happen. It wasn’t until they made an announcement that her plane was boarding that we looked at each other, and then stood up and hugged. I can’t explain how hard it was to say goodbye to Emma. I have never had a friend as amazing as her. Someone who is so much like me, and I can just be totally myself around. There is no way my year would have been as amazing without my monthly visits to or from Emma. So saying goodbye, and knowing that this stage of our friendship was forever over, was horrible. Now it’s down to visiting her maybe once or twice a year, maybe less as life goes on. And of course we will skype and email and call each other. I know we will be best friends forever. There’s no way that I can let a friend that amazing slip away. Watching her walk through passport control, and me standing there crying, just sucked so much. I don’t understand how a year can be over. It was just last week we were starving at introcamp, sitting in her room not talking to anyone, and now we were saying goodbye. This part of exchange makes all of the other hard times seem like nothing.
When I was in Denmark, I thought there wasn’t a worse feeling than homesickness. I thought being away from Canada was the hardest thing. But now that I’m back in Canada, I realized the homesickness I felt in Denmark was nothing compared to the homesickness I have now for Denmark.
It also wasn’t until I was back in Canada, and found myself referring to Denmark as home, (as in, “Wow, only three dollars for this coffee? At home I would have payed ten!”) that I realized how much Denmark feels like home. The life I had there, the people in it, the things I did and the places I went, it just all felt so right. I love the way Danes are, I love the way they think. I love what it was like to live there. The only thing keeping me from quitting school and going back there right now, is knowing that the life I lived was not a true Danish one. I lived the amazing carefree life of an exchange student. I know that truly living in Denmark is nothing like the life I lived there, but that doesn’t make me miss it any less.
Being back in Canada is nice though. To be back in my house, in my room, in a kitchen full of my favorite foods. My first night home, one my best friends came over, and we sat in my room and she filled me in on everything. And hearing her talk about everyone was like pulling a familiar wool blanket around myself. It didn’t feel totally right, but at the same time it gave me this warm and secure, and kind of comforting, feeling. I hadn’t left Denmark to come back to nothing. I had left Denmark to come back to a lot. I didn’t leave my friends to come home and be friendless; I have amazing friends here. Saturday night two of my best friends, Maddie and Emily, threw me an amazing welcome home party. We all hung out and had dinner at Emily’s house, and then we drove to another friends house and chilled in his hot tub and I had a slurpee and Timmies and it felt so normal. Like I had never been away.
Being home, with my family and friends, and being back in school, and just being back in my life, I just can’t believe a year can go by that fast. There were weeks that dragged on, but sitting here now, it truly feels like the blink of an eye.
The first few days at home were so hard. I was busy with friends, which was so nice to be back with them. But it was hard to be away from Denmark. I couldn’t think about it without tearing up. And then I started school two days after I got home. I wasn’t over the jet lag and I was so tried, and so sad about being home, and everything just felt wrong. But somehow, every day it gets better. And I can see that maybe it’s good how busy I am. My Canadian life is in full swing. I went out Friday with my friends, and last night I babysat for the family I’ve babysat for since I was 12. Everything is back to normal. And that makes it a lot easier to be back. I still miss Denmark like I don’t think anyone understands, and it still takes massive willpower not to pick up the phone every day and call my host family and counsellor and friends.
But I need to remember that I can’t keep looking over my shoulder. Just like in the airport, when I had to keep walking forward, it’s the same now.
Instead of looking back and wishing I could go back in time to be back with my host families, I need to find a way for them to fit in with my life now, and in the future. I know they will be in my life forever. I know that at my wedding, Simone and Emma will be two of my bridesmaids. I know I will never lose any of my Danish family or friends. I’ve been emailing with Susanne, and one of the things she wrote in one of the emails was, “...but I know we will keep in touch the rest of our lives and that sure is a good thing to remember.” And that’s true. Just because I’m back in Canada doesn’t mean I’ve lost anybody. I love them so much, and just because I won’t see them very often doesn’t mean I’ll ever love them any less.
My year in Denmark was amazing. It was nothing I expected it to be, and everything I needed it to be. I would go back and live it over in a heartbeat. I did so many amazing things, and met so many incredible people, and I learnt so much about myself. And just because I’m home doesn’t mean I’m done. I’m going to use everything about this year to help me to continue growing and changing as a person. Denmark will forever be a part of me. I still can’t believe it is over. I no longer can use the excuse, “But I’m an exchange student!” Being an exchange student is an amazing thing. If you’ve followed my blog throughout the year, you know it’s not always easy. But I can safely say, it’s a million percent worth it.
Now I’m moving on with my life post Denmark. I am busy with summer school and my friends and being a mother to my new baby, Chompy the hedgehog. For some reason, all throughout my year, I had a weird obsession with hedgehogs, so right when I came home, I went out and bought my very own pet hedgie. My life is building up around me, and everything is falling intro place. Everyday it gets a bit easier to be back, but that doesn’t mean that Denmark is ever far from my mind, or that I can’t wait to one day go back.
I’m planning to do one more post within the week, just doing a bit of a comparison on Denmark and Canada, because now that I’m back I can see everything with a bit more perspective.
This post was really hard to write, because it was kind of the first time I’ve really sat down and admitted that it’s over.
Thanks for reading though. I’ve loved keeping this blog, and it always makes me so happy to see my page hits go up.
It feels weird to not sign this, Love from Denmark, so instead I will sign it, Love to Denmark, the amazing country and all of the incredible people in it, particularly the ones who played a huge part in my year and who are forever in my heart.