The University of Iowa

Settled in Denmark

August 28th, 2018

Taking a step back to appreciate my cup of coffee, my laptop & a GoPro

Really, that’s all I had when I woke up Monday morning, so let’s rewind to Sunday. Sunday was my travel day, I would depart from middle-of-nowhere, Iowa, drive to Chicago, make a short pit stop in Reykjavik, Iceland, then arrive in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Naturally, I’m running late Sunday morning, which got me to the airport about an hour later than anticipated (big mistake). I’m going through the line in the international terminal where TSA agents check your passport and boarding pass before sending you through security when all the sudden, a young woman bursts past the checkpoint, runs into about three people and proceeds to empty her last three meals everywhere. Instantaneously TSA agents stop what they’re doing to assess the threat of the situation, while I scan the crowd for potential weak stomachs to steer clear from. My heart broke for the young woman who was obviously embarrassed beyond belief. However, I had a plane to catch to start the next chapter in my life I was running behind! Eventually, the lines got moving again and I was off to security. After what seemed like an eternity, I got through and moved my little legs as quickly as possible to the very last gate in the terminal.

My flight had been delayed. ‘Is this an omen for what my next 5 months would be like?’ I thought to myself. Nope, I wasn’t going to let that happen. The day continues and 11 hours later, I have arrived with another University of Iowa student, Maddie, to Copenhagen. Off to baggage claim. Maddie’s bag makes its way around within about 15 minutes of us being there – no sight of mine. Another 15 minutes, still no bright pink bag with blemishes from previous airports. Joking around, Maddie and I mention that after the day I’ve had, losing my luggage would really be ‘the icing on the cake,’ (another big mistake). An hour rolls on, and our arranged transportation can no longer wait with the students, as our orientation is about to begin, so they leave. We are promised that someone would be back to get us, and we should soon consider filing a baggage claim.

I go to file my claim and hand over all the information to the employee, 5 long minutes tick on, and he cannot find my luggage anywhere in his records. He reassures me they will do everything in their power to find it and I should expect it back within about 3 days. By the time we’re able to find the study abroad agency’s employee and get in a taxi, orientation is almost over. We’re told to go to the apartments and wait for our future roommates to arrive.

They arrive, express their condolences about my luggage, and all offer their personal items to help me through until it arrives. The night carries on and my headaches from the day disappear.  We settle into our new rooms, pick our bunk beds, unpack (what little I have), and fall asleep early.

The next morning, I get up before everyone, make a pot of coffee for the apartment, and sit down to write this blog. However, while I was sitting there, I found myself agitated and bitter although I knew it would all work out in the end. I decided to shut my laptop and take a step back to appreciate my cup of coffee, my laptop & a GoPro.

The next few days were spent aimlessly walking around this gorgeous city I get to call ‘home’ for the next few months, learning about my newfound friends, as well as myself. Did my journey start out perfectly? Absolutely not. Would I change how it started? Absolutely not - the story is way too funny. The ‘icing on the cake’ turned out to be the best flavor I've had yet.

My baggage took less than two days to arrive and I am happily unpacked and comfortably settled, in case you’re curious.

All-in-all, I learned so much about not only myself but the world that exists around me. Here I was, in a country that I know nothing about, where I don’t speak the native language, surrounded by complete strangers that I was expected to live with, without any of the home memorabilia I so carefully chose to bring with me. I remember telling those back at home about my travel adventures and without fail, the response would always be ‘oh, you better be careful – the world is a crazy place,’ or something of the sort. Despite all those factors, I was comforted. These complete strangers who couldn’t remember my name most of the time were offering their own clothes and products to me without any strings attached. I walked the unknown streets without GPS to navigate me or my friends at my fingertips with my head held high.

I’m not trying to say you should go around passing out your social security number and trusting every smiling face you encounter. However, I am saying there are so many more wonderful people and things in the world that are overshadowed by the ever-changing information at the tip of our fingers. I realize my friends and family want the best for me, but social media and news coverage has a way of instilling fear in us about things we have no idea about. The fear of the unknown is a tricky thing, but it shouldn’t keep you in a dark, cozy, fearful spot. Instead, I recommend using the fear of the unknown as motivation to make everything unknown known. Then what’s left to be scared of besides spiders?

 Have some faith. Faith in humanity, in yourself, and in the world around you. Hopefully, it doesn’t take losing your suitcase for you to come to the same realization I did, but hey – whatever works, works.

Zoi Metternich is a marketing major at the University of Iowa. She will be spending the semester in Copenhagen, Denmark, as part of the CIEE Copenhagen Open Campus program.