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Denmark Diaries: On Both Sides of The Fence

I lived away from home, away from family and friends for almost four months. I can now say that it was one of the best decisions I have ever taken in my entire life.

Ever since I’ve been back, I get the same question over and over again: “do you want to go back?” Anyone who’s ever lived abroad, even if for a short time like me, knows that the answer isn’t simply yes or no.

When I was there, I missed things about Egypt. I missed the hustle and bustle of the streets as opposed to the seemingly perfect quiet of Copenhagen.

I missed the loud calls to prayer that interrupt us every day. I missed my mom’s cooking and the luxuries we have that we take for granted.

But now that I’m back, I miss being there, too. I miss how everything was no further than a 15-minute bus ride.

I miss riding my bike every day and how easy that made my life. I miss the feeling of security, no matter how late it got or which part of the city we were in.

Living there was a little surreal; you get into a routine and you forget, just for a second, that this isn’t your real life. You forget that in a matter of weeks, you’ll be back home, and this will all just be a thing you write an article about.

The feeling of independence is indescribable – every single decision you make is completely your own. The first time you cook something that doesn’t taste horrible, you feel proud of yourself. The first time you’re put in a horrible situation – like having your wallet stolen – you realize that you have to be a “grown-up” and deal with it yourself.

When it was time to leave, I had the most difficult time understanding what I was feeling. I was happy to be going back home, but I couldn’t grasp the fact that this was the end.

My last days in Copenhagen were the last days of complete independence and the last days I would see people who had become my family over the last few months.

I think this was the most painful part. I’d never made friends where I knew there was a big chance that I’d never see them again, but this was different.

But to anyone who is still on the fence about undertaking such an experience: do it!

It is the most rewarding and eye-opening experience you will ever go through. You’ll thank yourself and everyone who pushed you to go.

Being 100 percent alone sometimes feels like it goes against our culture and how we were raised. After all, we don’t move out the minute we turn 18 and so we stay sheltered our entire lives.

But this experience was like a window into what it means to be an adult. It’s not always fun and meeting new people; sometimes you get homesick and want nothing more than to be back home, but these are the days where you start to really appreciate everything you have.

The school itself (DMJX) was also an added benefit to my experience. You know when people spend a semester abroad and you see them travelling all the time and hear them say they didn’t really learn that much?

Well, that wasn’t the case with me. DMJX was a very big part of the experience.

I think it’s safe to say that in almost four months, I learned things I would normally learn in a year. I produced around six videos, all while learning new skills to help me in my future. I learned to go up to strangers, who don’t know me and have no reason to trust me, and ask them to be in my video or my interview.

I learned to work in groups – something I initially really hated doing – in every single one of the courses I took. I learned that teachers as well as students get insecure while talking in a language different than their mother tongue.

Before embarking on this adventure, anyone who knew me, knew how badly I wanted to travel. My plan was never to go to university in Egypt; I always wanted to study abroad. I would tell everyone that studying abroad would be so much better than staying here, but I actually had no idea what I was talking about.

I was basing my assumptions on pictures and videos of the lives of my friends who actually did manage to study abroad, and all I saw was the fun outings and the international friends.

But now, I actually know what I’m talking about. I know that it’s not all the pretty pictures we see. It’s so much more than that, and now when I make a decision about living here or abroad, it will be based on my own experience and what I know are the good and bad parts of uprooting your life, putting it behind you, and moving to a new place.

So when people ask me “do you want to go back?” it just takes me a few seconds to answer. I usually say, “Yes, I do. But it’s also nice to be home.”

Malak Abdelnabi
Arts and Culture Editor

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