This is not a study abroad blog

    This is not a depiction of my international “adventures.” Or, even worse, of some other word beginning with an alliterative “R” — Rachel’s Rendezvous, maybe? — meant to indicate how much more fun I’m having in Copenhagen than you. In fact, this isn’t even a blog: notice the official NBN masthead in the corner.

    I make this self-conscious clarification because this weekly series/column/whatever you want to call it will be about study abroad-related themes. It’ll also, of course, be shaped by my own experiences spending this semester in Denmark.

    Also, each week I’ll talk to a handful of NU students currently studying overseas. Their stories will inform a post on a topic that will, hopefully, be relevant to students both abroad and on campus.

    From staying in touch with friends at home, to the expectation of travelling as much as possible in four months, to coming across as — or more realistically, being — an obnoxious American, I promise you won’t be flooded with aesthetically pleasing pictures of coffee and croissants. I’ll post those on my actual blog instead.

    The purpose of "This not a study abroad blog" isn't to criticize actual study abroad blogs. Instead, it’s to balance the sometimes unrealistic portrayals of the study abroad experience.

    If you based your perception of Copenhagen on your Instagram feed, for example, you would think that the city is made up of only one street. My friends and I have taken to calling this row of colorful buildings “Instagram Harbor,” and have hereby forbidden one another from furthering this perception through our own posts.

    Beyond the Instagram effect, however, is the pervasive expectation going into study abroad that being on a different continent would somehow force us out of the mundanity of our everyday lives. I personally went into study abroad with the belief that I would be transformed into a more adventurous, exotic, and outgoing version of myself. I signed up to live in an outdoors-themed residential community despite a pervasive fear of shitting in the woods and an extreme dislike of insects with the expectation that Denmark Rachel would not think twice about such realities.

    After all, if college is made out to be the best four years of our lives, then studying abroad is made out to be the best four months of those four years. Just like we were told before entering freshman year how much fun we would have, how many great people we would meet and how much we would learn about ourselves, we are told variations on the same platitudes before leaving to study abroad. My mom was a particularly egregious offender, telling me no fewer than a dozen times how I would “have the most unbelievable time of my life.” I still think she was more excited about the experience than I was.

    Just like Copenhagen is, shockingly, made up of many different streets, it turns out that there are many different “right” ways to study abroad - which I figured out by aligning expectation and reality on my first post.

    Rachel Wolfe

    Rachel Wolfe is a Medill junior studying abroad in Copenhagen, and a contributor for the series, “This is not a study abroad blog,” which describes the expectations and realities of the study abroad experience. She speaks her truth about making friends and fitting into her new environment. In each topic, she also features voices of other NU students with experience abroad.

    Rachel’s next story in the series will be about the feeling of missing out on life at Northwestern (“Northwestern FOMO”), and she is looking for current study abroad students who are interested in contributing.


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