Homesickness and Hygge

June 11, 2019

As I’m writing this post, I’m sitting on the docks of Nyhavn here in Copenhagen, Denmark on a beautiful sunny day. I’ve been here three whole weeks (WOW!), and as much as I hate to say it, I think that I’m getting a little homesick. This was expected – I’ve never been out of the United States before and this trip is most definitely testing my independence (as in it is forcing me to have some) – but I still feel a bit guilty. “I’m surely enjoying myself,” I say, “why am I even a little homesick?!”

Docks of Nyhavn, my absolute favorite place in Copenhagen!

For anyone who reads this, I want you to know: becoming homesick is completely normal. There is nothing to feel guilty about! This study abroad experience has put me so far out of my comfort zone that I can’t even see it anymore, and while I miss my dog, my family, and definitely my own bed, it’s amazing to see how much I’ve grown in such a short amount of time.

One thing that has kept me grounded is how friendly and hospitable everyone here in Copenhagen is. Sure, customs can be different and there is often that ever-dreaded language barrier, but I can proudly say that I have yet to feel isolated. Just this morning, as I stumbled through a greeting and a thank you in Danish at our local grocery store, the cashier simply smiled and helped me to correct my pronunciation. In trying to buy a bus pass to explore some more of this city, I was having difficulty figuring out the ticket machine. An incredibly friendly station employee (who probably could spot me as an American from a mile away) walked over and graciously helped me get to where I needed to go. Little things like these cause me to reflect and realize how incredibly lucky I am to be here in this fantastic city.

The Danish have a word here that reflects a concept they try to live by: hygge. It’s difficult to fully explain in English (believe me, many have tried), but the closest I can get is that it’s a feeling of being comfortable and content. Many might say it’s enjoying the simple things in life. It’s a concept that English doesn’t have a single, holistic word for, but the Danish might be on to something, as they’re often quoted as the happiest country in the world!

Those little moments that I mentioned earlier put a smile on my face and gave me relief in my seemingly constant nervousness and anxiety about being so far away from home for so long. Since first coming to Denmark, I’ve learned to sit back, relax, and appreciate and enjoy every moment that I can, even those that make me uncomfortable. To illustrate this, I’ll tell you a story:

Every morning, I take the metro to class. Earlier this week, I got on the wrong train…and it was raining…and I was convinced I would be late for lecture. Pre-study abroad Jacob would have panicked in ways you might not even begin to imagine. I was by myself, without wifi, and was reminded at every turn that I still do not speak Danish. After spending a moment to take in my surroundings, I realized: what better learning experience is there than this? I was suddenly in a part of the city that I had never been to before, and guess what? It was unique and beautiful. As the rain began to slow, I looked up and saw this gorgeous building…

I snapped a picture, took it all in, and confidently asked the nearest Dane for directions to Nørreport, the neighborhood where my classes were located. Much to my relief, she spoke English, and much to my surprise, I was right on time to class. If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that my independence can always be stretched, and only good things can come from that. I may miss home, but the experiences that I’m having here cannot be replicated back in the United States.

Everyone will be pushed out of their comfort zones sooner or later, but Denmark has taught me that those experiences need to be embraced and appreciated just as much as the comfortable ones. Feel the rain, look at the beautiful buildings, and strive to be content in discomfort. That’s hygge.

My advice? Take a page out of the Danes’ book and bring more hygge into your life, you might be surprised at the ways you grow.

Jacob Furry is a sophomore Trustee’s Scholar at the University of Missouri- Kansas City majoring in music education along with a psychology minor. Jacob will spend the summer abroad as a Gilman Scholar in Copenhagen, Denmark with the DIS Copenhagen program studying multicultural and special education.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.