This one is a long one, but if you want to know why I won’t be at Vandy for the spring semester, here’s your answer.
Over the past three weeks or so the idea of spending a second semester, and thus almost a full year, in Denmark went from a vague idea that scampered through my mind, to a legitimate consideration, to a more concrete (almost 100% confirmed) reality.
It started with Nathan (this is your shoutout, acknowledge it, appreciate it) who started saying that he wanted to extend his stay for a full year within a week of getting here. I was enthusiastic about the idea, and ridiculously jealous because I was sure that it just wouldn’t be a possibility for me. I listed off people and student organizations and job opportunities that were important to me at Vanderbilt and dismissed the idea without a second thought. I harassed him to email his advisors at home to make sure that he wouldn’t miss out on a great opportunity solely for stupid logistical reasons, and I fully intended on living vicariously through his yearlong experience.
Then the government shutdown happened. Interestingly enough, I think it may have even struck “closer to home” for those of us abroad than for people currently in the United States. Of course I can’t speak for anyone who WAS but from people’s social media, many people seemed unconcerned. Personally, it terrified me; when the exchange rate changed .2 I wondered if there was going to be a drastic plummet in my money’s international value, especially with talks of defaulting on U.S. Debt (Seriously?!? What kind of stupid fucking idea is that?) Seeing the sardonically amused reaction of some of the Danish faculty was also eye opening. They seemed to view the partisan gridlock in American politics in the same way U.S. Nationals might view the instable and ever-changing governments of undeveloped nations.
The uncertainties of the shutdown brought up a lot of negative feelings I have towards the American political and economic system. I found myself wondering if there was really anything pulling me back to Vanderbilt for the spring,
During those two weeks, I sent emails to faculty and advisors at home to find out if it was logistically possible for me to stay another semester. First finding out the basics: 1. Does Vanderbilt allow that? 2. Would it affect my financial aid? 3. Will I still be able to graduate and finish both my majors (finishing both my philosophy and gender studies major is currently unsure)
Basically, by the time the shutdown was resolved, I had been approved on all logistical sides and made an impulsive decision that I was in this for a year. One of Søren Kierkegaard’s many identities once said “Do, or do not, you will regret it either way.” While the quote might seem depressing, my studies of Kierkegaard, and particularly identification with Wilhelm/B of Either/Or I see it in a different light.
According to what I’ve learned so far about Danish Existentialism/Nihilism the idea is something like: Life is meaningless and empty when you’ve examined it rationally, but you can approach that inescapable fact in two ways. The first is to wallow in self pity and do nothing. The second is to make decisions with a sense of commitment in order to create meaning and purpose within your own life. My personal experience of reality tells me that there is no God, no afterlife and no infinitely existing, sentient soul. I think, because it would be ridiculous to feel a sense of extreme certain-ness about a lack of existence. Maybe.
Basically the point of all that philosopho-fizing is for me to explain that I believe I can take this opportunity to stay in Denmark for a year to enrich my experience of the world and live a meaningful life. Deep shit right?
I think there are some things that I wouldn’t be able to experience without spending a full year here. For one thing, my absolute lack of homesickness is one reason to stay—it indicates that I may be more able to feel comfortable in foreign environments, but also that I haven’t adjusted enough to have any sense of disillusionment with Denmark. I also have a strong desire to gain more knowledge of Danish language, despite the fact that it’s completely unnecessary to know; everyone speaks English, except the cashiers and the people who work in bike shops in the country.
Before I came abroad even the concept of one semester away from my beloved Vanderbilt was ridiculously upsetting; my college experience has been nothing short of surreally amazing. The day that I graduate and leave campus behind looms ominously in the future, it’s when I have to start living like a “real” person, with a job and rent and start getting serious. However, I realized that whether or not I’m actually on campus, I cannot make the time between now and graduation move any slower, once I realized that, the decision was simpler to make.
TL;DR: I like Denmark, screw #FOMO, I’m going to study abroad for a full year instead of a semester.