Go home or stay abroad?

Alice Schoutsen

I’m one of the students staying in Denmark, but I’m still not sure if I made the right decision. Should I go home or stay here? It’s a thought that keeps haunting my mind. 

At the beginning of March, the school reports that four corona infections have been diagnosed in Denmark. The school asks us to stay at home when if we have a cold or a fever. For me, the coronavirus still feels very far away, because the report also states that no infections have yet surfaced at my school. That reassures me. Besides posters with advice to wash your hands, there are not many other changes. Normal life goes on. 

Until ten days later, when we get the message that schools will close for at least two weeks. That’s when everything suddenly becomes uncertain. The weekly schedule is overturned. What was self-evident before is suddenly forbidden. The planned parties are canceled. The planned hours in the sauna and fitness center are no longer. The planned trips we would take for school can be forgotten. From that moment on, the coronavirus has us in its power.  

Two days later, I meet my whole class for the last time – some people I probably will never see again. We have to present our school assignment online. After the meeting, we talk about the bizarre situation that has suddenly come our way. Some classmates tell me that their school has advised them to return home. They have already booked their flight tickets to pack their luggage and leave the next day. 

They’re asking me what I’m going to do. I have no idea. I hadn’t thought about it before. The following days, this question keeps haunting my mind. Should I go home or should I stay here in Denmark? My mother advises me to stay here. She thinks it’s safer than taking a bus and two flights home. I would come into contact with too many people. It’s certain, I’ll stay here until June as planned. 

Until I get an email from my school in Belgium. They advise me to come home. Suddenly it’s not so clear anymore. What’s the best option? And is there even a good decision? You don’t just want to end your exchange experience here, but on the other hand, you just want to be in a familiar environment during this period. It’s a difficult decision that I honestly still can’t figure out. So, for the time being I’m staying in Denmark. Here, I live with nine other people my age. 

As such, I’m lucky to be able to share my lockdown period with these people. Everyone takes it very seriously. We’ve made some arrangements to make sure we follow the new rules that Denmark has imposed as much as possible. For example, we don’t meet other people from outside the dorm. I have to admit that sometimes I have a hard time with this agreement, because I realize that I only have five months to spend time with the people I met here outside my dorm.

In just a month, I developed some very nice friendships with people I can only wave at now. On the other hand, I’ve never had so much time to connect with my support system back home. It has become a daily activity to facetime with friends or family. While before, we had to set up a weekly meeting to make some time for each other. 

It also feels good that I’m not alone. One of my roommates is also an exchange student and we can find a lot of support in each other. We agreed that when this lockdown is over, we will have a great taste of Denmark. We will go out right away and we will also visit a lot to make up for all those days sitting inside. But there’s still a big chance that everything will be closed until we return to our home countries. It’s weird how your exchange experience can take such a different turn. They promised us a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It certainly has been that way. 

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