Hola mi amor!
Soy yo, Ashley, and welcome to (or welcome back to) SHEISALLIN. I am so glad that you are here, because I am so excited to share with you about how things have been going and what God’s been teaching me over here in Denmark. You ready?
I’m in Denmark amor, in Denmark. Like, Europe. Like, not a quick walk home.
It’s already been about a month and sometimes, I still can’t believe that I am even here. It feels like time passed so quickly, but that i’ve been here forever, you know what I mean?
I am currently living in Viby (pronounced Vee-bu), this beautiful small town about an hour commute from the capital, Copenhagen, where I go to school. I live in a home with a beautiful family, including my host mother and father, their three boys (one is in boarding school), my roommate, and their dog named Santo. I definitely need to mention that he’s a golden retriever, to make it a little more real how seemingly perfect it all is, lol. It still feels perfect.
The cross-cultural exchange and connections i’ve made with them have been special. Our 6pm family dinners where my family makes fun of my Danish and I get to hear about their day to day life has been such a valuable part of my experience. It’s funny, I actually put Homestay as my first choice, since I wanted to live in an apartment; and though 99% of people get their first choice, I am SO glad that I was put here. I couldn’t imagine experiencing life here without my family to come back home to.
Classes have also been amazing from the start. I’m taking Positive Psychology as my “core course”, or my focus course, along with other electives like “Children with Special Needs”, the “Happiness Lab”, “Danish Language and Culture,” and a fashion course called “Meaning of Style.” These are courses not offered back home at Smith, so I’ve been loving the experience of doing something a little different. Positive Psych is something special, since we’ve been learning about what human flourishing means and studying happiness in Denmark, which is actually known to be the happiest country in the world. Wild, right? I can’t help but think “Jesus, what are you doing?” because I just know He’s going to use these studies for a future purpose. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you updated on that too ;).
Copenhagen itself is absolutely stunning, and I feel blessed to enjoy the experience of studying abroad in a place like this. It’s like a peaceful version of my home, NYC. The cobblestone floors, the old architecture, the way that every street has its own style, or it’s own personality… I love everything about it. There have already been so many differences i’ve recognized here from my home back in the U.S. The regard for family and the value of social life and wellbeing are so evident in day to day life here in Denmark, and it’s refreshing. (There’s plenty more to say about that, but maybe another time ;)).
Our First Few Weeks
Things got busy really quick. Our first week was full being that it was both orientation week and the start of classes, and let me tell you, jet-lag was having its mighty way with me in the midst of it. Still, that week, I was able to connect with so many beautiful people, especially those who live near my homestay area and those in my classes, who brought light and comfort to my time of adjusting.
Before getting here, I prayed for God to bring good people into my world, and He continued to do so more and more throughout the weeks. The first day of orientation was when I met up with those who live near my area, but in the start of classes, I have also made a really great friend named Jasmine, and other friends like Emily and Mikal. Our first week, Jasmine and I took a walk together near Nyhavn, and we shared details of our faith journey together. I told her “girl, i’ve been praying for community,” and she said “I prayed for friends too!”, and I just knew that God was definitely going to do something special with our friendship. Weeks later, she became my church and travel buddy ❤️.
P.S. Just a few days after meeting, she and I planned a trip to Sweden together and took trains to Lund and Malmo for the day of our third Saturday here, LOL. We planned it all in one day at a café and it was definitely an experience 😭. We walked 14 miles that day, amor. Have your legs ever been sore after simply walking?
Things were still hard: Trying to Find my Footing
But in the midst of the surprises, the exploring, and the blessings that God had for me this last month, I still found myself struggling to follow Jesus in this new place. It seemed as though everywhere that I turned, people had different expectations of what my experience should look like (sex, drugs, partying, traveling all over Europe every weekend…), experiences that just wasn’t me to partake in. Neglecting to consistently make time for God made it even harder to deal with the FOMO I was beginning to experience. The reality was that because of the way that I lived my life, I felt so different from everyone else around me. I know that those feelings are so real for college students, especially those trying to seek God in today’s world, and if we’re going to be honest here, this call to walk differently is not an easy one to live by.
Three weeks in, I also felt desperate for community, for a group of people who I could talk about Jesus with, who I can pray with and do life with. Navigating a new space, seeking God in a new place, balancing a long distance relationship and schoolwork was getting difficult, and all that I needed was the experience of community with others who I can share those struggles with.
Testimony Time: He brought it.
And Jesus sure met me, but in my waiting for fellowship, He was also giving me strength in the waiting and in my feelings of loneliness (that came from the all too real FOMO.)
Over the last two weeks, I was continuously reminded of those prayers I prayed before getting here that I would walk with God wherever I am. I was continuously reminded that as God’s daughter, I am called to live differently, no matter what everyone else was doing. I was continuously reminded of the verse “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33) that God reminded me of before the start of the new year. What was I going to do while I waited for Him to meet my need of community? I was going to continue to seek Him.
The moments that I did spend time with Jesus in the mornings really oriented me, reminded me of who I was, and provided me with the company that I needed. With Him, I felt safe and at peace. I was reminded that I am here to be a light in the lives of others, to still seek God as much as I did back home, to ENJOY DENMARK and my host family and friends, and I had confidence that as long as I sought God first, God will meet every need of mine, including the need for fellowship.
And then a few days ago, God met the need.
Suly, someone who I hold dear in my heart, hit me up at 1am her time (7am mine), and told me that God woke her up to pray for me. I had recently finished praying and asking God for strength when she messaged me. God putting me on Suly’s heart was a great reminder that God actually does see me, and that He was working.
But it doesn’t stop there, ya’ll. That night was Hillsong Copenhagen’s social for international students, and for the first time, I was able to go to one of their events. We met at this cute cafe, and I felt so at home, like my spirit said “yes, this is where you belong.” My craving for fellowship was instantly satisfied. I hit it off with the people right away, and loved it.
Insert Sermon Here: Daughter or brother, spending time in community centered me, and reminded me of who I was. And when the community wasn’t available, God was. For those of you who are ever finding it hard to find a place to be you, to walk differently, to navigate this world as a child of God, you are safe in God’s arms. For those of you waiting for community, seek Him while you wait for what you need. He is faithful babe, so faithful.
The Following Week
The next week after that social was amazing. My core course and I packed our bags for a class trip to Western Denmark and I learned plenty about Positive Psychology and the value of social capital and relationships for human wellbeing. Studying abroad has already taught me so much with regard to academics, Denmark and Danish culture, and even myself. But more on that next time, yeah?
Thank you amor for choosing to walk with me and read about my journey through Denmark. Feel free to email me how this post touched you or ways that I can be praying/ supporting you on your journey. ❤️
You are beautiful.