Guest Blog and Photos by Joshua Savey
As the train doors closed, I realized that I would soon be back in the United States. My host family and I had a long waving goodbye as the train proceeded to the next stop. These were the people who for me had been more like a real rather than host family over the past nine months. It was hard to leave them but I was excited to go back home and see my other family and friends.
When I got to the airport I checked-in, went through security, and boarded my flight bound for Chicago. My plane was full of American students going back to the U.S. but I sat next to a middle-aged Danish man. Oddly enough I found myself more comfortable next to him. At this point I felt more accustomed to Danish traditions. Shortly after the flight took-off, all I could think about was integration back into the U.S. Would it be challenging to fit in or would it go smoothly?
Here we go, I thought when we did finally reach the U.S. As I was going through customs the officer gave me a strange accusatory look. In my entrance form I had to declare the countries I had visited: Denmark, Germany, United Kingdom, Turkey, and Russia. The customs officer asked, “Turkey and Russia, huh?” I responded, “Yes, academic visits.” “Hmm, interesting he says…well, welcome back.” I was a little surprised as the comment because of the countries I visited. I about told the man: I also took a class on terrorism, would you like to hear about that?
Then I proceeded to the security checkpoint for my next flight bound for Portland. In line I was talking with a friend when these people just started asking us where we were coming from. This may seem like a normal occurrence but the Danes don’t make small talk, especially with strangers, so I was slightly surprised. Finally I reached the metal detectors, where I about found myself in trouble for not taking off my shoes. European airports don’t require you to remove your shoes unless the alarm goes off, which it hardly does.
After a three-hour layover, I was finally on my way to Portland, my final destination. On this flight my neighbor, a middle-aged woman, was very curious about my time abroad. Finally she said in a quiet manner, “They’re socialists.” She said this like it was a swear word of some kind. I just responded, “Yes, but it seems to be working for them.”
This entire journey home was full of interesting experiences that in some small way surprised me. It’s not that the Danes hold radically different beliefs but it’s just the small things that I notice most. While I’ve now been back for three weeks I often catch myself saying: “While in Denmark we do…”. It’s something I’m sure I will always say.