A couple of days ago, Estonia took on the Euro as its legal tender. It’s a change, and a pretty big one at that. And changes, especially the big ones, have a habit of bringing with them anxieties and confusion.

 

I only have seven days left in Copenhagen before I have to go back to Tallinn. And it’s a scary change. It’s also a relatively big change. I say relatively, because as big as the change will be, it will only affect me. Certainly, going back to Tallinn is going to involve plenty of merry reunions with people I haven’t seen in a long time. And certainly, they will be excited to hear about all the unbelievable and the crazy things that have happened in Copenhagen. At least initially so. As time passes, people will eventually and inevitably grow tired of my stories of how wonderful life was in Denmark. These stories will lose significance as change becomes naturalized. The trouble is, for someone returning from Copenhagen, the changes will be painfully obvious for quite some time.

 

Four years ago I had the immense “honor” of serving in the loving and giving family of the Estonian navy. And by “loving” I mean the kind of love an alcoholic might show their children, and by “giving” I mean ten euros per month (minus taxes). When I finally got out of the navy, I obviously wanted to talk about nothing but the navy. It’s understandable. People always share with others their recent experiences. But if you’ve just spent 11 months in a military organization, it leaves you with little common ground between you and your friends.

 

It’s a similar story with the Erasmus experience. All the good and the bad that has transpired in Copenhagen will form the core of my recent life experience, and it will be the source of many of my stories for some time to come. The trouble is, while I was living in Copenhagen, everybody else was more or less engaged in their daily Estonian routines. All the events that have fundamentally changed me as a person during the exchange are something that people outside that sphere will not be able to comprehend nor relate to. And while the exchange might leave you with plenty of new friends, your stories will be alien in your “home” context. The joys of overcoming a blizzard on your bicycle, all the dirty deeds committed at the Moose bar and all other points of reference will not translate easily, because experience is inherently connected to sharing. And sharing, the word has it, is caring. If you haven’t shared, then you can’t really care.

 

Reverse culture shock is something that most Erasmus students will have to cope with. Interestingly, I had no trouble whatsoever with integrating into the Copenhagen way of life. A mere 72 hours after my arrival, I was already happily cycling through the city’s streets with a bag of meatballs and a six pack of “Danish Pride” in my basket. The future was wide open and I was eager to jump into the exciting life of an Erasmus student.

 

And what a wild ride it has been.

 

It has been said that the first casualty of war is innocence. The first casualties of an exchange experience are responsibility, sense of decency and caution. Most Erasmus students will likely agree that studying is not their primary concern. The primary concern for exchange students is making friends (and making out).

 

But as a friend of mine put it best, the Erasmus life is not real life. You live inside a bubble – and the bubble is awesome. There is an inherent tragedy here. Leaving Copenhagen will be a nightmare, and once you leave, it will be for good. Of course, you can try to return to Copenhagen but you might find out that the real Denmark is an unforgiving place and the Danish society, not unlike the Estonian one, is not always welcoming to newcomers. The diverse international community you once enjoyed might elude you altogether. For me the primary motivation for going to Copenhagen was the alienation from the fiercely nationalistic and aggressively territorial Estonian mainstream culture. This is why the warm embrace of the Copenhagen international community was a huge relief for me – and the closest thing I’ve had to “home”.

 

But I guess it’s not all that bad. I’ve chosen my social circle well, or rather, my social circle has chosen me, and that circle will be my safety net. It’s a very, very mischievous social circle, but the idea that all problems can be solved with pub-crawling, beer and Jäger-Absinthe shots is exactly what makes it such a neat circle to belong in.

 

Also, I still have a week left in Copenhagen and I suspect, if previous adventures are anything to go by, this week will be very naughty indeed and I will make damn sure that I go out in a blaze of glory.

 

.

 

Advertisements