Jeg skriver fra Minnesota, ikke Danmark, og det er så mærkeligt. Der er amerikanske flags i stedet for dannebrogs. Nu jeg må sove med to hunde. Mennesker synes at det er ikke rigtigt når jeg siger “hva”.

On July 6th, I woke up. I ate a small breakfast with the Jørgensens, pet my host kitties for the last time, and said goodbye to them. My dear host brother Simon – who is so great that he actually volunteered to drive me to the airport without me asking – picked me up, and we had our last drive.

Out of all the goodbyes I had to do, saying goodbye to Simon was one of the least fun.  There are many people who have impacted me, but Simon was really a brother to me. There aren’t many people that can be really good at school, work out for a significant portion of each day, know how to relax, and be a genuinely caring person. Somehow, Simon managed to be all of those things. I could always go home and talk to him, and that is something that new dog can replace, and ever since I’ve been back I’ve missed him incredibly.

This particular day, Simon was a comforter of sorts. We talked on the way to the airport, as the car inched towards the place I had been dreading for eleven months. He stayed with me as I struggled to find the place I should go, calmed me when my suitcase was a tiny bit over, and stayed with me until it was time to go for security.

Then it was one last picture, one last long hug, and then it was time to cry in the security line.

After crying in the security line, it was time for actual security, then my last chance to have Lagekagehuset in Denmark. After waiting for a long time, I eventually got on my flight to Amsterdam.

I had just enough time so that I was very comfortable, but not waiting an excessive time, in Amsterdam. This first lead me to speaking a Chinese woman and her toddler son, who were waiting on a flight to Beijing. I heard her son speak Danish, and though he couldn’t speak English, we ended up having a good conversation in Danish. They had lived in Denmark for a couple years, and I didn’t really expect having that chance in Amsterdam.

The craziness continued when I ran into my old piano teacher. She was on the same flight back to Minnesota after being in Sweden, and she noticed me due to my very noticeable jacket. I was starting to feel like I was back in Minnesota already. The chance of us being on the same flight was pretty small, so I was quite surprised.

My jacket also was noticed by a girl returning home to Minnesota as well, from Germany. We automatically bonded over the crazy thing that we were doing.

It was the weirdest thing, getting on a plane for nine hours, and telling the flight attendants that you are going home from being gone for eleven months. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I got off the plane. Exchange puts you through a lot, but I don’t anything really can prepare you for stepping off the plane.

I made it through customs, and was greeted by two very happy parents. There was the happy reunion, the first dinner back, and getting to see my dogs for the first time. However, I would be lying if there is anything easy about being back.

It takes listening to just one song to bring me to tears. When I’m in my room, I feel like I’m trapped inside the room of the person I was before. I miss all of my Danish and exchange student friends that I met in Denmark. Something will happen, and I just want to go home and tell Simon, but I only have my dear dogs for siblings.

However, there are the beautiful moments. Our new dog, Princess, Frieda, does not compare to host siblings in anyway, but she is actually really a sweetheart that happens to be quite adorable and loves snuggling. Meeting people for the first time in eleven months, well, that’s quite the feeling. That will always bring a smile to my face.

There was the chance to talk to the new exchange students at the Central Rotary Student Youth Exchange Student Conference, and tell them all about the challenges they could face, but also the beautiful things. There was going back to the exact same pizza place I was at in Chicago last year, Pizza Due’s, and having the best deep dish pizza. I might insist on going to all the places I haven’t been, and I don’t know how people feel about that, but going to Zorbaz, La Barista, and Long Bridge is quite the feeling. I was be sitting in the coffee shop, and a woman (who presumably reads my columns) that I don’t know will tell me welcome back. When I went to church, there were so many people happy to see me and eager to hear about my experience.

It has been a challenge, but at this two week mark it’s starting to feel a little less painful. I may cry more than one should, be way too emotional, and feel a bit off most of time, but I’m getting there. I have way too many things to do in the time I have here to waste it. I have people that I need to see for the first time in eleven months, presentations to prepare, things to write, a room to paint, dogs to snuggle, and soon to start working. My plans for the future depend on something that I’ll hopefully find out soon, but I’ll keep you updated.

Til Bodil og resten af familie Jørgensen – tak fordi i havde mig, når jeg var syg, for min sidste uge. I betyder så meget til mig, og dit hjem vil altid følge som hjem til mig. Tak til Sara, fordi du vågnede tidlige op, til at se farvel. Du er en fantastisk værtsøster, jeg er så heldig for din støtte. Tak til Bodil, fordi du har gjort så meget for meget for mig, og været med mig gennem alt. Tak til familie Skødt, ved at i er en mega rar, klog familie. Johanne – jeg savner at have en lille søster, og jeg har ikke mødt nogen endu, som er dygtig som dig med geografi. Held og lykke i New York, Emilie, jeg er sikkert at du vil have et uforglemmelig år. Til Simon, det er bare ikke sammen, når jeg kommer hjem, og du er der ikke. Tusind tak for alt, og jeg glæder mig, til når jeg kommer tilbage, og spiser alle af din sild igen. Vi ses, forhåbentlig snart.