Rara (she/her), St. Olaf College, spent a full year in Copenhagen studying Urban Design and Sustainability. In her letter, Rara discusses the profound way study abroad developed her sense of self, connected her with a diverse international crowd, and allowed her to engage with an academic field deeply tied to Scandinavian culture.
Call me Rara.
It all began with a curiosity for the unknown lands of Scandinavia, the paradise of the “happiest people on Earth.” I wanted to see how people there lived and thrived. What could I learn from them? Since I moved to the U.S. from Indonesia at the age of 18, traveling to foreign lands and exploring different cultures has become a core value in my life journey. Combined with my aspiration to be a global urban planner, Copenhagen made perfect sense as a place to understand Scandinavian values and study urban planning in a country known to be a leading nation in sustainability and architecture.
At DIS, the experiential learning I encountered through my Field Studies were integral parts of my urbanism education and shaped the way I saw the city around me. On Study Tours, Europe became my classroom as we traveled to discover new cultural elements and perspectives I would never have been able to gain otherwise. The friendships I have established with Danes and other internationals have been deeply meaningful and the different stories and perspectives we’ve shared have allowed me to learn about compassion, humility, and acceptance towards one another. To them, I say thank you for inspiring me to be proud of my identity.
To me, studying abroad was also an opportunity to get to know myself. Looking back, I can now see how capable and independent I have become, much more than I ever thought possible. The challenges I faced taught me to accept myself for who I am, regardless of the imperfections. The Lindhardt Family, my Visiting Host, was also an enormous bliss to me during my growth process. They welcomed me with unconditionally open arms and have provided me with feelings of joy, love, and a sense of belonging, even as I was thousands of miles away from home. The people I have found, the new experiences I have had, and the self-discoveries I have made here will continue with me long after I return home.
Looking back, I can now see how capable and independent I have become, much more than I ever thought possible. The challenges I faced taught me to accept myself for who I am, regardless of the imperfections.
All of this is to say, I am so excited for you. By reading this, you are one step closer in beginning the most transformative period in your life—no matter how far along you are in that process. Be brave and embrace the memories and experiences you are about to make. Show the world the courage it takes and the resilience you will develop as you create your own story with DIS. Believe me, it will all be worth it.
Rara Dzikrina Istifadah
Learn more about Rara’s story by checking out her YouTube playlist:
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