A neuroscience major, Mia Marcellana studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark via the DIS Summer in Scandinavia program in the summer of 2023.
It’s a sobering moment to wake up surrounded by a different city, culture, and language for the first time. I’m not talking about arriving in the airport, jetlagged and half asleep. I mean the next day when it all sets in. As if in a panicked daze, I was scared to move. Scared to use the metro to get to class, scared to find a coffee shop, scared of all of it, my first full day in Copenhagen, Denmark. I had been waiting to study abroad all year, if not longer. It never occurred to me that I may feel paralyzed in my own bed—scared to put my feet on the cool wooden floor.
What I would come to learn throughout the next three weeks was that study abroad was fabulously extravagant in every way. The utmost elated anticipation awaited at every turn in the road. Absolute fear rested around every corner which seemed to make the adventure so much more fun. Night and day, I maxed out my exhaustion levels in an attempt to capture every fun moment which never seemed to end. Now, as I sit in my childhood bedroom in Ohio, the only word I can conjure to describe it all is exhilaration.
Both my childhood as well as my future career goals played huge roles in my desire to go abroad. As someone who is biracial, a majority of my family members hold some historically underrepresented identities. My grandfather moved from the Philippines with no knowledge of English and only $200 in hopes of a better life. Growing up around my Filipino family, many of whom have immigrated to the U.S., I felt my entire way of living was different than that of my classmates. I grew up in a wonderful town that happened to be predominantly white, unlike myself. I loved my culture with such a passion, yet I didn’t even know how to share it with the kids around me.
As a result, I continue to have a constant underlying feeling that I owe something to all the people from all different cultures all around the world. Perhaps they have an incredibly rich culture to share, yet anxiety about how to share it the same way I did. Or, maybe they don’t have a vehicle to share. My hope was that I could learn about a new culture through study abroad, and perhaps strengthen my world view in a way that could make me a better, more culturally understanding physician in the future.
After my visit to Denmark and its surrounding countries, I can say without a doubt good people exist everywhere. The “Cognitive Neuroscience of Consciousness” course I took through the Danish Institute of Study Abroad explored the eleven main theories of consciousness within the human brain. We contemplated and argued about different views of consciousness, how altered consciousness (for ex: use of psychedelics) should be treated in a courtroom, etc. The course confirmed to me that there is a hope for good in every person. Even in the case that a person’s moral compass doesn’t match the ethics outlined by society, they still have a strong drive for what they think to be the right thing. I got to observe this love of humanity and goodness in people all over Denmark. Many people went out of their way to be kind to me. Not only have I explored the neuroscience aspect of goodness, but the Danish cultural aspect as well.
My new goal for my study abroad experience is to take all that I’ve learned, academically and culturally, and share it with warmth to anyone around me. It’s not just about my experience, it’s about the way I represent my country to a foreign country, and vice versa. I now have the opportunity to share all of the goodness of Danish culture to those around me here, and inspire them to find curiosity in new cultures as well. I can only hope that I showed the type of kindness to the Danish people I met that inspired them to find curiosity in the American way of life. If I’ve properly done so in a way that inspires all, I’ve been a good global citizen.