The student in the red “Buddy” shirt, turned around and smiled. “Yeah, you can call me Cam. Are you in my group?” The buddy responded in a Turkish accent.
I nodded. “I’m Lindsay.”
“Nice! We’re about to start introductions. Hop in the circle!”
I joined the rest of the students in my buddy group, about 10 other exchange students. We would spend the next five days together, each day planned by student guides called Vectors with activities to help us get to know not only each other, but the hundreds of exchange and masters students in other Buddy groups, the ins and outs of our host university (DTU), and Copenhagen, which was only about 30 minutes away by bike.
Since it was only the first day of the week, and each of us pretty much knew only a few others, we had many an ice breaker activity ahead of us.
Cam started us off with introductions by announcing the basics of his life (name: Cam, origin country: Turkey, study program and level: Masters in CIVE, and a fun alliterative nickname, like “Lucky Lindsay”).
“You can call me…Challenging Cam.” (He totally cheated with that one.)
And the list went on with humorously awkward introductions and gross misinterpretations of our different accents.
Once we all introduced each ourselves, we proceeded to play a whack-a-mole-like game where we closed our circle even more tightly, and one person stood in the middle. That poor unfortunate soul was tasked with the duty of hitting one of us on the outside with a rolled-up piece of paper when our full nickname was called. Fortunately, only a few of us were hit in the face and left with a menacing paper cut.
Eventually, Cam showed us mercy and switched the game. Together, we became a blind human train and only crashed with other Buddy groups three or four times. Afterwards, we merged with some of the groups we literally bumped into earlier, and ran around in a dysfunctional crowd looking for the handful of mystery “assassins” who would wink at an unsuspecting victim to knock them out of the game.
I would have been more than happy when I was chosen as a murderous winker, if my entire face didn’t shift for eons when I tried to close either of my eyes. Naturally, I did not become an MVP, nor did I stay alive for very long, but I did excel at dramatically falling to the ground and groaning to announce my demise.
The rest of Introduction Week was filled with humorous activities that gave a helpful glimpse at what to expect culturally from DTU and certain parts of Denmark. It was effortless meeting and getting to know students from all walks of life and parts of the world, especially as there were about two or three student bars open around campus during the week, and two of our Introduction Week activities landed the Buddy groups at a bar or club or some sort in downtown Copenhagen (say, after our Amazing Race day, for example.)
It was incredibly encouraging meeting other students facing the same challenges as myself, like finding a group of friends to discover the country and campus with, or understanding cultural and social norms (or the causal and strong drinking culture, in comparison to the US), or even attempting to learn Danish (definitely not an easy feat for a unilingual English speaker like myself).
Knowing that there were so many easygoing and warm-hearted people around, whether new to DTU or “veterans”, who were always willing to help or share a beer, made so many of us feel at home here immediately. It didn’t matter that most of us were leaving in a few months, and most of us weren’t likely to return after that – DTU and all its existing students treated every one of us like family from the start. Introduction Week was just one of many murderous winks aimed at my fears for this term, the months away from everything we all left home.