During the onset of the pandemic, I found myself turning to books more than people. I was searching for adventure, friends, family, new places, and new ideas. As I consumed book after book, I realized that I was overwhelmingly gravitating towards a trope coined in most young adult literature reviews as a “found family”. According to the NY Public Library, found family “refers to a device in literature and media where a group of characters find themselves united in a family-bond based on shared experiences, mutual understanding, and interpersonal connection”. Something about finding, rather than defaulting into a family delighted my deepest yearnings during the period of isolation. I had formed this idea, alone in my thoughts, that I had a family compelling me to find them somewhere out there in the world.
When Cornell announced that they would have study abroad open for the Spring semester, I jumped at the opportunity. It was time to jump into the plot of my own book. Thus, I began the search for my “found family”. Though not nearly as exciting as slaughtering my enemies in dragon or mermaid form side by side with my family-bonded-friends, I filled out DIS’s host family application in immense anticipation of meeting my future family. I wrote about my love of young kids, and hope for a younger sibling (younger than my 18-year-old brother). I wrote about loving the countryside, the forest, and the outdoors. And, of course, I wrote about my love for adventure, books, and shared experiences in new places.
Come January 15, my nerves were bouncing off the walls as I waited in a little corner of the DIS orientation room. Soon, my name would be called to meet my family. I was nervous: were they going to like me? Will they think I’m strange?
Fast forward to the present, and my reality has far surpassed my wildest dreams for a found family. My host parents and host sisters welcomed me completely into the family; it is hard to think about what I would do without them here in Denmark. This semester has been my wildest adventure yet, since the start of the pandemic. From running on stilts in Hamlet’s castle, to exploring the ancient monastery, to Friday candy and X-Factor, to sipping tea and playing “Skaak”, to constructing buildings out of giant legos, to bringing my sister to class, to biking alongside the seafront, to brunching in the sun, to eating new food, the book adventure I dreamed of is finally playing out in front of my eyes.
In a way, I am grateful for a period of isolation and reflection in order to truly appreciate my present life in Denmark with my host family. Every day, I come home and I feel loved, accepted, and bonded with some of the greatest, lifelong friends I will ever have the chance to know. I know I can count on my family to make me feel at home, to listen to my day, and to care about my life. Being in a new country, sometimes that is the lifeline that prevents you from collapsing into the frightening truth of living alone, overstimulated by new experiences in a vastly different country than your own.
When I came home from the long study tour in Greece, my host family all jumped to hug me. My host sisters felt like my real sisters, and my host parents felt like my real parents. At this point in the semester, I think my plot has developed enough to wholeheartedly proclaim that I have found my found family. And, to my host dad’s wisdom, the biography on my life is really becoming interesting now.