Four years ago...

The cheapest way to fly across the pond from the US four years ago today was to hop on a one-way cargo carrier to any destination in Europe. I was dropped in Vienna with the perspective of Denmark being a stone's throw away; a dragging ten hours later I arrived in Aarhus, DK, the first stop on my Erasmus Mundus adventure.

My jet-lagged slumber was shaken the next morning by a loud knocking. King-size bags sat unpacked in a corner, and my half-naked body was rolled in a blanket like a hotdog... on a mattress still lined with plastic. I had forgotten what I was doing in this barren dorm room, or where I even was.

The knocking continued. I scooted to the doorway and soon found myself standing in front of two unexpected visitors: A short, curvy young Indian woman beside a lofty Ukranian in his late 30s with goofy glasses and an amusing grin. I squinted at the figures in front of me to help my eyes focus. It was a puzzling few seconds of silence before one of us spoke.

"Hi, we're your new classmates," said the woman from India, Ankeeta. I stood there awkwardly draped in my down comforter with sleep in my eyes and a frizzed head of hair.

I was still convincing myself this was no dream when the Ukrainian, Alexander, chimed in with giggly broken English and startling enthusiasm, "Yes! And we have come, and invite you to a nearby beach!"

Perhaps the only thing my body was capable of that day was sprawling out on beach sand, so I managed to mumble an agreeable reply. My hands fished beach attire from my bags, and five minutes later I stumbled out of my dorm with two new acquaintances bounded for Moesgård Strand.

Once there, Alexander wasted no time stripping down to his Speedo, splashing and galloping into the icy Danish waters. Ankeeta struggled with her modesty for a solid half hour by attempting to change into her swimsuit, whilst keeping a towel wrapped around her body, to avoid anyone catching a glimpse of her privates. It was a highly entertaining episode for this American to witness, and this was just Day One.

Four years deep I still have vivid memories of my first day with Alexander and Ankeeta. The situation was a first for me, yet the entire two years of Erasmus Mundus would expose me to situations I never knew could exist in my life. This invitation to sun bathe by the North Sea was just the beginning of a lifestyle that followed the theme of "What have you got to lose?" I even roll with that saying today, and encourage others to give it a try: The outcome is always worthwhile.

A happy four years of Audrey in Europe since Aug. 22, 2005.