University of Wisconsin–Madison

roles reversed [being the big sister]

Imagine being a little sister AND the youngest sibling.  Maybe this is a reality for you, and you know all about this scenario.  If that’s not the case though, let me fill you in.  Being the youngest sibling is a blessing and a curse, in all honesty.  BLESSING: You have all your siblings to look up to as role models.  CURSE [maybe a blessing too]: You will always be the baby of the family whether you are 2. . . 12. . . or 20.  BLESSING: Your siblings are always protecting you.  CURSE: The middle seat in the back of the car basically has your name written on it *sigh*.  BLESSING: You rarely get punished because your siblings have probably done something similar or worse.  CURSE: You are constantly referred to as “so-and-so’s sister”. . . I can still hear people shouting down the hallways, “HEY IT’S DREW’S SISTER!” *rolling eye emoji*

The biggest blessing that outweighs all the curses: You always have the best support system one could ask for.

Now imagine transitioning from being the little sister [and youngest] for the past 20 years into the big sister.  You were previously known as the baby, and now you are the role model.  You were previously the one looking up to your siblings, and now your siblings are looking up to you.  The middle seat in the back of the car has someone else’s name on it now *sigh of relief*.  You are now the protective one.  Hmmm. . . maybe it’s just me, but I can relate.

With anticipation of wanting to be placed into a homestay, I was secretly hoping for this situation where I was now the big sister.  Perhaps I wanted to fulfill this role for a little girl because I wanted to have an impact on her life as much as my sister has had on mine.  Never fully taking into consideration the magnitude in which a big sister plays in a little sister’s life, I underestimated the responsibility that comes along with being the big sister.  BUT I had the most admirable role model to learn how to be the best big sister one can be.

From this reversal of roles, I have learned so much in such a short time about myself, about my sister’s influence on my life, and about being a role model.

| about myself |

While living in a new country is challenging enough, living in a homestay can be challenging as well.  What if you don’t fit into the family dynamics?  What if your host parents are too strict?  What if there is a language barrier between you and your host family?  Just three questions that came to my mind; maybe because I had all of these fears going into this experience, yet I still hit submit on my housing application with a homestay option listed as my top preference.  Even though I was nervous about this housing option, I was SO excited about the experiences that it would hold.  That is what I have learned about myself; courageousness.  In the midst of an apprehensive perspective, I willingly followed my heart and chose the homestay option while pushing my fears aside and not letting them hold me back.

| about my sister’s influence on my life |

Being courageous is an understatement when describing my sister.  Think about it.  Who decides to pack up their bags, say goodbye to their friends, and move to a ‘village’ in Alaska 3,000 miles away from home?  Someone who is courageous, brave, strong, and the list could go on forever.  Such a list describes my sister, and I believe that is why I learned how to be courageous.  I have always known how much my sister has influenced my life, but being in my new role makes it that much more clear.  She has shown me not only just how to be courageous but how to be compassionate, kind, loving, protective, strong, and independent as well.  I look up to her in all aspects of my life because she exemplifies the good qualities every person should have.  For the past three years, our bond has grown stronger because of the distance between us, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

| about being a role model |

To some people, being a role model may be extremely scary.  Even to me.  What we don’t understand, however, is that we all have the capabilities and qualities to be a role model.  Our lives have been influenced by a role model(s), whether it was a mother, father, sibling, relative, teacher, professor, and so on.  Therefore, we have all learned from those role models, and we, too, can be one for someone else.  Each role model holds unique qualities that are important to our world, so in order to be a role model, all you have to do is be the best version of yourself.

Why am I even writing about all of this?  Because when an opportunity to make an impact in someone’s life pronounces itself in front of us, we must embrace it.  Living with my host family has been amazing thus far, yet there have still been struggles.  While Kenn is the only person in the family who speaks fluent English, Lisette makes an enormous effort to have conversations with me as well.  These conversations are so meaningful to me because speaking a foreign language to someone who speaks that language is an incredibly intimidating task.  BUT we laugh at one another when the conversation is at a stand still because one of us doesn’t know how to say/describe something.  AND most importantly, we enjoy learning from one another about our cultures through conversation.

On the other hand, though, the girls have been more reserved which I completely understand.  This is where being a role model comes into play.  I’ve learned that I must take initiative in order to build a relationship with the girls.  At first, this was frustrating to me, but I have begun to embrace it.

One night, while procrastinating my homework, I asked Freja to bake cookies with me because she looked bored, and I had a feeling it would be a great bonding activity.  LET ME TELL YOU, it was in fact a bonding activity because it took hours to bake them.  Who knew that baking cookies in a different country would be so hard.  I found a recipe online for “brookies” aka brownie cookies, but little did we know, we had to convert all the measurements of cups to grams, and so on.  When making them, I was just praying that the cookies would turn out good.  Luckily, my prayers were answered.  The brookies were SO GOOD!  Most importantly, though, Freja and I enjoyed baking them together!  It’s the little things that matter in this not-so-little world.

I owe it to myself to not let my fears of being a role model or taking initiative in hard situations hold me back from sharing this experience with my host family and friends in the beautiful city of Copenhagen.  This is just the beginning with many more opportunities ahead of me.

So here’s my advice to you:  You ARE a role model just by being yourself.  You MUST take initiative to make an impact.  You SHOULD enjoy the little moments to make big memories.

xoxo