Around this time a little less than a year ago, I was starting my senior year of college and writing down a list of my goals.
The first one was to obtain a job right after I graduated. I had spent most of my second semester on websites like Idealist, crafting my résumé and cover letters to perfection under the careful guidance of the career center.
My friends were talking about volunteering, traveling or working odd summer jobs, and I nodded along, believing I wouldn’t be choosing an alternate path.
I wanted the office conference room with the big windows, the nice button-up shirts, the health benefits and the 401(k). It was practical to job search as early as possible. I was a practical individual, or so I’d thought.
As a freshly graduated college alumni, I am now preparing to embark on a six-week work-away experience in a historical hotel and cafe on a Danish island off the Baltic Sea, in which I will be gardening, cooking and cleaning in exchange for food and accommodation.
It was an impulsive decision — one I wouldn’t exactly recommend because spontaneity isn’t for everyone.
It was certainly something I would have never expected of myself, but I believed I needed something challenging to do while exploring a new culture.
Unfortunately, many people were wondering why I, as a bachelor’s degree owner and city girl, would temporarily forgo a briefcase to essentially work as a maid in Middle of Nowhere, Denmark.
My dad, being the number one opposer to my decision, accused me of escaping reality.
My friends in corporate jobs were confused; jobs were in demand of recent college grads.
Even those friends who were volunteering were perplexed. At least they were volunteering for a charitable cause and not a business.
It’s tiring to constantly defend this decision, especially since it’s one of my first real-adult decisions I could wholeheartedly call my own and am simultaneously excited and nervous to make.
Being criticized for it caused me to briefly doubt, rethink and reconcile what I truly wanted from life.
The truth is the college senior in me still wanted the job, the benefits, the nice button-up shirts and the conference rooms. But, it didn’t feel quite right at this moment.
My decision to go to Denmark was off-the-beaten path, completely irrelevant to my career and completely different from everything I am as a person.
It was exactly why I wanted it so badly. I had always been drawn to Danish culture, and I wanted to be in an environment where I could truly get to know it without being a tourist.
Denmark was also special because it was the first country my mom went to when she was 20 years old, so to a certain (albeit limited) extent, I wanted to see what she saw.
Ultimately, I wanted to get out in the world and learn about others in a way I couldn’t do at home.
Sometimes, you do need to go out of your way to challenge yourself. You need to throw yourself in an environment you wouldn’t normally be expected to thrive in.
In my situation, I’m not escaping the real world, but rather, I'm exploring a new side of it.
My experience in Denmark will teach me so much more than domestic duties; they’ll be life lessons I’ll carry with me in all my future endeavors.
For the first time outside of a college context, I’ll be on my own and forced to survive by myself, interacting with unfamiliar people from a different culture. It’s something I know is right for me at this point in my life.
We rarely stop to think about what we truly need to do for ourselves; we tend to think of what others expect us to need to do. As 20-somethings, it’s crucial we think for ourselves more often.
My whole life, I’ve had issues with trusting myself. I always seek friends or family members to bounce ideas off or ask advice from before I make a decision.
Denmark is my opportunity to finally trust I do have my own best interests at heart, and it’s important for me to realize this in order for me to mature.
How can I be a full-fledged adult if I am still heavily relying on others to decide what’s best for me?
I honestly don’t know what to expect out of those six weeks in Denmark.
But, I do know it’s okay for me to want something different and alternative in life, even if it means temporarily postponing getting a real job.
The best thing for me is to learn how to make my own decisions and stick with them, whether or not they turn out to be the right ones.
They’re lessons for me to learn; I’m taking responsibility for whatever outcomes occur because that’s the risk I’m willing to take.
It’s apart of being an adult and getting to know the learning experiences that come along with it.
When I look back at my list of goals, written boldly under the first one says, “Get some kind of life experience.”
I hope I will gain whatever I am looking for during my time in Denmark.