Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
It’s that question that every college students hates to answer. 5 years? I don’t even know where I’m going to be in 5 weeks! Studying up on my Bosnian history? Road trip to Berlin? Visiting cousins in Ukraine? Eating some wienerbrød at the corner bakery?
Sure, there’s lots of stuff that I want to do. The question is – do I have the time? If I could, I’d put down my work and go around the world for a few months, seeing all sorts of fascinating things and meeting amazing people along the way. That’s sort of what I’m doing right now. But at the same time, I feel tied back to the States. Applying for summer jobs and scheduling interviews (which included answering the 5-year question) has reminded me where exactly my real home is located. It’s back in Washington and Rochester, where I’ve been for the past twenty-one years.
So in many ways, my first 6 weeks abroad have been a breath of fresh air. Sure, I’m doing work, but I don’t feel like I’m in school. I’m abroad, in Copenhagen, thousands of miles away from everything and everyone I’ve ever known. This past week was spent preparing presentations and writing essays, but every day I’m always itching for more and more immersion. That’s what makes it different than Georgetown. I still feel like a quasi-outsider here, and I won’t be satisfied until I visit every castle and landmark in this gorgeous Scandinavian city. By now, I know the buses and shortcuts and best places to eat. But around every corner there’s always something new, somewhere interesting to poke your head in and look around.
I’ve found this “immersion” in the smallest of places. On my way home yesterday, I stopped by a pizza shop to grab a quick snack. I ended up sitting at the counter for an hour. Me and the Bulgarian waiter tried to communicate – him with his 5-word English vocabulary, me with my exaggerated hand motions and limited knowledge of Danish (which he knew fairly well). It was probably the greatest language barrier I’ve experienced in any social interaction here in Denmark. It sounded more like indiscriminate sounds coming out of his mouth than any sort of understandable language, but I enjoyed the struggle. And towards the end of our “conversation,” a Polish girl walked in who happened to live a few miles from Tarnow, the small town where I volunteered two summers ago. Small world, right?
So back to that 5 year question – please, throw it out. For all of you who have your upcoming promotions and careers all planned out, congratulations. Give me some time to enjoy Copenhagen. I think I’ll keep talking to Bulgarian guys in pizza shops.