Here I go again. There is something deeply rooted inside of me that does not allow me to stay still. I am constantly looking for new adventures and places to discover that I am packing and repacking my bags more than I seem to be unpacking them.
In 2010, I left for an exchange semester in Vienna, Austria and I haven’t looked back since. I came back to Canada to complete my business degree and graduated feeling completely lost and yet somehow completely liberated. Soon after, I ended up in South Korea, standing out as a very apparent foreigner—tall, blonde and definitely not Korean. I wanted a different experience. I wanted to push myself beyond my comfort zone and immerse myself in a culture I didn’t know anything about. My year teaching English in Korea allowed me to take some time to focus on myself and reflect on what I really wanted to do in life. I wanted to pursue a Masters degree but I wasn’t sure where to start or what exactly I should study. After exhausting the Google search bar, I finally found the perfect program.
The European Master of Tourism Management program is a joint degree from The University of Southern Denmark, The University of Ljubljana (Slovenia) and the University of Girona (Spain). I will be spending five months in each country followed by a semester to complete my thesis. I applied without hesitation and ended up not only being accepted to the program, but also receiving a full scholarship. You can imagine my excitement upon hearing this news. I get to live in Europe for two years for free! What more could I ask for?
I leave for Kolding, Denmark in two weeks but something feels different this time. Although I keep adding tasks to my list of things to get done before I can even cross them off, I feel as though I am getting used to this process of leaving. I don’t feel as overwhelmed because it’s like I am simply going through the motions, doing what I have to get done, while I enjoy my final weeks of freedom at home. Friends and family are used to me leaving, and Europe suddenly seems much closer to home.
It’s funny because the worries I have this time around are different from those I have had before. I am actually nervous about blending in with the locals, something I would have so deeply loved when I first arrived in Korea and had to get used to the curious stares. I have often been mistaken for Scandinavian, so this time I can get lost in a crowd. You wont be able to tell that I’m not Danish unless I speak to you, but I’m looking forward to being able to compare the two experiences. I think I took it for granted that I was an obvious foreigner in Korea. I didn’t expect people to understand me and they didn’t expect me to understand them. We had a mutual understanding that we had to be patient and open-minded with each other while engaging in conversation.
Now, I am wondering if the Danes ride bicycles in the winter and if I will like living the student life again. I spent a year being a teacher and now the tables have turned. I’m really looking forward to exploring Kolding and the experiences it will offer, but for now, I am going to focus on a more immediate problem: figuring out how to pack for two years—and with all of the shoes I plan on bringing, that’s a challenge!