Vivian O’Brien is a junior marketing major currently spending a year abroad at the Copenhagen Business School. In this month’s blog, she shares what she is learning about how business practices vary in other countries.
A very accomplished high school teacher said something to me when I was 17 that I will never forget. She told me my problems were first-world problems and I was too bitter with life.
Hearing that as a 17-year-old was discouraging. I had lived most of my life in trepidation caused by the post-2008-market meltdown. My parents always taught me that there were people in the world who lived in worse circumstances than we did and that I should be grateful for what I had. But back then, it still pained me that we were good people that had bad things happen to us. As such, I was bitter and felt guilty because I was too young to truly be able to do anything to help.
What that teacher said stuck with me in a negative way into college, where I have been pushing myself harder and harder. I wanted to become a role model of gumption and grit for 17-year-olds like myself back then. I felt guilty that my parents had to take out loans to pay for me to go to college. At times, I felt I did not deserve to be at UNCG.
After spending time abroad and experiencing more of the world, I have a new perspective on what the teacher said to me. If I had remained bitter with life, then I would not have been able to enjoy the wonders of Europe. Not everyone can say that they went to Europe for a year and experienced living life in the moment. It has been a wonderful opportunity to see what else is outside the U.S., to meet recruiters from companies I have only ever read about in business publications, and encounter so many people with such unique stories.
I would say the biggest lesson I have learned from being here in Copenhagen involved me growing up. I left a place of security and comfort to come to a place with many unknowns and restarted a new version of myself, not once but twice. Even though I had support from friends and family via text, FaceTime, or my Swedish aunt and uncle, I was on my own with figuring what it meant to fit in.
I came to see that even if I wanted something, it did not mean I could have it. Navigating social circles and cultural norms at CBS reminded me of freshman year when I was riddled with body dysmorphia and a lack of confidence. The benefit of the second semester here is that I had the chance to learn from my mistakes and have a fresh slate. This semester has become a way for me to really become the person I want to be in life. No matter how much we would like to believe we are good people, we still make mistakes that can hurt other people. The best thing we can do is become the best version of ourselves and be humble for the experiences that shape who we are and continue to become.
Being put into the unknown required a new level of confidence that I had to muster up myself. No one else could do that for me; I had to be my own adult and get up from every setback just like I would get back on my horse every time after a bad fall. I owned up to my mistakes, realized who was a real friend and made progress towards getting the chip off my shoulder. None of this has been easy, but rather a necessity for self-development.
Being away from home really teaches you what is important to your sense of self and your understanding of your own unique value to the world. Life can let you down, people can let you down, but if you carry every disappointment around with you, you will end up isolating yourself from the better aspects of life by focusing on the negatives. With the opportunity of being abroad, I have started to focus on processing things that happen to me and instead redirect my mindset to one that makes good out of the bad.
No one’s story is linear. We all have the good times and the bad times, but I want to be remembered as someone that got through the bad times even more radiantly than during the good times.