My willingness to be an ambassador for change and prosper in opportunity, makes me an asset to any community.
I slid back into the chair. I felt as though I was a pig up for slaughter. “Hvad for en klipning vil du så have?” Her words sliced me open and I felt my innards spill to the floor. I was as exposed as ever. My shaking hand pushed into my resistantly tight jeans and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. My heart raced. I couldn’t read the words on the paper, so I gave it to her. “Would you rather that I speaking English with you?” I processed what she said for a minute, the tension like rope holding me captive was snipped and I was free. I relaxed immediately. I told her I wanted a typical American haircut, and she gave it to me. There was no discussion on the matter, she cut my hair in silence. Her sharp, cold metal scissors, marched through my hair tearing it up as the eerie silence left me cold. The entire time I yearned for her to spark up conversation. She seemed occupied in cutting my hair. I felt out of place.
Feeling out of place becomes second nature when you are living abroad, but with time and willingness one can adapt. Most do not, however, especially in a place like Denmark. The majority of the foreign students that I encountered in Denmark, chose to rebel against the Danish way of life because of its extreme polarization to the rest of the world, because of its progressive nature. For me, that made it all the more exciting. I was able to completely change my perspective in order to conform to Danish society.
For years I had had the same haircut. Scared to embark in change, I found comfort in the pedestrian. When I went in for my second haircut in Denmark, however, I rebelled against my set-in persona. I told her, “Jeg vil have den typiske Dansk klipning.” (I want a typical danish haircut).
Every time I returned to the salon, I was greeted by the same woman. She cut my hair the same way every time, but what didn’t stay the same was the conversation. As I returned each month, we began to talk. She started to open up to me and I to her. Though my Danish was minimal at first, she challenged me and spoke only Danish, despite the fact that she spoke English. As time and my Danish progressed, so did the emotional scale of our conversation.
When I came for my final haircut, we spoke about my time in Denmark. She joked and said that she had forgotten I was American and that I would be returning home. Honestly, so had I. We cried and hugged. I left for the last time.
Upon my return to the United States, people in my community didn’t recognize me, puzzled by the person before them. I didn’t fit in. So like I had had to do in Denmark, I conformed to societal norms. What a mistake! I became increasingly unhappy and insecure.
I realized that what I did in Denmark wasn’t conforming at all, it was immersing. I embraced everything as a learning experience and allowed that to change me, versus just acting like the people around me, hence becoming independent not conforming. I have embraced what I learned in Denmark, resolving to live my life to the fullest and be an ambassador for change. My cultural reflection now allows a perspective on that cultural difference, providing a learning experience for those around me. As I see it, my job as an ambassador is not over; to the contrary, it has just begun. I will always share my experiences abroad with those who desire to know more and want to create a more global and diverse community.