What Comes Next

Emma Johnson-

In some ways, leaving Davidson is like the Big Bang – an explosion that marks the beginning of everything else, the start of exploration of new worlds. I was no longer confined to the usual college campus with its familiar student landscape. The college friends that I had come to cherish deeply after 4 years of living, working, and learning with them were suddenly scattered like newly created planets all across the globe, and I was no exception.

Post-Davidson, I find myself about 12,935 km away from Davidson, give or take a few, in the southeast Asian country of Bhutan. As a Program Intern with The School for Field Studies (a study abroad program popular for biology or environmental science majors at Davidson), I embarked on a journey very different from the way I had spent the last four years of my life.

As an intern for SFS, I am a part of the student life team, helping to maintain student health and happiness, organizing fun activities, assisting professors with executing their classes and field trips, and providing staff support for whatever challenges arise in adjusting to life in a foreign country. It should be an interesting, fluid, year-long position of work-sponsored foreign travel living and world experiencing.

I marvel at the variety of possibilities and opportunities of post-graduation pursuits that my far-flung friends are involved in. I chose to commit myself to a one-year endeavor instead of embarking on a full-time job, heading out for more school, traveling, or re-evaluating possibilities from home. Davidson may have trained us all in similar ways by giving us tools to assist our forward progress in the world, but we are not obligated to all follow the same paths after we walk across that stage.

To some people, when they learn how I am occupying my post-grad time, it may sound like a perfect fit for me. And I wouldn’t disagree–this position entails much of what fuels my passion and intellectual curiosity. I am traveling to new places all the time, experiencing a new culture, involved in research projects, taking field trips, and participating in more interdisciplinary environmental education. It is a good fit for me right now, a 22-year old wanderer unsure of where the future might take her. But is this type of position what I want to be doing for the rest of my life? Of course not.

When I was young, my ideas of what I wanted to be when I grew up always seemed so certain and fixed. “An astronaut”, I would declare definitively to everyone around me that would listen. Now, many years later, after 4 years at Davidson with a primary focus in environmental studies and a couple months of post-grad under my belt, I could not be more uncertain of what I want to do with my life.

Which, I’m finding with each passing day, is perfectly okay. This uncertainty allowed me the freedom to be open about my job fields, and inspired me to look into one-year positions like my current role with SFS that sounded exciting, interesting, fun, and perhaps only open and possible for me at a certain time in my life. And for that flexibility I am very grateful.

I may find, throughout my months here in Bhutan, that the path I should take next will naturally become clear to me. Or I may have to search harder for it and make some tough decisions along the way. While I was at Davidson, preparing myself for graduated life, I felt like I had to find what I was meant to do and where I would make my mark immediately after accepting my diploma. I now know that this thought is the furthest from what is right for me.

It’s not easy to remember this sometimes, as I can already feel the panic thinking about what I should do next year, but it helps to look around. I see the outer Himalayan mountains, a valley full of rice fields, and a rushing river, all while drinking a cup of milk tea in the cool mountain autumn. I reflect that I am fortunate to be enjoying exactly where I am and what I am doing at this very moment. Bhutan will be a magical place to live in for the next year of my life; my first stop on my journey to navigate through this new universe. After this I’ll figure out what’s next.

Emma Johnson ’17 graduated as an Environmental Studies major and is originally from Washington, D.C. She currently lives in Paro, Bhutan. Contact her at emma.johnson50@gmail.com.