At the age of 27 she’s got everything she needs: a fantastic fiancé, a job she enjoys, an interest-driven business, and a number of hobbies that she takes part in when she has some free time (rarely, though). Let me introduce you to a Filipino girl named Michelle Venice Lee, who, without a doubt, is a very special young woman.
Michelle and I are having a chat in a cozy atmosphere on a Thursday evening. Just by looking at her one would observe that she is constantly smiling and looks happy, hiding the fact that the current path paved for her has not been as easy as it looks. “I started nursing school in the Philippines at the age of 16, and finished when I was 20. I didn’t really have a plan for my immediate future except that I wanted to travel and live in another country. My stepfather, who is Danish, suggested for me to go to Denmark and try living there. However, I was not sure if that is what I wanted. To be honest, I decided to go to Denmark only because he offered to pay for the ticket” shares Michelle, who has now lived in Denmark for 6 years. “I started attending EuropaHøjskole, met my current boyfriend, fell in love and… stayed!” she starts laughing, “I never thought it would happen and yet, here I am, 6 years later: same country, same guy, and completely and utterly happy.”
However, after her romantic escapade, Michelle had to face reality and start fending for herself. Due to the language barrier she applied to be a health aid worker on the night shift and attended Danish classes in the daytime. “It was tough working at night and studying during the daytime” – said Michelle – “but I had to be patient.”
All of Michelle’s hard work had eventually paid off and after some time this Filipino girl, who had been attending Lærdansk lessons, applied for a nursing position: “I took a step forward and actually looked for a nursing job and to my excitement, I was hired in the department I wanted to work for. I was honest from the very beginning, I said I am not fully equipped to work as a nurse but I am ready to learn. I guess my honesty was appreciated and I was given the full support of the department and all of my colleagues who were nothing short of outstanding during the hardships of the beginning. And now, here I am, working in Denmark’s best Neurology Department and proud of it.”
Besides nursing, Michelle is also an entrepreneur. The idea of owning her own business began two years ago while looking for quality cosmetic products. “I was shopping for the usual products that every girl needs; you know, moisturizer, makeup, body scrub… and I realized how crazy expensive those products are here in Denmark! I’m not vain but I do make an effort to make sure that I take good care of myself. I see it as a set back if I have to spend a fortune to make myself feel good so I decided something had to be done. Having a flair for these kinds of things and with a little encouragement from the people around me, I figured, why not give Denmark a place where people can buy luxurious pampering items at a bargain price?’’ and VeniceLee was born. “Since this is something that is more of a hobby than an actual source of living, I was able to provide products at student friendly prices. And with my boyfriend backing me up and doing a lot of the legwork, we were able to start the online cosmetic and skin care shop, VeniceLee. I thoroughly enjoyed tackling the new challenges it presented, and am so proud of myself for my achievements and all of the experiece and friends I have gained along the way.” It might seem like it was an easy task but Michelle emphasizes the hardships this entailed. To manage a shop is not just about selling; it’s knowing the law, the right people, the right products and the right way of advertising. One must have the motivation, the attitude, the optimism, the time, the energy, and most importantly, the money. And after all of that, when you think you’re done for the day, you then realize that there’s lots of accounting to do. “It was a stressful period” says Michelle “but then again, I live for moments like this, to be able to do what you really love.”
While talking to Michelle I still cannot manage to understand when she finds time to sleep – it seems that her days have at least double the hours than mine. Besides her full time job and online store, she is also doing a lot of charity/social work. “I started helping Filipinos in Denmark in the beginning and that is where my interest for charitable causes started. To see how much we have here and how less they have back home is just heartbreaking. So whenever I can, I try to arrange some sort of charity for the less fortunate in the Philippines. Right now I am sponsoring an orphanage in one of the towns in my home country.”
It seems that Michelle has been gifted by many talents and a never-ending burst of energy. “I like beautiful things, I love the feeling of happiness and satisfaction when you create something beautiful. That’s why I enjoy making gorgeous fondant cakes, jewelry, and organizing breath taking events.” Michelle has at the moment dropped most of her beloved hobbies as she has now focused her energies into one thing: planning her wedding. “I have 6 months to plan a wedding 1200km away!” she says excitedly.
As I am still wondering how so many interests and talents can fit into one relatively small Filipino girl, Michelle seems to read my mind and says “Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire. Cliché I know, but those are the words I live by. And for those expats out there starting anew, my only advice is, always try to be the best version of yourself, ‘bedre kan den ikke bliver’ as they say in Danish.’’
Edited by Shelby May Sorenson