Interview: Young Mee Rim

If you’re susceptible to some pretty intense wanderlust, or maybe you’re looking for that last little push to grab those tickets to escape, read on and pine. At least, that’s the knee-jerk feeling we get when Young Mee Rim’s breathtaking photographs pop up on our radar.

Young Mee Rim is a conservation student living in beautiful Copenhagen, Denmark and juggles study with exploring the world. When she does escape the city, she documents her adventures on one of the most incredible Instagram feeds we’ve ever seen. If you’re down for some eyeball candy, scroll on to see a bounty of untouched nature, misty country roads, rustic cottages and some seriously tasty-looking, wholesome meals. 

We had a nice chat to Young about her studies, social media domination, chasing fulfilling exhaustion and her favourite spots in Copenhagen.

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OP: Hi Young, thanks so much for slotting us in to your busy schedule! It’s hard to believe your age and how you manage to study Conservation and be a social media queen simultaneously. Do you ever find it difficult, how do you cope?!

Young: Haha, I'm not sure you know how old I am (30), and social media queen may be a bit of a stretch - but yes, juggling a full time study programme and keeping up with the internet can be stressful!

I'm still in awe of how many people seem to have viewed my Instagram profile and chosen to follow along, and as much as I'd like to keep up with everything and everyone online around the world, I don't always have the time. Replying to every comment and liking every posted photo is a full time job in itself!

OP: So you just returned from a conservation field excavation right, what was that like?

Young: It was amazing! It was my first achaeological field excavation and since it was a learning experience, I got to try out a lot of things that not many people get to! Not only did I get to actually dig for finds, I was also trained in the field by a collection of archaeologists and conservation experts in all the disciplines involved in an excavation from documenting finds, layers and levels to field conservation, taking out samples for analyses and more. It was a real priviledge!

I love practical, physical work and being outside, so it was a great fit for me. You sleep really well after a hard days work and it's such a fulfilling exhaustion.

OP: As someone deeply passionate about nature and the environment, how do you manage to balance out your digital life with your conservationist one? Do you find it difficult at times or do they compliment each other to some extent?

Young: Since I joined my study programme I feel like I am getting to go behind the scenes, so to speak. While it's not as biology focused as, well, biology studies, there's still a bit that has allowed me to learn a lot about nature, animals and the environment. I live in the city, but I try to get out as much as possible and the more I know, the more I feel like I'm seeing, hearing and experiencing! I didn't know that many animals before, but now I can identify birds and plants in the field and that's something I really love! My digital life has definitely decreased, but it's also become more of a scientific tool - both in terms of my photography and documenting school related things, but also social media wise for connecting with people in related fields and for research, obviously.

My only problem is lack of time! :)

OP: Did you always feel a pull towards conservation? Was studying it a decision you made from a young age or was it a result of experiences you had later in life?

Young: I actually never knew this would be something I'd end up doing. I was really confused during and after high school, I didn't know who or what I was supposed to become so I jumped from course to course with jobs in between. Luckily the Danish education system allowed me to do this without going through financial ruin! I always thought I'd be doing something creative and probably digital, so I took courses in graphic design, photography, printing, book binding and sign making, worked in between and traveled a lot. It was when my sign making teacher pointed me towards the school of conservation (for the graphic department), that I first realised this was an actual profession. I went to the school's open house and visited all the departments and felt a pull towards the natural history department and from then on just worked towards that! Two years later I was accepted and here I am, just ending my fourth semester.

OP: Your Instagram feed is a constant source of inspiration (and envy) for us. What was the turning point for you, was there a moment where you realised that you had a voice and people wanted to hear what you had to say?

Young: I grew up online and always had a website or blog, so when I got an iPhone Instagram was a natural way to expand. I think the first time I was put on Instagram's suggested userlist was probably the most overwhelming - I got almost 15.000 followers in one week (I only had about 7000 at that time) which just blew my mind. I really spent a lot of time on the app trying to "deliver" what I thought people would like... It became stressful for a while, but now I just try to capture the things I like to look at in my life and what inspires me, and I try not to let the large following dictate what I should post.

OP: What has been the most meaningful thing to have come out of your social domination so far? Any cool connections or unexpected friends?

Young: I love all the people I've met while traveling and the ones who've come through Copenhagen. The community is definitely the best part of being on Instagram - there's almost always a local friend wherever you going, kind enough to show you around and have a conversation. But just from photograping random things for my blog, I've ended up in situations I probably wouldn't have if I hadn't spent so much time online!

I'm quite introvert and have always been very scared of a lot of things, and I feel like all of these online interactions, and the opportunities that come along as an effect of them, have made me braver and more daring to try new and scary things, like speak in front of a crowd, ask Patti Smith for a portrait or go on live television!

OP: You live in Copenhagen, one of the most creative and beautiful cities in the world. Have you always lived here, what are some of your favourite things about it?

Young: I grew up an hour north of Copenhagen and moved here more than ten years ago, because my hometown felt too small. Since then my views on what kind of life I want has changed a lot - in part due to really finding out what my interests are and where I'm comfortable.

At the moment I like the city for the convenience - biking to school is the best and you can get everywhere easy. Shops are open and nearby for food and snacks day and night, and Copenhagen is small for a capital city - and very pretty of course, even if I'm not all that into urban stuff :)

Most of my friends live here, but I hope to move to the countryside one day, and maybe get to live abroad for a while!

OP: Conservation school sounds like every animal lover’s dream. How long have you been attending and what are some of the best experiences that you’ve had as a result of your education?

Young: As I mentioned earlied, I'm finishing off my fourth semester soon (out of six), so it's been nearly two years already! They've really flown by and I've learned so much, even if I feel like I know absolutely nothing.

Getting to know the life behind the scenes in museums is really amazing - we get to work with actual specimens and learn from the best in our field. The knowledge is amazing! Since high school I haven't been very keen on school, but this has really caught my interest and just waking up in the morning and wanting to get up and be on time and working hard is just the best feeling.

As for experiences, getting to cut up a beaches sperm whale in our second semester was pretty cool!

OP: Are there any misconceptions out there about conservation? If you could tell people something from an insiders point of view or let us know how we can do our part, what would it be?

Young: For me, I think most people either think my field is taxidermy or preservation of living animals and nature reserves.

I do get a taxidermy course (the very last course in my programme, this fall!), but to be skilled you'd need an apprenticeship and years of practice. And while I could definitely work with nature preservation, the programme is focused on museum related objects. It's a lot of dead things, basically, but by preserving them and putting them on display for the public, natural history museums help us relate to nature which I think is really important for us as humans to remember these days. With most people choosing to live in cities we're becoming so detached from nature and it worries me.

OP: You seem to travel a lot for school. Any upcoming trips planned? If not, where to next?

Young: Our last trip is coming up in August! We're headed to Norway for a week to visit the natural history museums in Oslo and Bergen - I haven't been to Norway in a while, so I'm excited! Sad that it's already our last trip, but we'd need funding if we were to go on another trip :)

OP: Say Odd Pears came to town and we managed to score you as our illustrious tour guide, what would a day around Copenhagen with Young entail?

Young: I'd probably take you to see the Grundtvigs church, which is about ten minutes from my house. It's an amazing space with such great light - a classic photo opportunity. Then to Jægersborggade, where I used to live for lunch at Manfreds and a stroll up and down the street. Get a coffee at Coffee Collective and go for a walk in the Assistens cemetary where H. C. Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard are buried. Then a walk around the lakes towards the city centre and a stroll through the Botanical Garden. Then I'd probably invite you to dinner at my house, or we could share some charcuterie and wine at Vinhanen in Baggesensgade :)

OP: Thanks so much for answering our questions Young! We are super excited to see where you end up next and we’ll be following your journey with great interest over the coming years. It’s really refreshing to know there are such lovely, passionate people all around the globe doing amazing things. Keep it up girl!

Young: Thanks for having me! 

Follow Young Mee Rim on Instagram, Tumblr and peep her blog.

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