"But you don't regret it, do you?" is what a lot of people ask me once I tell them about my experiences of the first few months of living abroad. By now I should technically be well-prepared and ready to answer with a few generic lines about how everything in life has its ups and downs and that I would make the same decisions again if I were to turn back the time. Yet this question always catches me off guard and has me staggering about.
When I was first told about the chance of taking a gap year, I'd just started my apprenticeship in an international engineering company and I didn't even have to think about it twice, even though I knew that it would mean adding an extra year of school. It is something that I'd always wanted and I'll forever be grateful that this opportunity just kind of got handed to me on a silver platter. At this point I hadn't even met my new classmates and at no time did it occur to me that maybe, once it was time to pack my bags and start the adventure, I wouldn't be too enthusiastic about my choices anymore. Thinking professionally, I never had a single doubt that it was the right thing to do, but a few months before departure, I was so content with everything in my life that the thought of leaving everything behind and possibly returning to a completely different world a year later would make me feel sick. I was in constant contemplation between "It's only a year!" and "Get ready for the 12 longest months of your life." I now know that that the former is far more accurate than the latter. My boyfriend at the time told me that the only occasion where I will ever see him cry would be when he brings me to the airport. His prediction didn't come true, and we both ended up sobbing in the rain two weeks before I left when he dumped me. "How convenient!" you may think. I obviously didn't look at it this way and even though it made it a bit easier to go. The fact that I was so used to everyday life back home and close to getting my degree prevented me a bit from being excited about this new part of my life.
Way faster than I had expected, I found myself in the world of doing laundry, finding the cheapest way of using public transport, and meal prepping. It's like being a different person. I'm so proud of myself for juggling this whole thing with work and evening classes and exam preparations in a city, such as London, and at the age of 18. Still, I find it so hard to do my thing here knowing that "my people" are continuing with their normal lives but without me, and once I get back home I have exams about topics I've already completely forgotten about waiting for me. On some days I feel like I've completely got my shit together, going to yoga on a Sunday morning and spending my time studying in a cute coffee shop like a real intellectual adult. Then there's situations like today, where I don't leave the house and have four meals and a bar of chocolate, which, for some reason, just feels even more wrong when I'm responsible for myself.
So, do I regret coming here? Completely denying that would be a lie. I still have these mind-blowing moments of realisation when it hits me that I live in LONDON. I'm endlessly grateful for that. Not everyone gets to write this in their CV and for sure I am enjoying my time here, but I'm not the one to shout out that it's the best decision I've ever made and how oh so life changing it's been. Maybe in a few months or years when I'm back to my normal and, how I referred to it before I left, boring life, I'll be the main promoter for the project—but as of now, my motivations are the visits to my hometown. I am planning how I will decorate my room once I’m back, researching my potential universities-to-be, and watching all the missed birthday parties through Snapchat videos and "We miss you!" selfies. In no way is this a lost year, but personally, I should have waited with leaving the comfortable bubble that is home until I’ve got my degree and a semi-figured out future. Just like everyone else is doing it. Maybe this is the only way to distinguish myself and that’s how I’m looking at it. After all, I can consider myself lucky.