In a few days’ time I’ll be boarding a one-way flight to Madrid, where I’ll spend the next nine months as an Erasmus student at the University of Alcala. I genuinely could not be more excited—however, this time last year I felt very differently.
Eighteen months ago, I signed up to spend the following academic year (September 2017-June 2018) in a remote town in northwest Peru. There, I would have been teaching English to children aged 7-12, and maybe partaking in a spot of sand skiing in my free time.
I know what you’re thinking: That sounds amazing, right?
And yes, at first, it did. The opportunity to just throw myself into a completely different culture for nine months appealed to me, so I didn’t give it a second thought and registered my interest. My university was, admittedly, rather reluctant to approve my choice for my year abroad as it was so far from the norm, but after completing all the necessary risk assessments they gave me the green light.
However, as the months went on I started to feel a little tense whenever I thought about my upcoming departure to South America. I told myself it was just nerves and that It was such an amazing opportunity that I should be so excited about. After all, that’s what everyone was telling me.
As the months went on, I started to feel a little tense whenever I thought about my upcoming departure.
I discovered that many of the volunteers would have been 15-20 years older than me, teachers on a career break looking to utilize their skills and really make a difference. A huge amount of travel within the continent wouldn’t have been an option for me either as, since I had chosen a work placement for the year, my university required that I stay in the same town for the full nine months.
I spent many sleepless nights fretting about what to do. On one hand, I had everyone expecting me to go and have an amazing time. The paperwork was already in place and my flights were even already booked. On the other hand, my gut was telling me not to do it.
It wasn’t the travelling that daunted me; I just knew deep down I had made the wrong decision about what I wanted to get out of my year abroad.
I didn’t (and still don’t) want to be an English teacher. I had been drawn into the idea of travelling somewhere exotic, without really acknowledging the fact that I was going to have to spend the year doing something that really wasn’t me.
In early August I just couldn’t take it anymore, my flight was only a month away and it was all becoming too real. I came clean and admitted that I had made a huge mistake and I couldn’t follow through with going to Peru.
As you’d expect, many of my friends and people that I know questioned my decision, and tried to encourage me to go anyway, stating that getting cold feet before a big adventure was normal. But I knew myself enough to know that it wasn’t just nerves. Generally, I’m so independent and love travelling, but in this instance I had just got it all wrong.
Thankfully, my parents were incredibly supportive, as was my university, which allowed me to defer my year abroad so that I would have the chance to really think about what I wanted to do with it.
My year living at home was incredibly productive (I’ve decided I want to be a journalist after university and have managed to do a ton of work experience) it has also made me realize that I’m not ready to give up studying just yet. And where better to study than in the capital city of a country that speaks one of the most beautiful languages on Earth? So, after some serious thought this time, Madrid was a no-brainer. I think the youth culture will be fantastic and I’ll be surrounded by people who, like me, want to live in a fast-paced city whilst enriching my academic career.
With only a few weeks left before my year-long adventure begins, I feel so at ease with the decision I’ve made and can’t wait to immerse myself into Spanish culture.
These days there are so many opportunities for travel, be it a trip across the channel to see the sights of Europe or a voyage much further afield to the depths of South America. But the point is, what you want to get out of it is completely down to you. Don’t listen to anyone else who wants to live vicariously through you. Travel should be a wonderful yet personal thing, and if you do get the chance to see the world make sure you go somewhere and do something that’s going to work for you.Add this article to your reading list