An open letter to myself, pre- Erasmus year

June 13, 2016

Dear Mayah,

Perhaps right now you’re doing everything in your will to procrastinate the packing process of your suitcase. Perhaps you’re still pining the recent loss of your grandfather and you’re drowning in doubt if now is an opportune moment to leave. Perhaps at this moment, there are butterflies dancing around your tummy at the prospect of your latest foray into the big wide world. I say now with certainty (and with the great tool that is hindsight) that you’re feeling all of these sentiments and that’s completely fine.

Within moments of walking through the airport departures, feelings of sanguine will wash over you and you’ll wonder why you ever questioned- travelling is your bag, baby. You’ve spent a good year at university preparing for this; endless lectures promising the best year of your life, infinite admin and forms which you still don’t really understand, etc. You’ll still feel as though you’re entering the abyss. This shouldn’t be a negative sentiment, however. Fear of the unknown has never been something that has haunted you and being the brave young woman you are, you shan’t allow it to either over the coming year. The unknown provides an adventure, and that’s exactly what keeps your blood pumping.

Being alone in an alien land will leave you with the glorious sensation of being a toddler again- discoveries are plentiful as you gaze wide-eyed at foreign lands, using every sense to adjust and learn. Things will have a different way of working and it’s essential that you develop an entire new understanding- reading, writing, speaking, crossing the road. You will no longer understand the way in which the cogs of life work but it’s a beautifully confusing experience. Of course, there will be a lack of any sort of constant, at least for a while anyway, yet this will leave your whole existence to rely upon guesswork and you will learn so much with this tool.

Leaving home will indubitably leave you craving comforts of your motherland, from the things once deemed ordinary such as the fragrance of the family fabric softener to walking the dog, to the unexpected such as the UK’s admin obsession and Sunday opening hours. One thing that you should be cautious of- and how I wish you knew this now- was that you’re not travelling to recapture the essence of home. You’re travelling because you’re daring to explore new corners of the world, to see what they talk about with your own eyes, to speak with a new tongue. Be cautious of enveloping yourself in an English bubble, and becoming comfortable to the point that breaking away is no longer an option. Not many people have the opportunity you’ve been given, so take it and flee with it.

There are new friends to be found everywhere in the coming months, and it’s vital that you establish these bonds. These are the people who will show you havens that you could only dream of and it’s with these people that you will come into yourself and open your eyes. Whilst new friendships are created, others from home will ultimately break down but this isn’t always such a bad thing. Not everything can last forever, but don’t dwell on it too much- what will be, will be. There’s so much love, laughter and happiness coming your way that you’ll be unsure what to do with it.

Surprisingly, whilst distance will break down some relationships, others will strengthen noticeably. You’ll come to appreciate your family much more, knowing that whatever happens there’s people in one pocket of the world that love you unconditionally. Naturally, loneliness will sometimes creep up on you, but remember that comfort is just a phone call away. You’ll be surprised how much better just hearing your mother’s voice can make you feel.

Working in the education system will teach you many lessons, in fact, I daresay it'll encourage you to work harder in your final year of uni. Entering a new job will always be daunting (even more so when only one staff member speaks English), but it's a challenge to be relished and you'll come out on top. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. There's so much besides arithmetic, geology and subordinate clauses to be learnt in a school. Teaching will in turn teach you about patience, empathy and determination. You'll forge rapports with students who will involuntarily offer life lessons of guileless ambition and benevolence.  

My ultimate advice, despite being as cliché as one could imagine, is to grab every possible opportunity possible- party until six in the morning, dance salsa with handsome Spaniards, fall in love, eat fruits of the sea that you previously refused, and don’t give the slightest care to what others think. This is year your abroad and you don’t have to live up to anybody else’s expectations so do what makes you happy. Stop being a pushover and putting other’s happiness before your own; you’ll only come to regret it. Be brave, be an adventurer and be you.

I promise that they weren’t lying- the best year of your life awaits. Enjoy.

With love,

Your proud future self.
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