14th MAY 2014
That was my last day in Edinburgh for almost a year and a half. An exciting summer, firstly in south-east Asia, then in south of Italy and then in Spain, was awaiting and I could not possibly imagine all the adventures and experiences I was going to face. But I knew I had to show the most optimistic attitude in front of any challenge, so I wrote a Christmas and Happy New Year card (guessing I would receive the card at that time of the year) telling myself to always take risks, to always try to improve myself every day, to give the best of myself, to see novelty and changes as opportunities, to never have regrets, to try out new things, to get to know new people, to ask lots of questions, to be optimist and make the most of this unique opportunity in life.
If the truth should be told, I was not expecting any major changes during this year abroad: I have lived in many different countries in my life, and only in the last 4 years I’ve changed home three times because apparently I’m unable to stay in one place for too long as I get bored easily. So, I wasn’t scared of the new nor I had any particular expectation: I was just going to throw myself into this without thinking it twice and deal with the consequences on the way.
15th MARCH 2015
If you asked me back in September 2014 what my life plan was, the answer would have been: “Oh, just chill out! Take the life as it comes! YOOOLOOOOO!” Yes, that YOLO part is embarrassing, and I actually think I’ve made an over-use of that word. Now, this YOLOing Tharusha came as a big surprise for friends who have known me for years: I’ve always been the most organized person in the world who had a life plan within 5 years.
Back at the beginning of my year abroad, I decided that my new motto was going to be “carpe diem”. I would just go with the flow (which is something I’ve never done in my life), and surprisingly enough, I discovered myself to be happy. I was happy to live in such a lovely city, to (finally!) enjoy the sun every day, to eat great (and very cheap) food, to meet new people I would feel connect to, and not to worry about the future. Sometimes, the gloomy thought that I could be spending my time in a more productive way would cloud that happiness, but I was in a care-free mood no one could save me from. At that time I fulfilled some of the things I’ve promised to myself: I did take risks, I tried to give the best of myself at all time and took all the opportunities I could, even when I did not have the physical energy to do that. That is because being an Erasmus student in Granada meant that you had to go out and party every night. Even when you have run out of all your energy for not having slept properly for a week, you still had to go out. Why would you do that? Because there was something magical to Granada: it was precisely in those days, when all I wanted to do was to cuddle up under the duvet and watch my favourite tv-serie while eating tons of chocolate ice cream, that I met the most incredible people during that year. In such a context, it was definitely easier to be friends with one another and you would even talk to people you would probably ignore in “real life”. Being a student abroad makes you feel part of a big family, as you know the other person is living the same situation as you and you understand each other better.
Of course, as you can imagine, that cannot continue for long neither physically nor psychologically (I’ve seen more hospitals and doctors in 9 months in Spain than in 22 years of my life), especially if that lifestyle doesn’t really suit you. So when I actually received the postcard I wrote to myself, my first thought was:”Oh NO! I DID NOT write this to myself.” I must admit I was going through a pessimistic stage in my year abroad, when I was just sick of everything surrounding me and was just so eager to come back to Edinburgh and “return to reality”. I needed to go on rehab, which meant disappearing from the Granadian social scene and spend an insane amount of time (for an Exchange student) at the library or locked up in my room catching up with all the tv series in this world. Some of my friends were quite concerned about my sudden disappearance, but I was honestly sick to try to explain to people that I simply needed a break from such a hectic life. And in a sense, I went back to be myself, thinking about my academic future and realizing, thanks to the courses I was taking in Spain, what kind of studies I would like to do after the degree. So, in the second semester, I think I took the opportunities to better myself in an academic sense, while in the first semester I was more focused on my social life.
28th SEPTEMBER 2015
Re-reading this postcard today, after more than a year, I ask myself: “Would I choose to go on a year abroad if I went back”?
Even though a part of me is convinced that I would have had many more opportunities for my studies and career if I had stayed in Edinburgh, I do not regret having decided to go abroad. I had the chance to live in a wonderful city, to speak and become fluent in another language, to meet some incredible people that I know will be my friends for a lifetime, to discover a fascinating culture, to travel around the Iberian peninsula and live adventure that I will never forget.
I might not be a big fan of the Erasmus life in Spain, but one thing is certain: studying, working and living abroad does change you for ever in ways you cannot even imagine until you try.
Tharusha, from Granada (Spain)