The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes – Marcel Proust.
A part of me has been wanting to write this for a really long time, and it is only now – four years later – that I can put everything into words. I think that it is partly because of where I am in the world right now. I’m not 20 any more. I’m 24 with a load more experience with being independent and living on my own abroad. Sitting in my small room in Charters Towers at night reminds me of the times when I would lie in my bed watching reruns of Pretty Little Liars and 90210 in my room in Murcia, Spain. I’m only here for three months and I will not let myself get to the point that I was at during the first few months of Spain. Murcia is beautiful and I’ve been told Charters Towers is a great little town, so I want to see it.
I hated the University of Murcia. I hated going to the classes where the Spanish students would look at you like you were something from the bottom of their shoes. I think that’s partly because the majority of the classes I went to, the students were 18 and had just left school. Maybe. Or maybe they were just dicks and bitches. The tutors weren’t much better. So, instead of going to class, I’d stay in bed, all day long. Then I got into a routine of staying awake until 6am and sleeping the majority of the day. That was not good. Here I was, in Spain, something that other people could only dream of and I was wasting it. My only refuge at that point were my two close friends out there: Ches and Emily. We’d go out, watch The X Factor, have takeout and gossip all night.
It got to the point that my mum told me I had lost my spark. That’s when you know you really can’t go on living how you are. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t say I was depressed, but I just really didn’t enjoy life like I should have been doing. I lost a lot of weight, which at the time I thought was great. I look back on one picture in particular and I look awful. My head looks too big for my shoulders and my legs weren’t the shapely thighs that I have a love/hate relationship with. I missed home too much, I missed it more than I ever thought I would, despite not living at home for the majority of the previous two years. I was on the brink of giving up the Spanish part of my degree. I was naive to think that I could just go back to Roehampton to complete my degree in English Literature and that was it. I missed my friends, I missed growing into the stressed out third year student and going through late night cramming sessions with them.
After Christmas, everything changed. I got ill – I blame other sickly passengers on the plane. It was good to have home comforts finally. I remember my auntie telling me on the phone on Christmas Day that it wasn’t that long in terms of a lifetime. That helped a little. I refused to go back to university in Spain.
My Spanish tutor sorted something out for me – I had the opportunity to speak to the headmaster of a local primary school where I could teach English. Colegio Santa Joaquina de Vedruna saved my year abroad. I had a decent routine: no more all nighters apart from the nights out with the girls, I got up early, had a few hours to myself in the middle of the day, and finished the school day at 4.55pm. The teachers were amazing. They helped me out, they made me laugh, they became my friends. The kids, as much as sometimes I wanted to kill some of them, were crazy and lovely and sweet. They only listened some of the time but they always showed their affection for the English tutor with hugs and small gifts and the telling of kid jokes and their disappointment that no, I didn’t personally know the members of One Direction.
The six months after that, in reflection, flew by. Monday to Friday was filled with teaching, writing blog posts for my old blog, writing articles and interviewing jewellery designers and musicians over email for Pillow Magazine, whilst the weekends were spent at my friend’s flat, drinking sangria and then vodka before going out, watching films and ordering Dominoes the next day. We went to the beach on some weekends, determined to get a tan, and I’d cram to make a presentation for the kids on a Sunday night.
I ended my year abroad with a three week trip around the South of Spain: Valencia, Córdoba, Seville, Granada, Marbella and Ibiza. It was incredible. I want to go back to all of those places with fresh eyes and I want to sip on sangria looking at the Spanish sunset.
I cried when I got on that final plane home. That’s how much my year abroad meant to me. It started out as one of the worst times in my life, and then turned into one of the best years of my life. I turned 21 in Alicante with my family around me, I made friends who I don’t see as much as I should but who surprised me at my leaving party, I realised a lot of things and I learnt a lot about my strengths and my weaknesses. Living abroad will do that to you: it will make you think about what you want in life and what you need. It will push you to your limits, and then beyond them. You might think that you can’t do it, but believe me you can. I have no regrets. I figured out what I wanted in that part of my life, I didn’t give up and I have some of the best memories.
If you are going to study abroad or travel for the first time, don’t be hesitant. Grab the opportunity with both hands, but if you don’t love it, that’s okay as well. Everyone has different experiences and every experience is the right one for you in one way or another.
Love, Faye x