In my second year of university, I was diagnosed as clinically depressed. I still hadn't come to terms with my parents' traumatic divorce a year earlier. It had taken me four years to complete my A Levels and I was burnt out from my degree and was more than ready to quit. I would avoid going to university and would lie in bed for hours. During exam period, my friend had let herself into my house to come and motivate me to study, telling me to get up and that we will pass our exams together. I didn't feel smart enough to be studying a law degree and was always on edge. The nurse recommended counselling but the thought of talking to someone about my feelings for an hour quite frankly scares the living daylights out of me.
As a way to escape, I took a year abroad. It was a pass/fail basis and I wasn't intending on doing much studying. Ironically, I'm writing this when I should be doing my take-home exam. I spent the last three years being consumed by my parents' divorce that I felt it was about time I worked on myself. I had lost who I was. Some members within my extended family blamed me and my sisters for the divorce and I was sick and tired of defending our name. Luckily, I had a mother who was fully supportive of the idea of a year abroad. I haven't looked back since.
Being away from the pressures of home life and university sparked something in me. I learnt that I could do it. Being abroad teaches you so many different things. You learn about different cultures and allows you to get completely immersed in a new city. I love the fact that I can just turn up to a new hostel with no plans and meet new people.
Travelling has broadened my perspective. I had come to Hong Kong with no plans or expectations. I had barely done any research into the country other than how to get to my accommodation from the airport. I have realised how much I value my freedom and just how lucky I was to have a British passport. It has helped me to think that there is more to life than just the standard rat race. Before my year abroad, I thought the definition of success meant having a well-paid career but I realise now success means to just be happy. I didn't realise how much I care about environmental issues. I've recently became a vegetarian.
Before my year abroad, I thought I was already a patient person but every day I am learning more and more how to be more patient. My year abroad hasn't always been a joy and I recently spent five days in hospital. It was the most isolating experience of my life as I was the youngest on the ward and no other patients could speak English. I cried every night and on the fourth day, I was ready to discharge myself. The other patient in the bed next to me got concerned about me and told the nurse, who translated it for me, that she cares about me but can't have a conversation with me. I think there's something beautiful in building a relationship with someone despite being unable to speak the same language.
Some people on my year abroad I have met briefly whilst others I have had a longer relationship with but every single person has deeply enriched my life. They have made me question life, believe in the goodness in strangers and opened up my eyes to the beauty that exists. I thank every single one of them.
I'm turning twenty-three soon and I don't know what I am going to do when I graduate next year. I'm not going to make any immediate plans but see how life takes its course. To me, that's the beauty of life. I intend to soak up every moment because who knows how much time we each have left?