You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.
– Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Four years ago I came to Europe, marveling at everything around me. The old architecture, the beautiful landscapes, the cobbled streets. I’ve been here before but never long enough to have to wash my own clothes. When mum dropped me off at university, I was excited at what lay ahead of me. The new friends I’d make, the cooking classes I’d take, the boys I’d meet, the partying that I’d do and the alcohol that I’d drink.
What I didn’t expect was to experience all that I did. From having insane snowball fights to 8-hour road trips (whatever happens in St. Tropez, stays in St. Tropez!); from learning how to properly polish wine glasses and cutleries to eating my first ever microwave meal; from getting insanely drunk at my birthday to barbecuing in our back lawn- these are memories that I will cherish forever.
I only wish to have appreciated every single moment earlier. I wish I remembered the beach that we went to in Barcelona, or what my sister and I talked about on the train ride from Switzerland to Italy; I wish I remembered the first time I started liking wine or the first time I met one of my very best friends. I wish I didn’t waste time being jealous or angry or bitter about my situation, but spent more time being happy and feeling fortunate that I got to live in the most beautiful (and expensive!) country in the world. I should have spent more time exploring Switzerland and less time hating it. It is so much easier to find reasons to hate than to find reasons to love; I wish I didn’t take the easy way out. I wish I took the time, effort and energy to fall in love with Switzerland, to realize it’s every secret and value.
Thank goodness I grew up in my senior year, so I tried to squeeze everything into that 8 months; It turns out that finding reasons to love Switzerland was not hard after all. You can never see sheep nibbling at grass in the meadows, smell the fresh, crisp morning air that clears your head and lungs, taste authentic creamy chocolate and cheese! and tasty, cheap wine anywhere else. The different sunsets every night by the lake or the fluffy white snow that greets you in the morning is a damn sight to see.
More importantly, this year I learned to listen to my heart.
People always say “listen to your heart”. But when you’re a budding young adult, often times the voices in your head happen drown out the voices in your heart. So you blindly follow whatever is in your mind, thinking that you are following your heart. When you realize it and find the strength to, you can sift through the white noise and find your true voice.
Sure, college can be about what you learn in class and getting good grades. It can be, but where is the fun in that? I’ve always been an average student. I hate studying and I was lucky (or unlucky?) my friends weren’t that hardworking- I think out of our circle, I’m probably the one who studies the most and that says a lot. We’d rather stay up to watch a movie or play board games than study for the next day’s exam.
So to me, college is more about finding who you are and shaping that person into the best version than trying to look good on paper. Yes, go wild. Study hard and party hard, but always stay grounded and remember your direction in life. Whether it is to have a family, work in a fortune 500 company, become a bartender- remember that purpose and keep reaching for it. Don’t ask me what my purpose is- I still have no idea. And that’s okay. Until then, I will follow my heart and do what makes me happy.
Four years later, I leave Switzerland, marveling at everything around me. I will miss my quiet sanctuary that guided me through one of the toughest years of my life. I will miss who I was, but I’m ready to become an even better person.