The musings and misadventures of a girl unprepared

Saturday, 18 July 2015

My Year Abroad

As exam time is coming to a close and all my friends start to trickle home from their various year abroad destinations, I figured it was about time I write something about my experiences.

It’s been a mad one, in short. I've already written a fair amount about my time in Mexico, about the violent love of my friends accompanied by bullets fired from police weapons and wealth of culture juxtaposed with the poverty of compassion from the hearts of those who hold the power. I learned about unyielding strength in times of hardship and laughter in the face of pessimism. Although I was unwell for a large amount of my stay, there is not one ounce of me that regrets going. My heart was broken in more ways than one, sleepless nights were abundant and tears shed uncountable, but oh lord, I am so much stronger for it. It was chaotic and challenging and magical in all the right ways.

Berlin, however, was short and not-so-sweet. Perhaps it was because I finally had a minute to breathe after all the crazy. Perhaps it was boredom. I really can’t decide. I started off well-ish, attending all my classes which was a habit I had lost after being removed from studies UNAM. I'm not sure if I was unwilling, or just simply unable to connect with others, so I’ll settle for somewhere in the middle. I spent most of my time reflecting on and processing what had happened to me, muddling my words when talking to new faces and feeling genuinely disconnected from most conversations. I suppose my life was just in a very uncertain place.

Funky Berlin street art

The culture shock was overwhelming. It’s like what people have often said to me about moving to London, that the shock isn't moving to the city, but moving back to your small, quiet town. I was in a similar sort of situation. I did a bit of exploring but felt so bewildered by the change in scenery to enjoy it much. I kept on confusing my German with my Spanish, my Spanish with my English. My accent in German was just weird and I had forgotten even the most simple sentence structures. The sheer waste of consumerism and pettiness of daily worries regularly brought me close to tears, and I longed to be anywhere else. Not to mention, people in Berlin are just plain rude.

The Backhaus TEAM

I can’t say it was all bad. Over time I started to adjust a little more, and though I never braved Berlin’s (in)famous night life, I did manage to enjoy some other Berlin-esk fun. My house mates were great and we had a day out urban exploring in an old spy base which has now been converted into an arts space. I also LOVE Mauerpark, with its live music, live haircuts and live, well, “music” with Bear Pit karaoke where tourists gather every Sunday to embarrass themselves. The visits I had from two of my favourites from Mexico and my family were absolutely fab as well, and my friends from KCL really did pull me through. Plus the food is cheap and the beer is cheaper, and you always feel safe walking alone at night. I was simply in the wrong frame of mind to enjoy it like I could have done.

My future Mexican hubby and I (we're marrying for visa purposes) losing our Pride virginity together.

Live music at Mauerpark

I’d like to go back sometime and do it again, but for me I think Berlin will always be a better holiday destination than home. I did get into Yoga while I was out there, which is one silver lining, and I stayed long enough to hopefully achieve enough credits to avoid any resits in my final year. Plus my new bestie lives out there too (if she ever returns from Mexico), so it’d be hard to avoid it forever.

We'd got a load of money out to pay some bills and felt rich for about five minutes, so we made it rain money but then lost loads and had to crawl around on the floor to find it...

I suppose Berlin taught me that sometimes, it’s OK to stop. You can push yourself too hard and your mind needs time to process things that happen to you. With hindsight, I probably wasn't well enough to go away at all, but in no way to a regret my decision to do so. It’s just made me realise that although moving to a new country may seem like a fun adventure, and in most respects it is, it’s also important never to forget the pressure it can have on your mental well-being. You can take things too quickly and everyone needs time to adjust.

I think the older I get, the more I realise the value of time at home, in familiarity and in those who have known you for years. It’s a place where you don’t have to be ‘on’ all the time, where you can relax and just be yourself without having to worry about making new friends or impressing anybody. In my mind I now have three ‘homes’: Preston, London and Mexico City, though Preston will always be closest to my heart. It’s funny how going away for thirteen months can make you realise the value of staying put. Roll on a summer filled with old friends, Oxfam and English food. I think I've just about earned it.


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