Some time has elapsed since I’ve gotten home, plenty of space to think since it’s the holidays. As much as I loved my time abroad, I can’t help but think of all the things I could have done to make my experience even better.
My biggest regret was not spending an entire year abroad instead of a semester. I was just starting to get comfortable with new places and faces so that they were not new anymore—to have these things taken away right at the high point felt cruel.
And as strange as this may sound, I regret traveling as much as I did. I felt I did not spend enough time in my home city of Norwich and building stronger, long-term relationships with the people there and getting involved in local places and happenings. I regret not being more involved with my exchange school and going to club socials.
I have other regrets, and they all have to do with not seizing the opportunity enough, if that makes sense. It was the first time in my life I got to live for an extended period away from my family, in a land of what seemed like boundless opportunity because I knew no one and no one knew me. I had a clean slate and looking back at the experiences I had, I believe I didn’t take full advantage of it.
And I don’t think I’m alone. I do think others who went abroad for a semester, or even a year, have similar thoughts. And after spending a little time being bitter about it all, I have a few words for you—us—who have thoughts of regret:
You did the best you could.
Perhaps exchange has changed me from the person I was before I left home to the person I am after I left home, and I’m looking back on exchange with the eyes of this new person I have become. At the time I was making pre- and during-exchange decisions, I was a different person and making the best decisions I could make at the time.
Sometimes I imagine all the possible trajectories my exchange story could have taken if only I’d done X, Y, or Z. But who knows they would have panned out in the way I imagine them to? What if I’d taken path Y instead of my current path X, and end up regretting not taking path X instead?
There will always be some regret when going through a big experience.
But that means you’ve learned.
And next time, maybe you’ll be a new self making new decisions. And there will be decision-regret then as well, but that’s inevitable.
And yes, there will always be a next time. If not on exchange, in life at home. How different really is it, our lives abroad and our lives at home? You are the same person, you may have just learned something different from your time abroad. Bring it back home and use it at home.