I recently returned from my exchange year at the University of South Carolina. Study abroad years are notoriously well known for being similar to gap years, placing emphasis on immense personal development rather than academic growth and attainment. For this reason, my past year, and those of many other students around the world, have been judged on a pass/fail basis. So after the party’s over, the beer pong tables are a mess, camera rolls are brimming with glitzy pictures, friends have parted ways and events of the past year start to feel like an idyllic dream- is there anything left behind? Here are my top ten deep and meaningful life lessons from the past year that thrust a confident ‘yes’ in the face of that all-important question.
10. If you like or love a person, let them know. Life’s too short to be shy.
9. Life without laughter is no life at all.
8. Money can buy you nice things, but some nice things are nicer than others. Would you rather buy yourself more clothes, or save up for a weekend trip in the great outdoors with your friends?
7. There’s a fine line between assertiveness and confrontation- but it’s an important one. Assertiveness- especially for young women- is crucial to holding your head above water.
6. Life is not meant for spending every day in the gym. When you reflect back on life, will you be happy that you had a hot body, or that you read books, travelled, got outdoors and spent time with loved ones?
5. Alcohol is not necessary for a good time. When you find friends that make you laugh until your stomach hurts, being drunk isn’t important.
4. You can be friends with people even if you’re completely different. Having made friends from all over the world this year, I’ve come to realise that the best friendships are the ones that make me see the world in a new light.
3. Sometimes there isn’t a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ decision- there’s just the decision that, on reflection, that will leave you with the least regrets.
2. People are the best thing in life.
1. Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” It may not feel like it at the time, but the hardest times in life are learning experiences that come to define the residue that is left behind after life’s luck and fortune have evaporated.
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