Cover picture: Laura Vargas – Lauboratorium
My sister once told me “When you dream and plan something you like, everything is beautiful. But the tricky thing is when your dreams become your reality”. When we give ourselves permission to dream about something, we tend to only think about the “nice” things because these are what give us justifications to pursue any adventure. However, when we manage to accomplish our dreams, in some cases we end up thinking “this is not what I expected” because it is not exactly as we might have imagined it.
Why? Because we forget to realise that our dream is not an aspiration anymore, but it has become our reality, and reality is a bundle of all the nice things we thought about and also the not-so-nice ones. And we should learn to embrace the whole package to enjoy and seize every opportunity.
For example, when I started to think about pursuing this master, my worries were writing a good statement of purpose/personal statement, passing my English test, being accepted by my sponsor and getting a place on my chosen course at the University. After all those things happened (thank goodness), I thought to myself “the toughest part is over” because I had managed to fulfil my dream: I was going to study overseas. For me, this meant going abroad, meeting new friends and cultures, learning cool new things that I would love, travelling as much as I could and “having an international experience” – whatever that meant.
However, I overlooked the shades of grey that this experience might entail. As soon as the course started, the pressure of academia[ kicked in. Essays, groupwork and readings on a bunch of new topics I did not know about started to cloud my mind. I also soon realised that I could not fit all the subjects in “my favourites list” and the “this is not what I expected” thought came in. Some days I wondered if all the hard work I was carrying out was worth it and if I had made the right choice about coming here.
Some other days I just missed my family and friends so much that I went over pictures and voice notes to feel them closer. We would make long video calls and that helped me a little but when I hung up, I realised they were still miles away from my new home.
And what can you say about sick-days? You’d never think about finding the best painkiller for your headache when asked about your initial expectations from your master’s.But the possibility of being sick is inevitable – you WILL be sick eventually.
These were things nobody told me before coming here because they are a normal part of life and you do not see them until they happen. And because it is part of human nature, we tend to make a GREAT deal of them, often putting them first forgetting all the good things that we have and that are happening. Therefore, I will give you a few pieces of advice that have made my life a lot easier:
1. Focus on the nice things: I can assure you that, if you count them, there are more nice things to put your attention on than all those little issues that appear. In my case, I have made a bunch of really good friends, have had the opportunity to travel (even if it is for a day trip outside the city), I have eaten delicious pastries and have learned so many new things that interest me and give me hope for my next step (although I’m still uncertain of what that is). All of these among other things.
2. Remember why you started: I personally pursued this programme (MSc Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship) because I wanted a career change (I’ve previously trained to be a lawyer). Reminding myself of this when I’m having a bad moment helps me gather the courage and impetus to keep going . Think about why you started and what is your goal with your experience – it helps put a new dimension on things.
3. Learn from the not-so-nice things: I know it is cliché advice, but making an effort to discover what life wants to say to you through hardships is a good way to change your perspective on them. For example, I have learnt that stressing out about things that are inevitably coming (deadlines, exams, dissertation…) is not a good policy. Planning and trusting myself has been a good habit I have acquired here…although I must confess I’m still learning.
4. It’s ok to whine a little. Let’s be real; sometimes you just want to go home, watch a movie, cry and eat a whole bucket of ice cream. You’re allowed to do this – do not feel bad about it. The secret is to not let that moment be too long and to wake up the next day (or next Monday) with a driven mindset and a pushing attitude. Even if you have to shut up the not-so-soft voice in your head that says you’d better quit.
After all this, I have come to the conclusion that even if things don’t turn out how you expected them to be – or you didn’t take into account all the annoying bits – you should not regret your decisions or settle and think “I will just finish this and pursue another thing”. On the contrary, because you accomplished one of your dreams, you have space to think about another and plan on it. And when planning, you might think about what could put you down, so you learn to manage your expectations.
And last but absolutely not least, you should feel proud of yourself. After all, you had the courage to pursue your dream!