On a hazy Tuesday morning in mid-September, I found myself, sleep-deprived and emotional, at the security gate of Gatwick airport. Turning away from my family and walking through those gates was honestly one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. Facing that pain barrier suddenly made it terribly obvious that all those months I had spent gearing myself up to deal with my year abroad in a mature and emotionally together fashion had done absolutely nothing to diminish the inevitable and unmistakeable ache that comes with great change. Despite the constant reassurances from friends of friends and tutors and other Erasmus students that your year abroad will be the best year of your life, and despite the hours of planning put in before your departure, at that crucial moment it suddenly becomes very difficult to trust your own ability to cope with something – and somewhere – so alien. In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to stay in the familiar. And yet, somehow, my survival instinct kicked in. My body – ignoring my panic-stricken subconscious that was screaming at me to turn around – went into automatic pilot and I stumbled towards the departure lounge, furiously wiping mascara trails off my cheeks whilst trying to ignore the curious glances from my fellow travellers. I managed to find a window seat on the plane, and had a few moments of peace whilst I sobbed into my jumbo fashion edition of Grazia magazine, before I was joined by an over-exuberant Manchester City fan who, completely oblivious to my distress, began interrogating me about why I was flying to Madrid, only pausing in his endless flow of questions to join in the football chants now reverberating around the plane. In truth, it was probably the best thing that could have happened; it was impossible to feel sorry for myself whilst dealing with this man’s apparently boundless curiosity and my growing exasperation actually served as a convenient distraction from the doleful task of staring out of the window at the country I was leaving behind. I was only allowed to return to admiring the view an hour and a half later, when we had begun our descent and the man had fallen into a sudden but deep sleep, punctuated by loud snores. To my surprise, as we flew over the mountains of Madrid, with its vast stretches of orangey dust dotted by the occasional turquoise swimming pool so different to the deep greens of the English landscape, I couldn’t help but feel a tiny spark of excitement. It wasn’t much, but it was something.


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