Time flies by so quickly! Three years ago on this day, I arrived to France. A country I never planned on visiting, let a lone, living in it for this long. It has been three years already but so much has changed ever since I came here. I believe that the time I am spending in this country, I am learning more and more. Not only academic wise but most importantly, life-wise.
Last year, I couldn’t write anything as I realized it way too late. So much was happening and I was going through a lot. By far, 2020 was the hardest year and it tested me in many ways. It was better to focus on my life and the reality at that time than attempting to write something. Nonetheless, I was exhausted to even reflect.
This year, the situation is different and I feel different. So, I decided to write this article to reflect and appreciate the last three years. I am keeping this article so I can personally get back to it years to come and have it as a reminder and motivation in difficult times. People might see the end result but they will never know how much work and sacrifice you have put into making it a reality.
The life I started here, whether it was going to last for longer or for a short period, made me strongly believe that no matter how much we plan; Allah always has better plans for us. I wouldn’t want to change anything in it because I know Allah gave me the best.
Looking back, I believe it was worth everything regardless of the challenges and setbacks I faced through every stage. Especially this year, I think I am reflecting on a bigger scale because it is not only about the last three years. Actually, this day made me think of the last 5 years. Two of them were back home and the last three were here. From being a freshly graduate with a bachelor degree back home, Libya, trying to figure her life out to the person I am today. Well, I am still figuring life out but I am no longer the person I was then! Hopefully, in a good way.
Making a Shift in France
I finished my undergrad with a degree in Chemical Engineering in 2016. Though I enjoyed my studies; I knew I wanted to get a higher degree in environmental studies. This meant I had to make a career shift before even starting one. I eventually decided to study environmental policy. It was a huge challenge to take and practically, studying a policy focused field was out of my comfort zone. I remember telling myself whenever I felt scared that ”good things happen out of our comfort zones”. After about a year and a half of rejections, trials, and preparations; I finally made it to France in 2018.
Remembering the person I was when I first laid a foot in France. I was extremely scared, shy, and so worried about everything. August 23rd was a day full of tears, literally. Nothing went according to plan and I spent the whole day crying trying to figure things out and I never told my family about that day. Throughout the last three years, I had days when I questioned my decision but there were more surprises and challenges to come.
There was a time when I just wanted to quit everything and go back home. Then COVID-19 broke in and it was a transformative phase for me. It made me work extremely hard on myself but at the same time, I was extremely scared. Even through doubt; I had a strong belief that it will work out at some point. All it took was a little patience, in fact, a lot of patience and tears.
Keeping in mind that through every job rejection email I received, there was more room for things to work out. Last year showered me with a lot of rejection emails from the moment I started applying for jobs right after graduation. Yet, I was driven by curiosity to know what I will find at the end of the road once it works out. I am still driven by it though!
Anyhow, today marks my third year here and I also survived my first year post-graduation. I now proudly hold a degree in a field I dreamt for so long to study, environmental policy, from one of the leading and most prestigious universities in France, Sciences Po. I had an enriching and unique master’s experience and I only realized it after I graduated. So much changed and is still changing but I am proud that I didn’t give up quickly. Sometimes I don’t give myself enough credit but maybe I should do it more often.
An Eye-Opening Experience France
The last three years were not only about my academic experience but it goes beyond. Living on my own for this long has given me the chance to get to know myself from a different perspective. Also, to look at myself from a different lens. Back home, I had an ordinary life and did my best to enjoy it. I studied and worked at the same time to support myself. In order to have some sense of independence. It felt liberating if I am to describe it.
However, no matter how free you thought you were; there were still many restrictions. At that time, I thought I was in control but I think I always had the society in the back of my mind. Even if I didn’t say it out loud. I didn’t know myself well enough or at least, I thought I did. On the other hand, being fully responsible of every aspect of my life here clearly showed me the difference.
Grateful for this opportunity for getting the time to truly discover myself. Understanding my needs and taking care of my well-being, both physically and mentally. Listening to my inner voice and following my intuition as well. Standing up for myself and sticking up to my own values. Remaining true to myself is the biggest reward through it all. Still, I made mistakes but I learned to forgive myself. There is power in forgiveness. I also learned not having to react to everything. Adopting this concept was extremely life-changing and it got me peace of mind and soul.
Nonetheless, everything happens for a reason and we get to learn along the way. Making many shifts from moving between the endless paperwork and handling my life as a student. Then entering the professional life sphere trying to pave my path in it remains a challenge. But I always say ”if you never try, you will never know”. At least what we can actually do is to always try. I learned a lot and I have yet so much to learn but I am open to everything.
On this anniversary, I am always and forever grateful for the past three years for showing me how to appreciate life and for testing me in every way possible. Grateful for all the people I met, both strangers and friends, and all the lessons I learned. Having this opportunity to discover this country’s culture and society and to also discover Europe through visiting other countries have enriched my understanding of the world we live in. I will always remember this experience with gratitude and love.