How a Month in Medellín Taught me to Live

4 weeks ago, a plane I was on landed in the beautiful city of Medellín. I had no idea what to expect, having read very little about the city before I made the decision to study there. Armed with a suitcase, backpack and very tired dog I headed out of the airport to start my new life.

The changes I have undergone in only a month have been incredible. I find that I enjoy meeting new people, I have the confidence to message someone and ask them to hang out and I am always trying new things where previously I stuck to a very strict routine. I liked my life before, however I’d never really realised how I wasn’t actually living. I was existing, and this city has taught me that there is so much more to life than that.

The People

I knew that Colombians would, in general, be friendlier than your average member of the public back at home. Yet I didn’t realise the extent to which this was true. On my first day at the university many people came to spend time with me. In the weeks that followed I met a bunch of other exchange students and Colombians at the university. Everyone made such an effort to reach out. It is impossible to feel lonely here because someone will always take time out of their day to be with you. What’s more they seem to enjoy doing it, their kindness and friendship is a genuine thing.

The weather

I have a love hate relationship with winter. I love the smell of crisp, cold air; however, I find after a few weeks I become even more withdrawn and depressed, choosing to spend time alone because the effort of socialising is too much. Here that mentality is impossible. It’s true that I’ve had both good and bad days, that I still go up and down in my emotional state. However overall, I’ve been much happier.

The sunshine is like a life force that keeps me going. It is easier to laugh, to dance, to feel. I am surrounded by trees and flowers, I can smell their earthy scent and hear the birds that live in them. There is so much life around me I want to be part of it.

Learning to be busy

Previously I spent a lot of time with my own thoughts. I knew that often the way I think and feel about things is destructive, but it was only when I started to fill up my days with activities that I realised just how much damage they might be doing. I am constantly on the move, spending time with friends or going to parties. I attend classes and go to the gym, I take salsa classes. And while I’m doing these things I don’t have the time to exist only in my own head.

I know I still need time to be alone. Thinking through things is one of the ways I process my feelings. However, I’ve realised that I need to find a balance and when I do I am a lot happier.

Since coming to Medellín I have begun to discover a lot of things about myself and other people. I’m learning that people will reach out to me, and that it’s important to let them in. I’m learning that I like laughing and sunshine and new friends. I’m learning that whilst I may never be truly happy, whilst I may always fight a battle with my brain I can live. That I deserve to live.

I have discovered that wherever I go I will find friendship, that there will be people who can tease me and make me laugh because they understand me. I will find people who take my hand when I am scared, when I am stepping out of my comfort zone and stay with me until I realise that I can do this. I will dance, and I will realise that I like it. And most of all I have discovered that it’s ok to make choices that are for me alone. That whilst I won’t always be right I will find where I am supposed to be.

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