Our whole lives are challenges, challenges that will make us happy or sad, but most importantly, ones that would shape us, make us think and experience.

When I applied to take a gap year, one of the outcomes I wanted to achieve was to make a change for myself. However, that process started sooner than expected, as I already feel like I’m changing even though my experience hasn’t even started yet.

I believe that the few months I have been preparing for my gap year program let me get a glimpse of how our life plans don’t necessarily follow the same path we have pre-created in our heads. That being said, I have learned about all the stress, endless waiting in queues of medical centres, many unanswered calls and e-mails, financial instabilities and disappointments that might come with each big decision we make. All of that will surely have a direct effect on us, as we might stumble upon moments when we just don’t know what to do and how to solve the problems that came along.

Coming from a place where gap years are usually regarded as failures, misunderstood years that are needlessly lost, I knew I would have many barriers to cross during the whole process, And hence, my struggles began. I struggled with fundraising as it’s not very common for people to donate or make many activities that would help with raising money. I struggled with the visa process since there was no embassy in my own country and I stopped getting e-mail replies with no explanation. It felt like I was fighting so hard for an already lost cause. I struggled with finding one vaccine required for the following year so much that I had to ask around in four countries just to find it. It seemed like it was nowhere to be found, while at the same time every new place I was asking at the price would be higher and higher, making the hardship of the situation even worse. I struggled with the facial expression I would get from some people when I would mention the fact that I will be going to Senegal for eight whole months.

I must admit, I felt scared and helpless. Even though I have put my heart and soul into finishing up all the necessary parts before I left for the program, it seemed to me like every path I chose was just reaching a dead end. I know that I could have stopped trying, but, no, that’s not who I am and want to be. After each defeat, instead of crushing inside, I became stronger. I realized that there will always be barriers to our success. Not everyone will approve or support the life choices we make, not every time will it be easy to get to our final goal. That’s why we must believe in ourselves and always try our best. No one is saying that it will be easy, but I truly think that it’s always important to fight for the causes that we want. At the end of the day, there are less than two weeks left before I leave for my gap year program, and even though I have experienced all of the things I said above, I could not be more prepared to go!

P.S I am grateful for all of the support I have gotten during this period. I am especially thankful to the GCY team who has never stopped believing in me and was there for me for each problem I have had, as well as to my family and friends who have been there with me by helping me, cheering me up and making my dream possible.