Two years ago, I signed up for an exchange trip to Essen, Germany. I'll admit that I was reluctant at first, and it took much cajoling and threats on the part of my parents. But I finally relented and allowed some of my parents' wisdom to seep in — the exchange would be a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the German culture and to open my mind a little.
A few weeks after I registered for the exchange, the coordinators started "matching" us with German students. In my mind, it was similar to a dating app. Some of my fellow American students and I filled out a form with questions ranging from, "What do you do in your free time?" to "Why are you learning German?" We then were "matched" with a corresponding German student who had similar interests and hobbies based on a form they filled out.
After I was "matched" with my student, I started contacting her. We began to talk on Snapchat and discussed similarities between our lives and compared our hobbies and classes. As the weeks passed, I truly began to feel excited about her arrival in Atlanta and my arrival in Essen. I couldn't wait for October (when the Germans would come), and I was even more excited to go to Germany in the following summer.
But about a month before the German students were scheduled to arrive, we received some distressing news — the trip had to be cancelled.
I'm still not sure why, but I know the cancellation was due to a problem on the American end (how typical) and had to do with some problems in the county headquarters (again, how typical). Both sides of the exchange were disappointed, but at the time I merely brushed it off. I even mentioned (unabashedly) of how glad I was to have a free summer.
Yet looking back two years later, I definitely do feel disappointment at the cancellation of the trip. But most importantly, I feel disappointment at my failure to realize of all the amazing experiences I could have had.
I could have learned so much about the German culture. I could have made lifelong friendships with the German students. I could have tried new foods and done things I normally wouldn't or couldn't have done.
But I didn't push to have the trip un-cancelled. I didn't bother to find out what happened. In fact, my blatant ignorance of what had happened was proof of my apathetic nature towards the trip — and I very much regret that now.
I won't be the first to admit that I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, and there are my situations and times when I wish I could have acted differently. But the cancellation of the exchange trip, although due to unforeseeable factors out of my control, proved to be one of the biggest let-downs in my life.
I know I'll have more of these disappointments in the future, and there's no way I can prepare for all of them. But learning and knowing the value of lost experiences will truly open my eyes to the world and help me lead a better, less regretful life.