The following post was written by Bridge Year Fellow Amena Saad.

This world is so big. It’s so much bigger than the basement of Carroll Hall or the third floor of the Y, far more expansive than the top of Lenoir during lunchtime rush-hour or a cramped Davis study room in the midst of finals season. But alas, I forget. We all do. Although I am incredibly privileged to be a member of Carolina’s student body, I also recognize how easy it is to get wrapped up in a bubble that ends at the borders of this town.

My college experience hasn’t been wholly consistent. I spent mornings stressing about assignments and diminutive GPA fluctuations, and afternoons sprawled in the grass in front of Wilson library, gorging on Med Deli with my people. I skipped meetings to study and skipped study sessions to curl up on a friend’s futon and laugh at the downfalls of our week. I watched us lose to Duke from the farthest seat in the Dean Dome, and lost both my voice and my room key rushing Franklin the night we won the Natty. But throughout these inconsistencies – the good and the bad – the one thing that has remained steady was the constant pressure I felt to be doing.

Our campus culture fuels, in myself at least, the need to move. The unspoken notion of “if you aren’t busy, you’re behind” has guided many of my decisions, and it’s served equal parts as a benefit and a drawback. It has encouraged me to seek involvements and surround myself with peers who make me feel challenged and fulfilled; but it’s also fueled a level of stress at opportunities that might be passing me by, or time I waste doing this when I should’ve been doing that. More recently, it’s a culture that has pushed me to approach my responsibilities with the intention of maximizing productivity. I started looking at involvements that once excited me as boxes to check and items to tick off of a list. Somewhere along the quest for the most employable resume, I stopped leading with my heart.

I was recently unpacking these hard-to-articulate feelings with a friend, who responded with four powerful words: “You’re right on time.” Life isn’t a competition. There is no singular path to be followed, no end goal to reach before the countdown clock runs out of time. Each of our journeys will run a different route and, to follow this sports metaphor, all we can do is give it our best shot.

This bridge year presents the opportunity to take a step back and breathe. As much as I cherish my first two years at UNC-Chapel Hill, I want to explore life outside its bubble, and to maybe get my hands on a pair of those rose-colored glasses people are always talking about. I hope that my experiences abroad will guided by humility and intention, rather than urgency and competitiveness. I want to take the time to invest in my communities and to live a life that revolves less around myself/intended major/career path/GPA and more around simply being where I am – because it’s right where I should be. And I’m in no rush.