Finding myself by losing a year by Ines Cherni, Tunisia

On June 20th, 2015 my family woke up with a lot of happiness and tears, I passed my Bac (senior year national exam). My mom came from a modest background, her family didn’t value studies at the time, and my older cousins didn’t either. Thus I was the first in my mom’s family to achieve something of such importance.

It was a big day for them, my parents’ only girl, my big family’s pampered 19-year-old child is finally going to university, still a first in the family. That day I was so happy for them! All their hard work paid off, but deep down I wasn’t satisfied, deep down I knew that I could do much better, that I could get better marks: My latest dream to become a gynecologist or an anesthesiologist was gone.

It was time for me to choose a university, in Tunisia we choose 10 and then according to our total score, we go to one of those. When I heard that the orientation results were up, I was so scared, my entire future depended on one text message. At 9AM, I got the message: It was biology preparatory school for me. At first I was excited because it offered limited opportunities to go to veterinary studies, but with days that excitement vanished. The school was 20 minutes away from my house, no clubs, no fun. Even the dream of helping animals wasn’t enough to keep me there.

In November, after two months of studying, I took my decision, and it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, if not the hardest. I dropped out of school. My parents were devastated and mad at me, my aunts who were like second mothers to me, my grandma, all of them were upset.My mom said that all the effort and hard work she went through was of no value to me, that I didn’t care enough about her. That sure wasn’t true. I just knew that if I was going to stay there I would regret it sooner or later, so why bother?

I’ve never been the kind of person that convinced themselves that it was okay to do something I didn’t like, especially when I knew that it wouldn’t lead to doing something I would love.

Was it hard to make that decision? Hell yes. Was it heartbreaking to my parents to know that their only child, the first among her cousins, was dropping out? Clearly yes, something I could notice through their words and even their facial expressions. Do I have any regret? Not the slightest.

I spent the rest of what was supposed to be a school year getting to know new people from different backgrounds and shaping myself into the individual I now am. After that year I took a few exams in which I did my absolute best and I’m now proud to say that out of 300 students I was one of the  26 students to be accepted  in Tunis Business School: the first and only public school in Tunisia to use English as its main language of instruction.

That year that was lost in the eyes of parents gave me a lot of confidence in myself and in my choices as a young adult.

So whoever and wherever you are, if you are reading this, I want you to know that it is never too late for you to fulfill your dream and be the person you want to be no matter how hard the journey may seem at first.


This is just one example of the important work produced YaLa’s citizen journalists, a program funded by the European Union’s Peacebuilding Initiative in order to enable young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa to document and share their experiences of the region.

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