Today marks the end of my third week studying abroad in London. As I stand on the precipice of my last essays, presentations, and final exams, I feel overwhelmed and slightly terrified for the future of my next two weeks. I should explain that the study abroad program I chose was five weeks in London and nine weeks in Paris. I admit, I was greedy, and I wanted the opportunity to explore two countries, learn two cultures, and speak one new language.
Now I come from a university where the definition of stress has no limits; each semester I am pushed beyond boundaries I thought were impossible. I heard from individuals that studying abroad would decrease my stress levels; the classes would be easier and I was essentially “paying for an A”. I thought the universe dealt me the perfect hand, but once again, I realize life is combination of moments that are idyllic and moments that are chaotic. Nothing ever goes as planned, but I have to be okay with it.
One of the most difficult things about studying abroad (for me) is the difference found within the culture of the classroom. At Berkeley, eight hundred students in a lecture class makes it easy to hide behind the crowd; however, my classrooms now consist of twenty students. A discussion based lecture terrified me more than I could have imagined. My anxiety levels surge when I either answer questions incorrectly or lack an opinion on the subject matter. I get embarrassed when other students are avidly fighting for their beliefs, and I cannot muster the same courage. But what I learned was, it is perfectly okay to be interested in a subject, to fight for a belief, to have a passion even if other students seem more knowledgable. It doesn’t make my interest worth any less, and it doesn’t mean I am not worthy of my passions. I have the right to be just as obsessed as they are and, comparison is truly the thief of joy.
The second issue is finding the right balance between studying and playing. I know this is a struggle most students face, but studying abroad exacerbates the situation because you’re in a new country. Your country is probably surrounded by so many other countries and traveling every weekend seems like the norm. It all comes down to priorities and what type of you can you fall asleep with at night. It’s important to find this balance in the earlier weeks of studying abroad before you’re filled with regrets on one end of the spectrum.
And on the topic of social media. Social media is fun, but it’s also deceitful. So many people believe I’m having so much fun and life is easy and worry-less, but no one’s life is filled with happiness twenty-four/seven. My mind is constantly going between happy, anxious, excited, sad, just like any other person. We tend to show our best selves on social media, and I’m guilty of it too.
Studying abroad is always teaching me something new everyday, and here are just a few extra lessons I learned. I realized I wish I took more classes in Political Economy before I declared my major. I love spending time with other people, but I also needed more alone time than I would’ve admitted a year ago. The fear of missing out is so real, but it’s going to happen and it’s going to be fine. And there are days when nothing is perfect and everything is going down the drain, but if I can remember where I am and still be in awe of my surroundings then I know that I am blessed and thankful.
Be kind to yourself when you’re abroad because you are bound to make mistakes along the way, but studying abroad is worth it. It takes you away from reality because working, participating in clubs, volunteering – these duties disappear and they’re replaced with time to explore new surroundings. So amidst all the stress I am going through currently, I’m also really happy.