All Seasons Come to an End

A few weeks ago, I went home for what schools typically call “spring break”.  Spring is when my campus is filled with blossoming trees, the smell of fresh mulch that makes me hold my breath, and the comforting warmth wrapping around my body, accompanied by a bright sunlight that I haven’t seen in months. Spring has always been a different experience in my hometown since I live in the north. You have to learn to enjoy every moment of it, because it is fleeting. We get a couple of days a year where the flowers on trees are blooming, but it is a beauty that does not last. This year, I spent my spring break indoors when I wasn’t shoveling the piles of snow that were up to my waist from the Stella blizzard.

It was March. We had a cold winter, but not a bad one in terms of weather. Usually my spirits start to get lifted in March because I know that spring is coming. However, it was already halfway through the month and we had just gotten a huge snowstorm that we spent the entire week shoveling ourselves out of. I knew that spring was still on its way, but I was a lot less optimistic about how quickly it would arrive. At this point, I couldn’t imagine it ever arriving.

Just like the weather goes through different seasons, we go through different seasons in our life. Sometimes we have a period of happiness, enthusiasm, hope. Other times, we find ourselves stressed out and overwhelmed, wondering when the next positive season will be coming. Recently I have been going through a lot with some personal issues that have come up, which is why I have not written a blog post in over a month. When I started this blog, I had planned to write a post every week, and I kept up with it even during my busiest times. However, I reached a point where I just couldn’t keep up. I was juggling too many things at once and it was not good for me.

Last week, the weather started getting better. The sun came out and I could finally walk around outside without wearing a winter jacket. To this very minute I still find it hard to believe that it is no longer winter. You will reach this point in your life. If you are going through a hard time, don’t be discouraged! Just as all good things come to an end, so do all bad things.

Studying abroad is a season, high school is a season, what struggles you are going through are just a season in your life. Make the most of the good seasons. Slow down and take everything in. Learn from the bad seasons and know that better things are on their way. You may not be able to see your spring quite yet, but it’s coming.

Balancing School and Travel

Every college student is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There’s the side that likes to binge-watch Netflix or funny videos on YouTube. They seem carefree and you almost wonder how they pass class, because you never see them doing their work. That’s when you see the other side: the student that stays up from anywhere between 2-4 in the morning, scrambling to finish their assignment, paper, etc. This is a stressful way to live, and pretty unhealthy if you aren’t getting enough sleep or eating the right things. With this lifestyle, it makes it a lot harder to travel.

This past weekend, I traveled to a city two hours away to give a talk at a conference. I had almost no time to do any work because I had been going to sessions almost every half hour. However, I knew that I wouldn’t want to do my work the day I got back from the trip, because I would be tired from traveling and hearing more talks. To spare myself lots of stress, I planned ahead and did what assignments I could during the previous week. This technique has always helped me when traveling.

When I was in Madrid, I traveled literally every weekend. I would leave on Thursday and get back Sunday. Sometimes I would just do a day trip, but I was still traveling. I would always get my homework done before leaving. Some of my classmates would bring their homework with them on trips, but I know that I would never be able to get it done on a trip, nor would I enjoy my trip if I spent it doing homework. If you are busy during the week, I would suggest doing the little, easier, quicker assignments first. Whenever you are already in homework mode, doing your other homework, get a little bit ahead by doing an assignment that is due when you come back from your trip. If you keep doing a little bit at a time, you may be surprised at how much you get done. If you decide to do all of your homework at once, that can be draining but then you won’t have to worry about any homework.

What kind of student are you? Do you ever work ahead? Share your homework tips below!

It’s Okay to Say “No”

Today my class was asked to name three things that we have learned in our past three years of college. Everyone is constantly learning and growing. It shouldn’t have been hard to think of what I have learned. Some of those things were inside the classroom, such as good note-taking, time management, and making wise decisions. Other experiences, such as learning that good friends don’t always make good roommates, happened outside of the classroom. I have learned many things in the past three years. However, I learned one of the most important life lessons last semester when I found myself being stressed out, tired, and cranky all the time. I learned the importance of rest.

When I look at many of my friends, I see them doing homework and going to class, but I also see them watching Netflix daily, playing video games, spending time with others, and going out. I am the type of person who likes to work hard and play later. I did what was required of me for classes and even tried to get ahead. I took on four jobs, tutoring for three classes and working on campus. But I didn’t stop there. Even outside of my paid hours, I would help others because it gave me fulfilment to see a difference in the lives of others. Eventually everything caught up to me and people started taking advantage of my “free time.” I thought I was getting somewhere, but in the end I felt like I was running on a treadmill, tiring myself out trying to go somewhere but actually getting nowhere.

By the end of the semester, I was not myself. I realized that taking breaks is better than trying to go and go until you make yourself sick over it. It is time to start saying no to things. At first, I couldn’t because I was afraid of letting others down, but when you aren’t able to function like normal you are letting others down, especially yourself. I don’t want to spend this semester, my final semester, the same way as I spent my last one. I want to remember my college experience as a good experience. Part of that means taking care of myself and saying no.

Do you find that you have a hard time saying no to things? Have you said no to the wrong things?

Staying Hydrated Overseas

Unhealthy habits come in many forms and everyone has one. Maybe you spend too much time on your phone. Maybe you find yourself eating ungodly amounts of junk food. Maybe you are working too much and not getting enough sleep. Some of these bad habits become stereotypes for college students. Even college students, most of the time, would agree with some of these points. For me, personally, I do not drink enough water. I do not like the taste of water, and yes, water has a taste. In addition to not liking water, I don’t really get thirsty. This was one thing I didn’t think would change when I was abroad, but I was wrong.

During my time in Spain, I realized Madrid was a lot more dry than I would have thought. Maybe it was the fact that I was traveling and walking around all the time, or maybe Madrid really is just dry. Regardless, it is a good idea to pack a refillable water bottle if you are planning on studying abroad anywhere. Water fountains are not as common in Europe as they are in the United States, and surprisingly, some places will not give you tap water, even if you order it. Besides, if you are out and about, you will want to have a water bottle with you. It will save on money that you may be spending on disposable water bottles.

Although Madrid was dry, my experience in Nantes was even more difficult. Like Madrid, Nantes did not always offer tap water as an option at restaurants and some servers would not give it to customers who ordered it. My friends and I would end up having to buy a bottle of water at restaurants, paying an unnecessary fee. On top of that, most of my friends and I had noticed that our host families did not drink a whole lot of water when we would eat with them. When mine would refill my glass, they would only give me half a glass, and the glasses were tiny. I felt awkward constantly refilling my own when my host parents only drank half a glass and wine.

I never thought that this would be an issue for me when going abroad, especially because I hardly drink anything. Even so, I wanted to pass this suggestion onto others who may be studying abroad in the future. I also wrote a post on other things that I would suggest packing. Trust me, it’s different from what study abroad websites will normally tell you to pack. Have you traveled somewhere and ran into this situation? What are some unconventional things you would suggest bringing with you?

Homesickness is Real

Isn’t it ironic how we are living in a time where we are encouraged to celebrate our differences, but when we share our thoughts with someone that doesn’t agree with us, they get offended? It is so easy to say the wrong thing and take someone on a guilt trip that they did not want to be a part of.

When you go abroad, many people will tell you how fortunate you are that you get this opportunity. They will say how they wish they had that chance. They will tell you to make the most of your time away. As someone who has gone through this myself, I can say that this is true. You will have a fantastic time full of memories that should last you a lifetime. Something those people fail to take into account is that studying abroad is like opening a bag of Skittles. It is a bag full of sweets that you will enjoy, but with that comes some flavors you will not like. You did not ask for them, but they are there and they are part of the experience, and unlike Skittles, you can’t give those bad moments away to other people. This is where homesickness comes in.

I got homesick while I was abroad. I am not sure many people realized it, because I did not tell many people back home. I wanted everyone to know that I was having fun and making the most of my experience in Europe. While it was true, there were times when I would feel very homesick, but I would not tell anyone because I did not want them to think that I was ungrateful for this dream I was living out. It is so easy for people to say that they would make the most of their time abroad until they actually get to the point where they are in that situation. Not everyone realizes how much strength it takes to get up and leave everything they know and love to go away for an extended period of time. In the end, you are left feeling guilty for missing everyone.

It’s okay to feel homesick. Just don’t let it paralyze you.

Homesickness is natural, especially if you are close with your friends and family. The more you have to leave behind, the more you are going to miss those things. It is totally normal to want to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with those you love and wish that they were there with you. That being said, do NOT let this feeling paralyze you. It is okay to acknowledge that it is there, and that some days will be worse than others. I guarantee there are other people in your shoes that feel the exact same way that you can talk to. However, that one semester you spend away will fly by. Time does not wait for anyone. Continue to live your life and make new memories. Live in the moment before you realize that it is too late, or else the only thing you will remember is how homesick you felt the whole time you were gone.

I did not have that experience but I know some people who did and it was such a shame to see their experience go to waste. Has anyone ever made you felt bad for being homesick? What were some things you did to combat homesickness?

Count Your Blessings

About a week ago, many Americans sat around the dinner table with their families and a giant meal, and shared what they were thankful for. Thanksgiving is a holiday that gets observed one day a year but who says that we need to follow the calendar? Whether you are American, Panamanian, French, Polish, or just human, you can and should take a little bit of time out of your day to be thankful for something.

Many have suggested that a good remedy for discouragement and unhappiness is meditating on what we are thankful for. How many times do we hear that advice and actually put it into practice? I have started doing this, making a mental list of the things I am grateful for. I start with what is the most important to me, things I should not take for granted such as:

  • the environment I grew up in
  • the fact I still have all my grandparents and that my parents are still together after 30 years
  • that I can see, hear, walk, run, and do many daily things without a problem

Then, I gradually ease into material things that are still nice, but should not dominate my life such as:

  • going to my dream school
  • being able to travel throughout Europe
  • having a significant other

When you really think about it, you would be surprised how quickly you can form your list and how long it can go. Everyone’s list will be a little bit different, but I encourage you, the readers, to start thinking of a list of things you are thankful for and see how you start to feel after forming a habit out of this.

 

Give Yourself a Break

Ideas are like an unexpected but pleasant guest that can come at any point in time. Some people get visited more frequently by inspiration than others. Sometimes it is like an old friend who you have not seen in a while but you are ecstatic to see. Inspiration may hit some when they first wake up. Some people have revelations while they are in the shower. The idea for this post came to me while I was sitting in class, stressed out by the amount of work I was going to have to do. College is not easy nor should it be. However, there are ways to make college, and life in general, more bearable when things get busy.

One of the best pieces of advice I can give somebody who is stressed out or frustrated by something is to walk away. Sometimes you can benefit more from taking a break from the very thing that is frustrating you. Taking a break and giving up are not synonymous. People go through dry periods where they are lacking in inspiration and motivation. When I used to play piano as a kid and I would get frustrated, I would take an hour break and then come back. Many times, I felt more refreshed, less stressed, and ready to go. I would end up doing better after taking a break than if I had just persisted.

Are you stressed out about a test? It is possible to over-study. Just as you need rest every night in order for your body to function, your brain needs a break after doing an activity for an extended period of time. Have you hit a language-learning plateau? Walk away from heavy studying for a couple of hours, even a day or two, and see how you feel and perform. Sometimes people benefit from walking away from a project for just half an hour. Other times, it can take up to a week or two to start feeling refreshed. This does not mean to walk away for so long to the point that you are forgetting what you have learned. Just give yourself a break and see how it can work in your favor.

Whether you are a language-learner or not, I invite you to check out the video below on the importance of sleep. How much you sleep can greatly affect how you perform in daily life.