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!

The Day of Love and Friendship

It has been said that “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” We see what others have on Facebook and we long for the same things. As we get caught up in thinking about what we don’t have, we never stop to think that maybe someone might be looking at our life that way. Have you ever thought that you could have something that everyone else wants? Instead of looking at other people’s lawns, we should work on watering our grass, taking care of what we have. Do you have a close relationship with your sibling? A grandparent? A parent? A pet? Do you have a group of friends that are there to support you, or even a best friend that you know you can trust with everything? Some people don’t have any of that. However, if there is one thing I know, there is always something to be thankful for, no matter how small.

Many people have strong feelings about today. It can be seen in the many ways that people refer to it: Singles Awareness Day, Valentine’s Day, GALentine’s Day, etc. Recently, I was trying to put together a lesson plan that included Valentine’s Day vocabulary in Spanish. When I was researching about the holiday, one interesting phrase that I kept seeing pop up was “El día del amor y la amistad” (Day of Love and Friendship). It made me really think. You can have a significant other and still not do anything for Valentine’s Day. You can be single and still celebrate the day.

When I was younger, my parents would take our family out to a restaurant every year. We celebrated a day of love, but a different kind of love. As I got older, I started celebrating the day with my friends. Currently I am in a relationship, but I have yet to spend the day with my significant other. Two years ago, we weren’t able to celebrate together, so my friends and I put together a delicious potluck dinner in our apartment at school, celebrating a day of friendship. Last year, I was abroad in France while my boyfriend remained in the United States. I couldn’t be with him, and we still talked on Skype, but I went to the movies with two of my good girl friends and then we went out to a restaurant. Both of those days were special days, even if they were not spent in the way that the holiday gets commercialized.

Your special someone does not have to be your significant other. You do not have to have romantic feelings for someone to make today special. If you have a significant other, then great! Celebrate the day with that person and remember to love them every day. If you don’t have a significant other, then spend the day with whoever your special someone is. Celebrate the other kinds of love that exist, and remember to love that person every day as well. Valentine’s Day is a lot like Thanksgiving. We tend to get caught up in life and forget to be thankful and love others daily. Don’t limit love to one day.

Loving Through Language

It started with a love of languages.

After winter break of my freshman year of college, I was at a dinner, talking about what I had done over the break. I sheepishly explained that I had spoken Spanish with my mother and spent much of my time studying French. The boy next to me said that he didn’t think that was nerdy at all and that he would have done the same if he had a relative to speak another language with. That’s when I casually gave the invitation to practice Spanish with me whenever he wanted. It was an invitation I gave out often but never got a response. I wanted a way of being able to keep up with my Spanish while I was away from home.

When I gave the invitation out this time, the results were different. A few nights later, the two of us walked home from watching a movie in a friend’s apartment and that’s when he started conversing in Spanish with me. This lead to a friendship based on speaking the Spanish language. We would share music with each other, talk about what was going on in our lives, and more! Spanish was something special that connected the two of us. There were many people who would wonder what we were saying and get frustrated that they didn’t understand. It was our little secret.

As time went on, we started studying together and became swing dance partners. We grew close and got to know each other well, becoming good friends. We really enjoyed each other’s company. Our sophomore year, we started to date.

Almost two and a half years later, we are still together. We’ve had to endure challenges such as being long distance for a length of time but have made it through. We still speak Spanish frequently, although not as frequently as before. Recently he has started learning Russian and I have started learning Korean. We share what we learn with each other and continue to love through language.

I have read many stories online about couples who have met through language exchange/penpal websites and was always amazed by the connection two people could make through a common interest in a language. I never thought that I would be one of those people, and that I would meet someone on my campus. Have you ever had an experience where you really connected with someone based on a love for languages? Tell your story in the comments 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?

Don’t Miss the Moment

So many people are living yesterday or dreaming about tomorrow that they miss the now. They’re thinking about going abroad or when they went abroad. They’re both wonderful things but don’t miss the here and now because what was got you to this moment and what is now will get you to that future moment that you’re dreaming about, so embrace the here and now and live it to its fullest.

Whenever people ask me if I miss being abroad, I tell them that I do, but only a little bit. The joy I receive from spending time with my loved ones and being in a familiar place outweighs that negative feeling of missing the life I lived a year ago. I looked forward to being abroad in anticipation of what was going to be. Now that I’ve done it, I have fantastic memories. However I also have my life at this moment (friends, classes). The life that you live is going on. Remember that the life you’re living now is preparation for what will be. Enjoy the moment, including the painful ones because they are lessons. 

While I was away, I missed home very much. I missed my family, my friends, my school, and especially my significant other. Homesickness is real and I don’t like when people try to make those who feel homesick bad for feeling that way. Despite feeling homesick, I did not let that paralyze me to the point of not having fun and making Skype calls home every day for hours on end. I counted myself as fortunate to be able to travel around Europe and live the dream I had been wanting to live for years. I took advantage of my opportunity. It was worth it and I would never take that experience back. What I normally tell people when they ask me how I feel is, “I was happy in Europe and I am happy at home. I am happy wherever I am.” The last thing I want people to think is that I was unhappy going abroad.

Be happy wherever you are. Live the life you want to live with what you have around you. Count the blessings in your life. If times are tough, remember that they are just lessons for you to learn and without them, you would not be the person you are today. Without the good and bad moments in life, you would not have gotten to this point. Most importantly, do not spend your life wishing away the present moment for something you are excited for in the future. Embrace now. Live now.

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.