AVIVA KARDENER- Best thing about studying abroad—so much to do.
Worst thing about studying abroad—so much to do.
This week has reminded me that I have to continue to practice the important life skill of finding balance and calm no matter where I am in the world. Now, I had expected to put this ability to the test while abroad. This skill, that I have been attempting to build throughout my years at Tufts, is one that I have yet to master. I actually went into this six-month abroad thing with the hope that all of the “so much to do’s” would force me to figure out just exactly how to balance.
In the last month, I have traveled every weekend. I´ve gone to Scotland, Barcelona, Oporto, and am now visiting my grandmother in the South of France. The traveling isn’t the part that is very overwhelming for me. Before the program, I spent a month in Basque Country to take immersive Spanish and prep for this semester in Madrid and then spent five weeks backpacking through Europe. Traveling comes with its own sources of stress and struggle, but I can handle them. What I had forgotten about while planning these four consecutive weekends of travel was to factor in my classes, homework, exams, and internship. This week, I had my first essay, exam, and presentation for the semester. And I had my very cool internship at Apunto cooking school—meaning I got home after 12am two nights this week. And, I had to leave straight from class on Thursday to go to the airport. Plus, I had to find a way to fit in time with my host family, time to fill out my very long CA absentee ballot (P.S. PLEASE GET REGISTERED AND GO VOTE November 8th. I don’t care who you vote for, but vote your conscious! Your vote matters in this election for the President, but just as important is to vote for all of your local elections!), and the precious time to sleep.
In my “normal” life at Tufts, I have a rough time trying to get all the work done for classes, for clubs, for my jobs on campus, and finding time to sleep, see friends, and do all the other human things. But, my focus is on my studies. I am at Tufts to study. And until this week, I had forgotten that I am in Madrid to study, at a university, on my student visa. It’s a strange feeling to remember that even abroad, in the face of all of the exploring, you still have to get to class and get a paper written. It’s strange in its familiarity—it’s just tilted out of its normal place (on a university campus, living life as a student, isolated and insulated from the world.)
So, what am I going to do about this very different overwhelming feeling? I’m going to enjoy spending time with my grandmother, go watch the sunset on the beach, go to the market, and draw for my art class at a cafe with some pan au chocolat or Tarte Tropizienne. I will take it one step at a time, and make a plan for my studying. I am going to embrace my Libra sign and balance those scales. But most importantly, I am going to remember that I am only human, that learning happens outside of the classroom, that I am here for the “whole” experience, for the “so much to do’s.” This is why I came abroad—to live my life in a different setting and figure my way around. I am here after three and a half months, still alive, still thriving, still growing, still learning, and still ecstatic to wake up in the morning in mi apartamento and say, “buenos dias” to mi madre madrileña. I am here, with so much to do, and that is the best part.