Eat, Pray, Love: Study Abroad Edition

When I made the decision to live abroad, I knew life would never be the same. The thing is, I didn’t know if life would change for the better or perhaps for the worse. I’m the type of girl who has a daily to-do list, a five-year plan and measures my level of self-efficiency by how stressed I am. I began to feel exhausted of the restrictions I impose on myself, of my anxiety and of the never-ending tasks I felt like I needed to complete. There’s no denying it — I was lost in the waves of life and slowly letting them sink me. Maybe that’s why I jumped on the opportunity to come live in London so quickly. It was these thoughts that consumed me over the eight-hour flight to England.

I remember texting a friend as soon as I landed saying, "This is it — forget the rest, I’m going to live my life on my own terms." On Jan, 5, 2016, I began a journey that was no longer based on my levels of stress, but levels of happiness instead. I am fluent in two languages and currently learning a third and the most important one: self-love. I decided to use this time away as a chance for self-discovery, as a time to “eat, pray and love.”

I’ve always believed in God, although I was not by any means a religious person. I’ve always been fascinated by meditation and prayer and decided to fully explore this world unknown to me. It took a lot of research, a lot of practice, but I can now say that I feel fulfilled in this aspect of life. Whereas before I only sought prayer as a way to try to fix the bad, I’ve learned to pray for the good — to give thanks for being alive, healthy and hopeful.

It’s important to emphasize that it’s not about what religion or practice you choose; it’s about the faith instilled in you. Faith gives you a different outlook on life, a more positive one, at least in my experience. I set time aside on a daily basis and truly try to devote as much time as I can to my spiritual growth. I can be in the most difficult surroundings and still feel at ease and have the great ability to breathe through the bad and bring about positive energy. My encounter with faith inspired me to face my inner demons.

When I was younger I used to be on the heavy-set side. It was in high school that I decided I would no longer be a slave to food. I followed a strict diet, exercised on a regular basis and soon found myself dropping the pounds I wanted to. What I failed to realize was that it had become an addiction; I would say, “Okay, just five more pounds.” It was a vicious cycle, and I was just never skinny enough. I had become a slave again, not to food but to the lack of it. I would punish myself for anything that was deemed not healthy.

When I found out I was moving to Europe, many people would say, "You have to try this or that food at this place and that place," and it terrified me. But I said no more. I was determined to have my cake and eat it too. Fast forward four months, and I’ve eaten crepes in front of the Eiffel Tower, fish and chips by Big Ben, Danish sausage, Spanish tapas and way too many chocolate croissants to count. Monday through Saturday, I eat as healthy as possible so that on Sunday, I can treat myself to the amazing food spread across Europe. It’s all about balance. I no longer punish myself for eating a treat meal — instead, I encourage it. Some of my fondest memories include eating new foods with new friends. Never did I think that through food I would find love.

The love I found is the one that many people lack: self-love. These past few months, I have learned to love myself without boundaries and with all my imperfections. In fact, loving myself has allowed me to love others like never before. People want to be around others who lift them up, not bring them down. The old me wouldn’t know how to respond to compliments. These days, not only do I say thank you, but I also return them.

It turns out this journey changed my life for the better. I encourage everyone to step out of their comfort zone and truly embark on a personal journey of self-discovery. What you find on this journey is much more beautiful than you could ever imagine.

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