The Study Abroad Balancing Act

Everyone tells you that your semester abroad is going to be one of the best and most exciting times of your life.

While it is absolutely true that a semester abroad opens your eyes to new places and gives you memories and experiences to last a lifetime, that doesn't mean that it comes without stress.

In today's world, it is so easy to look at someone's Instagram feed and see their highlight reel of photos and feel bad about yourself in comparison. However, it is so important to acknowledge that everyone has ups and downs. No matter what part of their life they are in, even if it is a semester designed to be the best experience of their life. A few weeks into my study abroad experience, I began to feel extremely stressed about how quickly things were already beginning to pass by. With so many new activities to do, places to travel and people to meet, my days in Dublin are jam-packed. Even with so much crammed into each day, I began to feel as though four months was not enough time to accomplish the goals I had set for the semester. As time has progressed I have been doing my best to find a balance in my hectic schedule and regain some control in my life. 

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One of the major perks of studying in Europe is that travel is much easier and cheaper than in the United States. Many study abroad students love to take advantage of this, myself included. I am not even halfway through the semester and have already traveled to Galway, the Ring of Kerry, Brussels, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Typically at home, I use my weekends to catch up on sleep, schoolwork and see my friends. However, this semester my weekends have been spent in airports, bus stations and foreign countries. While I would not trade my international experiences, it has caused me to readjust my scheduling and typical methods of time management.

In order to take advantage of my weekend travel opportunities, I must now be much more productive in regards to my schoolwork during the week. Even after a long day of classes and labs, I push myself to go to the library for even just a few hours so that I can enjoy the weekend without that stress hanging over my head. I can no longer leave work for the weekend and aim to accomplish as much as I can Monday through Thursday. Through a traveling lifestyle, I have also learned how to study in odd places. I used to need a distraction-free zone in order to be productive but I now find myself able to review and flip through quizlets while on planes or waiting at the bus stop. Even though I am now on a completely different schedule, studying must remain a priority in my life, regardless of how busy I may become.

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Another part of my life I have been struggling to balance is in regards to my health and wellness. I am typically very conscious of what I am eating and putting into my body. When traveling so frequently, it is impossible to pack bagged lunches for entire weekends away, and eating out becomes unavoidable. While it is nice to treat yourself every once in a while, constantly dining at restaurants can take a toll on your health if you aren't careful. My body is used to similar foods that I prepare regularly. In addition to eating out more frequently, my body is no longer getting those foods it is used to because some of them just are not available to me in Ireland. Certain foods and brands simply do not exist internationally (and no I'm not just talking about how much I miss Dunkin Donuts).With this shakeup in my diet, I do not feel as great in my body as I typically do. In order to combat this, I have been eating as simply as I can and including lots of fruits, veggies and whole foods.

Another important factor of my health that has been thrown off is my exercise routine. At home, I push myself to get to the gym at least two to three times a week. Now, with my weekends spent exploring other countries and the bulk of my studying pushed to weeknights, it has become extremely difficult to find time to go to the gym. Knowing myself, I know that exercise is extremely important for my mental health as well as my physical health. To get into a better exercise routine, I joined the dance society at my host university. Through the society I can take fun classes, get moving and meet other students. Starting with dance classes, I have been able to remind myself how important exercise is and gain motivation to get back into the gym more frequently.

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I believe that it is important to recognize our problem areas and challenges that we must overcome. By being open and honest about what we are struggling with can help us to grow and solve those problems. Even when it may seem as though someone is having the time of their life jet setting around the world, it is important to remember that there is still stress and hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

Finding a balance in life is an important key, no matter if you are traveling or not.

So while I am determined to make the most out of my time in Dublin, I am now able to acknowledge that keeping balance, getting some sleep and staying sane is more important than trying to attend every single event and squeeze every experience possible into four months. Instead, I am now focused on my well being and enjoying every moment fully, no matter how big or small.