“I will never have this version of me again. Let me slow down and be with her” – Rupi Kaur. Slow down, read that over again. I read this quote last year and immediately went into a deep reflection. I reflected on my school life, work life, and social life. There are so many different aspects of my life where I tend to overwork myself and not enjoy where I am both physically and mentally. There have been many lessons I have learned since studying abroad, but one of the biggest being to practice being present truly and fully.
Life throws so many distractions at us; it is so easy to dwell on the past and be anxious about the future. From a study abroad point of view, coming to a new country, starting a new school, traveling, and meeting new people can all cause anxieties. All of that can change if you change your mindset. Being anxious is caused by overthinking the future and past. Learning to fully live in the present will diminish those anxieties and make room for to enjoy where you are.
While abroad I found myself anxious a handful of times. Whether it was about traveling solo, starting a new class, or simply losing my sense of direction. Every time, I paused, asked myself “what is the worst thing that could happen?”, and every time the answer was never something I could not handle. It simplified my thoughts and, honestly, boosted my confidence in my capabilities. I never thought twice about it, which in the end gave me so much time to enjoy and focus on where I was at and what I was doing. The first few days in Florence, one of my top priorities was to plan out my weekend trips; every weekend I wanted to go somewhere new. I quickly began to love Florence more and more and wanted to spend my time exploring the city I would be living in for the next four months. I knew I would be traveling Europe multiples times in my lifetime but might not be calling it home again. I wanted to enjoy the freedom I have at my age, not having a full-time job, and having a family to take care of. Most importantly, I did not want to miss out on fully feeling the study abroad experiences by focusing on future activities and just going through the motions of my day-to-day life. I wanted to be constantly focused on where I am at that day both physically and mentally. I am a person who constantly has a daily to-do list and checks everything off with ending the day feeling accomplished. I focus too much on completing that list that I just go through motions and never have a time to stop and break; as a result, always feeling mentally exhausted. I came to a point where I realized I was just going through the motions every day and not valuing the time I have abroad. I picked up habits like leaving time in the morning and evening to sit outside with no distractions, daily reflections, and daily gratitude for the life I am living. It was hard, but I was patient and made time to practice.
Fast forward a couple months; I left quite a few of my weekends free to enjoy and explore the city I call home for the past few months. I have visited beautiful countries and cities and have seen more of what the world has to offer. Most importantly, through all of it, I gained a greater sense of how to live in the present and in the moment. I practiced gratitude and peace and became more in tune with my awareness. Studying abroad is an amazing experience to explore the world, learn in different cultures, and to grow tremendously within yourself. Stay in tune with your mind and body and allow yourself to reflect often about your journey. You will never be this young traveling the world with little responsibilities. Enjoy this life you are living and take time to slow down.
Written by: Paige, Spring 2023 student from Miami University