Study-abroad stress … sort of

When I was thinking about studying abroad, I worried about things. I worried about being homesick, about missing out on important moments back at Loras, and about not doing well in my classes in Ireland or in my internship. These were a few of my concerns, but it has really surprised me how many have turned out not to be an issue. Sure, there are times that I do really miss home, or wish that I was back at school with my friends at Loras. However, I know that they will be there when I get back, and we’ll still have time for adventures together in my next two years! I miss my family, too, but a good long Skype session usually does the trick, and I can’t wait to see them this summer.

What has been the biggest issue for me so far has been the worry that I’m not doing enough here, that I’m not having enough fun. I am staying busy with classes and my internship, homework and projects, hikes and exploring, making new friends, shopping and traveling, and a lot more, but sometimes I still feel like I should be on the go 24/7 in order to fully take in as much as possible in the five short months that I have here abroad.

It has stressed me out at times, oddly enough, the idea that I’m not having enough fun. Which is really kind of strange, that fun is the biggest stress in my life at the moment. I think the reason for this is that I have been dreaming of study abroad as long as I can remember, and the anticipation and build-up to this semester has been huge. As with anything with a lot of build-up, whether it be a move, a wedding or anything like that, I think that it’s easy to put so much pressure on it that it becomes not as much fun anymore, and merely a stress to make it live up to your expectations.

I’m halfway through my time here, but I’m so glad that I’ve realized this. I’m glad that I have realized how much unnecessary stress and pressure I’ve put on myself just to have a good time. I’m also happy that I’ve realized that I can fix it! Excuse me for the overused pop culture reference, but #noregrets. Sure, there will be days that I just need to stay in bed, watch some Netflix, and forget about the world outside my window to relax and take it easy. I can’t be hiking 24/7 obviously! I need to take some breaks, and there will be days that I need to be boring, for my own sanity. I don’t think that necessarily lessens my study-abroad experience, but merely that it makes me a regular person.

I also know that I need to just learn to relax and go with things. Sure, I should keep saying “yes” to new opportunities and meeting new people, but at the same time, I need to let go of some of my expectations. No experience in life is ever truly perfect, and there will be days when I am miserable on a beautiful mountain because it is the middle of a rain/hail storm and I am freezing my butt off, hours from when the bus will be picking us up (aka Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains), but that’s OK! Letting go and just rolling with how things progress will help me come across new experiences without the added stress off trying to systematically check things off my bucket list. I might even come across a few surprises too, like finding an amazing Noodle Place when the burrito restaurant I wanted to go to was closed.

Other study-abroad students may feel this same pressure, or maybe it’s something more personal to me. However, I think it can apply to more than study abroad! Letting go and giving yourself up to some unexpected surprises can really bring good things our way, if we let ourselves do this. For the rest of the two-and-a-half months that I am here in Ireland and traveling abroad, I’m going to laugh a little more, plan a little less, and embrace whatever life hands me.

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