by Chen Yu, Tulane University and CNMJ Fall'17 Student
Whether you’re at your home school or at the orientation, everyone keeps telling you the ways to make the most out of your study abroad experience. But you know what, there is one thing I can tell you upfront. You’re going to miss out.
In the spring semester of my sophomore year, I was super pumped about the Film Studies program. I asked friends and writing tutors to read my application essays multiple times and met with my film professor whenever I could to discuss my portfolio. I was so ready to make the most out of it and become a kickass filmmaker. Then decision came in that I was not accepted by the Film Studies program, and I decided to switch to the CNMJ (Communication, New Media, and Journalism) program.
In the CNMJ program, I was so ready to “make the most out of it”. I wanted to take 18 credit hours (the requirement is 15 credits), become fluent in Czech (oh well that’s def not gonna happen), intern with a local organization every week, volunteer to blog and design the semester handbook for CIEE, audit two more film classes, offer to help on set with shooting for the Film Studies students, travel every single weekend outside of Prague whenever possible, go to every single excursion that CIEE plans, explore Prague as much as I could during the week, do all my readings and take detailed notes, and get straight A’s in all my classes. I soon realized that I was exhausting myself out: I was tired all the time, had very unhealthy sleep schedules, juggled multiple tasks, and was left with no time for myself.
I realized that there is a really intense peer pressure to compare how much you’ve explored Prague, the Czech Republic, and Europe. It seems like everyone is exploring new places and everyone’s constantly talking about the hidden places and cool places they’ve been to, and nobody wants to act like they’re missing out.
And there are so many excuses to exhaust yourself out. “When is the next time you visit Europe?” “It’s so cheap to travel.” “You’re studying abroad.” “You’re already in Europe.” But that’s just misleading.
You don’t travel just one semester in your life; you’re travelling all the time throughout your life. You’re constantly going to different places, and no one can possibly explore every corner of the world. Also, flights and bus tickets in Europe are not as cheap as we think, considering Europe isn’t even that big either. In the United States, the bus ticket from New Orleans to Houston can be as low as $1, and I got my flight from New Orleans to Chicago for $50. Instead of travelling as much as you can this semester, condensing the travel of your entire life to this semester and thinking that’s the only way to do it, can we make travelling more sustainable, still take good care of ourselves, and keep the curiosity wherever we go and even after we return to our home school? Can we explore new neighborhoods in our hometown, or go to other cities that we can easily go to by bus like we do in Europe?
I accepted the fact that I’m gonna miss out. And I’m missing out all the time. I don’t have time to audit film classes (well I might not even end up working in the film industry anyway), I won’t become fluent in Czech (probably not ever in my life), I won’t be able to visit every single country in Europe (but the world is so big and I can’t explore every country before I die so why should I overstress out about it?), I’m not gonna explore every single corner of Prague (well I don’t think locals can manage to do that either). I don’t want to be travelling the whole semester while I’m abroad. I want to live my life while I’m abroad.
So now this is what I do every day. I get 8 hours of sleep, do my readings and take detailed notes, drink a lot of hot water, eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, cook Chinese food, go jogging around the neighborhood, look up cool things to do in Prague, and just enjoy my presence in this city. I don’t feel obliged to drink or go out when I don’t feel like it. I know I’m missing out according to some people, but learning to live matters more to me.