It is true, sometimes study abroad experiences have a reputation of being more focused on “partying” than studying, despite the fact that they are primarily meant to provide a more global academic experience. It is also true that one cannot blame a person who wants to make the most out of the social opportunities offered by a given location. As someone who enjoys socialized, but also highly values education, I will now try to explain how I have been balancing a social life with my studies since coming to Germany.
First of all, by being an exchange student, there are automatically many opportunities to get to know people, such as welcome events and other activities specifically for exchange students. It is here I have met many Erasmus students, a program for European students to study in other European countries, in addition to many students from central and south America. Because we all have different origins, the common language of interaction is English, fortuitously (or not, depending on your outlook) for someone like me, who has been brought up speaking that language. Furthermore, because many of us are here only temporarily, it is only natural for us to want to make the most out of the experience by having as much fun as possible (of course, the definition of “fun” can vary greatly from person to person). The aforementioned factors lead to a situation wherein there are almost constant social activities to partake in. Here comes the point where self-discipline must spring into action, defending that valuable mentally developmental phenomenon and investment for an individual’s future we call education from being gobbled up by the ever so tempting enjoyment that can be derived from spending time at a bar, party, or other social event.
For me, this self-discipline takes the form of countless lists of things I have to do each day, each item of which is a blotch on my conscience which will haunt me as long as it is not crossed off and cast away into oblivion by the stroke of a pen. I update this list frequently throughout the day, and when I am finished will scheduled obligations (e.g. classes) I begin completing those tasks in order based on priority. Admittedly, many of the items jump from page to page as I go days without completing them, but these are usually the least important ones, such as cleaning the apartment, etc. I also have made an internal declaration that weekdays should be mainly reserved for studying, as weekends can be better utilized for traveling and thereby truly taking advantage of my time in Europe.
Ironically, I am writing this blog entry while sitting in a cafe in Amsterdam, one day after the infamous King’s Day, which has left innumerable crushed beer bottles and orange balloon skins on the pavement (likely to soon be washed away lamentably into the canals). I did not partake in the festivities as most people did, because I truly appreciate my ability to walk, and find it disrespectful to voluntarily sacrifice that ability through the intake of relatively poisonous substances, legal or not.
Perhaps, I’ve been sidetracked from the original topic of this entry, but the moral is that there are many things going on in Europe (and the World) that may distract a person from his real (long-term) priorities, and that it is important in such circumstances not to succumb to each and every temptation that arises, because, after all, these moments will soon fade into the depths of memory, and then what will remain but the knowledge one has gained and the rusty beer cans at the bottom of the canal?