As the months and days reach closer to December, to my departure and return to the United States, anxiety and a sense of hurry and panic seeps in. It is not just the thought that I will be leaving soon that is tearing me apart, but doubts about whether I am fully taking advantage of my time here in Santiago, Chile. This may very well be the last time I will ever step foot in this beautiful country and thus I attempt to make the most of it; however, it not at all simple with classes and other important duties. The weekdays I consider my “heavy grind” days. If I truly would like to enjoy my weekends to their maximum potential then I must sacrifice some weekday activities and borderline alienate myself from everyone else to complete my work; I may be exaggerating, but as someone who’s attention span is almost none-existent, I must be devoid of distractions.
Pushing people to the side and skipping activities gets depressing pretty quickly however. People may say the sacrifice is worth it in the end, but what I want to know is in what way. You work your life away in college to work your life away in a career and once we retire, we are too old to do all of the things we could have done in our youth and all of your fortune will not buy back the time you missed with family, friends and loved ones. I do not mean to sound like a downer, but I am absolutely positive that this is the same thing various students think both studying abroad and at their home country. Speaking to my friends here, we all have been having tiny mental breakdowns about how we should be spending our time because there is no real medium; unless you truly have the abilities and mental capacity to organize your life in time slots of work and fun and actually pull through with it. In that case, congrats to you because you are rare.
I have been trying to make my balance by dedicating my entire weekday to school work and other important tasks (such as co-op job searching since A round will be beginning pretty soon) and allowing myself to adventure out and enjoy my weekends; however, as I am sure you all know, it never actually plays out the way you want it to. During my weekdays, sometimes I get so flooded with work that they end up dragging into the weekend and, in the worst case, a last minute assignment appears since I forgot about it in the midst of all my other requirements. Furthermore, from time to time on the weekdays, events occur that are just too good to miss out on. For example, as you can see in the feature image, I was able to a TEDx Talk at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. I remember I had just arrived from Pucón at 8am and the event started at 11am. Me being completely drained and exhausted was considering missing the talk in order to recharge my brain’s batteries, but I had never been to TEDx before and did not want to give up on a perfectly good opportunity. Even worse, I could not nap until much later since it turned out that I had an essay for the next day. Being trapped in a vortex of work, I ended up getting a bad fever and had to stay home. This was a signal to me that rest along with fun and work were equally as important and needed time.
Much later, it also came to me that I had been seriously slacking on dedicating some time towards my health. In the pressure of work and fun and now also rest, I had been occasionally skipping meals, overeating at other times, eating complete junk, and also missing out on a lot of my workout days. I had also been teaching myself to cook new dishes, but the stress had me resorting to whipping up whatever was quick and easy.
The bottom line of what I am trying to get at here is that managing your time is key and that your schedule must always keep in mind of your work (essays, exams, projects, jobs, etc), your leisure time (traveling, parties, social events, etc), and your health (rest, eating healthy, exercising, etc). I have not exactly laid down the perfect schedule yet, and neither have the Chileans over here since they seem to be stressing just as much as me, but what I have definitely been paying attention lately to is what is not necessary. What can I cut out of my time so that I can use it more wisely?
I am a big Youtube addict and it does not take me long to get lost in a series of videos, but I have been reserving my Youtube time as more of a prize for studying or doing work for a certain period of time. Then once I finally reach my Youtube time, I think of ways I can make it beneficial. Maybe I could use it to learn something. How about the current conflict in Syria? Or Chilean politics? Or maybe I could use that time to instead play Duolingo which is a language-learning app I have been using to learn Portuguese. Of course, I do treat myself every now and then with nonsense videos here and there or maybe an episode of something of Netflix, but I try to save those all as prizes for completing work.
Even more, I downloaded a program on my computer called “Cold Turkey” that allows me to disable web sites and even applications (though that is in the PRO version) for a certain period of time in order to not distract myself. The best part about it, is that once I disable the websites for a certain period of time, there is absolutely no way to enable them until the time is up. This has definitely become useful when I am in a time crunch to get something done.
When it comes to health, I have been trying various things. First and foremost, I have actually started taking naps. This is one of the biggest changes for me because I was such an anti-nap person before, but now I see the value in it. Those short intervals of rest really do make a difference and give you so much energy to continue with your day. For food, I have made it a rule for myself to ONLY eat food that I make when I am home. That means no running over to the nearby McDonald’s or fast food restaurants. I make small exceptions on the weekend when my friends and I decide to order a pizza or something, but that is not very common. Furthermore, I have been making it a habit to try new recipes and experiment a lot in the kitchen with flavors and ingredients which ends up making cooking a fun activity honestly. On exercising, I am still struggling to properly fit that into my schedule because sometimes there is absolutely no way to fit it in, but I try to continue with the schedule I made in a past post: Mondays and Fridays (arms + upper body) and Wednesdays and Sundays (abs + lower body) with some cardio done each time. The last thing, which I also think is essential, is meditation. I know it sounds cheesy and I even giggle at the image of myself cross-legged, with open palms to my side while humming out some soothing tune, but it really is beneficial. A lot of people thinking of meditating as “letting go of everything”, but to me its the contrary. You have to be in the moment and immerse yourself in what is going on around you and IN you. By that I mean, your thoughts. Instead of trying to ignore my thoughts, I approach them and try to organize and give each one time. In reality, meditation is a matter of thinking clearly.
Hopefully you guys found this useful and I also hope that I did not scare any future study abroad students. I am a big firm believer in that cliché: “You can accomplish whatever you set your mind to do.” It is just the setting of the mind on a task and managing to keep it settled, that is difficult, but it is definitely possible.
A small update: I will be traveling to Frutillar, a small city the Los Lagos region of South Chille. I am going for a class project, but fortunately my group and I will be working there for 3 days collecting information on youth with disabilities and what can be done to improve their participation in the labor market. I will have a post about how the project went and also about Frutillar itself on Friday.