Before I got to study abroad, I was the most persnickety student I knew. The CCI building was my morning, afternoon, and evening; the library during finals week was my haven, and devotion like that came with good grades, but at the expense of my social life and basically any frivolities that a college student deserves. Very early on during my study abroad, I began dreading going back to Drexel for fear of starting to miss out again on the niceties of life that I’ve discovered during my study abroad.
I aspire to have a great career, and I think a reasonable step toward such a goal is academic success, but I’ve come to realize it shouldn’t come at the expense of ‘experiencing college’ and ‘enjoying my youth’. Academics were very important to me growing up, because of my parents and because of my culture, so it was always at the forefront of everything I did, and I let myself miss out on so many things that I’m not happy about, but my study abroad has shown me so much of what I’ve been missing. The difference I’ve noticed now is that I seem to be enjoying myself, yet I’m doing well academically, which means there are two things that can be done together. These are not mutually exclusive paths, and I can’t say that I want them to return to the way they were before I left the US.
A recent experience that sparked this feeling was when I attended a Mardi Gras carnival in Sitges, apparently one of the most popular and anticipated carnivals in Europe( some useful info is that the best days are said to be Thursdays and Sundays). My friends(who actually have jobs) and I decided to go on the weekend so that would be Sunday. We got to Sitges sometime around 12, but the parades weren’t going to begin till 7:30, so we got to explore the city, walk along the coast and just take a breath for a couple of hours. Eventually, when we saw locals starting to get buzzed, we stocked up on some snacks and drinks that would boost our enjoyment of the parade and claimed some standing space, lo and behold, the processions began almost at 9 pm. It was a great experience, we danced, I drunkenly chatted with some other foreigners who overheard me complaining of the effects of alcohol, I sat at the beach and watched people swim in the ocean in the dark, and because it got too chilly(and also because we were dirt exhausted), we went back to Barcelona, and the next day, I was back in class learning statistical programming and Barcelona’s history.
My study abroad experience has made me reconsider everything I thought I knew about work-life balance and sacrifices. I’m a Computer Science major so I need to put in the work to get better at my craft, my major calls for long days and nights and then days again, so how do I know if to take a break and when. Easy, every once in a while, regularly. If I work all throughout the week, I shouldn’t feel bad if I take a weekend to go to a museum or paint hideous portraits with my friends. I now understand that college doesn’t have to be this draining day-in-day-out experience that I once had, rather I want to reform my experience to be a productive, hard-hitting academic career sometimes, and other times, a fun experience with people and hobbies that matter to me. The best thing I could’ve taken away from this experience is that there is a balance to life, this ‘work-life balance’ phenomenon, it’s more important than I used to give it credit for, and now, it’s a requirement for how I will live the rest of my life.