Yesterday, I slept until one in the afternoon. This was after a night where I stayed up past 3 a.m. binge watching New Girl on Netflix… for the third time this week. When I finally managed to drag myself out from the warmth and [relative] comfort of my lumpy-mattressed bed, I rode a weak wave of motivation, threw on some sneakers, and made it halfway to a Zumba class before I realized there was really nothing less I wanted to do than go get sweaty and dance around a gym floor for an hour. So instead I went on a quest across the city to find a jar of peanut butter. Unfortunately, I was not successful, and returned home without working out and quite peanut butter-less.
Welcome to a day in the incredibly riveting life of a college student abroad.
It turns out, going to school internationally is a whole lot like normal college life back home. I stay up too late, drink too much coffee, lament my pitiful budget and vow to avoid spending any extra money that month, okay that week, alright that day, and then I go out and spend the money anyways. Midterms week left me exhausted and also served as a sharp reminder that time here is passing, each and every day. I’m counting down the days until I go home now rather than the days I’ve spent here in Spain. And still, here I am, typing away at home, in my room, in my pajamas, on a lazy Sunday
Consistent with most of my semesters at college so far, I’m in that all too familiar place of a of a mid-term slump. It’s the point in the semester where life slows down. There’s not much of anything looming on the horizon, be it an exciting plan or a dreaded assignment. The past few weeks of travel and adventure collided sharply with a week of exams, projects, and late night studying, exactly the perfect storm of hectic busyness that left me feeling as though October swallowed me down and spit me rather unceremoniously straight into November.
It’s not exactly what I was expecting when I bought my plane tickets for my exciting, adventurous year abroad.
My week hasn’t been very exciting or adventurous at all.
In fact, it feels a lot just like any other boring week of college back in the States.
For being nearly 4,000 miles from home, it’s funny how it’s this routine, and not the actual distance, that can leave me feeling so lonely.
Routine is supposed to be familiar, and shouldn’t familiar be comforting? There’s nothing new or exciting about having no work to do and days spent watching Netflix, sleeping late on the weekends and spending hours on end in any of the numerous cafes here drinking my nth cup of coffee. Even more, you’d expect that after such a crazy past couple of weeks, that I’d relish a bit of down time. Believe me, I’m certainly glad for the time and space to breath, but as old habits invite me back in my lowest key week here yet, I can’t help but notice the things that are very painfully absent from my old familiar ways.
I’m talking about the friends. The fam. My sisters. My dog. It’s the fact spending a day sitting in a cafe makes me aware of all the places I’m not and can’t be, that I can’t go to Nu with my sister or Rao’s with my friends or Haymarket by myself and sit there not here drinking myself into a caffeinated stupor. I can sleep in and finally wake up to make myself a pancake breakfast but I can’t walk downstairs in my pajamas after being woken by Dad blasting his music on on Sunday morning and eat a giant brunch with the family. I can stay up to ungodly hours binging on Netflix but I can’t have my friends come over to join me in a Ben & Jerry’s + wine night cuddled up on a couch. I can go for a walk but I can’t take Mischa to the conservation lands in Northboro, or just up to the Paton playground and sit on the swings until the stars come out.
I’d say that I’m reaching the fine print part of my trip, the parts that no one advertises but exist nonetheless. And while it’s weird, a little uncomfortable, slightly boring and maybe even lonely, it’s all a part of my experience here. Some weeks just aren’t gonna be the amazing and life changing experiences that everyone expects from studying abroad. Some weeks there’s nothing to do, and anyways you have no money left to accept whatever last minute invitation comes your way. You learn how to be far (like, really freaking far) away from home and be alone and be okay. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll look around at your new friends, new routine, the new cafes and new pancake breakfast tradition, and realize all the awesome little ways you’ve made yourself a life here, there, wherever you may be.