Creating a Balance ~ Week 4

Read all the exciting things our scholars have been up to!

Hola amigos,

                           My time in Spain seems to be flying by! Here are some pictures of what I have been up to:

The view from the top of the castle in Xàtiva!
A group of us took a weekend trip to Alicante!
My class took a field trip to La Xerea!
We took a field trip to Jardín de Monforte!

I only have a short amount of time left before I fly home to Florida (which is super scary to think about). This seems to be a reoccurring worry of mine as the days continue to pass- am I making the most out of my time here? Every day I try to do at least one activity, other than class, to ensure that I am getting the most out of this experience. However, this has become difficult as my classes have begun to pick up.

During this program, I am taking two classes. One class, Advanced Communicative Spanish Abroad, is taught by a professor from the University of Valencia and consists of watching movies made in Spain, trying new Spanish foods, and going on field trips to various sites in Valencia. My other class, Spanish Grammar and Composition, is taught by a professor from the University of Florida and is very different from my first class as it consists of frequent exams, compositions, and homework. Some of my friends and family think that I am simply on vacation since I have been posting pictures with beautiful sites and talking about all the fun things that I have been doing. It is easy to forget that I am still taking classes and that my whole trip is not just “fun and games”. 

Not only do I have to study for my classes, I also have other responsibilities to tend to. For example, I am the Executive Director of an organization at my university, so I have to attend video meetings with my advisor and the Executive Board while I am in Spain to ensure that things in the organization are running smoothly. I also work hard to keep in touch with my family and friends because I know that they worry about me and they just want to know how I am doing.

It is difficult keeping in touch with everyone due to the time difference, the business of my schedule, and how tired I am a majority of the time. With all of this already going on, I additionally make time to write my blogs and post pictures to keep everyone updated of my travels. Not to mention, I am often sleep-deprived or tired from exploring the city. So, with all of this going on, how do I achieve a balance?

Honestly, finding this balance has been a struggle. The major problem that I run into is wanting to go out and explore the sites in the city that I have not seen yet, but also needing to study or complete my homework. I believe that trying to live a balanced life while studying abroad is one of the biggest challenges that students face. While this balance has been hard to achieve, here are some “hacks” I have discovered to achieve an equilibrium with everything going on in my life abroad.

  • Try to combine studying with exploring Spain
    • When I know that I absolutely need to study, but I still want to get out of the house and try something new, I will sometimes combine the two activities. For example, there is this neighborhood in Valencia called Ruzafa that I had been wanting to explore. My host mom told me of this bakery called Dulce de Leche that has the best pastries, desserts, and coffee. I also knew that I had to study for class, so I took my laptop with me and traveled to Ruzafa. I was able to walk around the neighborhood, look at the sights, and enjoy some cheesecake while I studied for class. In doing this, I can be productive while not feeling like I am missing out on anything. 
Cheesecake and coffee from Dulce de Leche!
  • Make efforts to call my friends and family during any free moments
    • While my free moments are sparse, I try my best to utilize them wisely. For example, if I am on the bus traveling somewhere, I will try to call someone from back home to fill them in on how my trip is going. By doing this, I can feel as if I am staying in touch with my loved ones while also making the most out of my time. 
  • Be honest with yourself in regard to resting
    • Back in the states, I am a very sleepy person. I never feel rested if I don’t get at least eight hours of sleep. However, I have managed not to sleep as much here in Spain because I do not want to waste my time sleeping the days away. However, this is another area where it is essential to find a balance. I want to go out and utilize every hour of the day, but my body needs some rest as well. In this case, I maintain honesty with myself in what I need at that moment. I know when I need to rest and I also know when I can skip the extra nap and leave the house. By making this distinction, I feel able to enjoy my time while prioritizing my personal well-being.
  • Be honest with others
    • While being honest with yourself about your needs is important, it is equally important to relay these needs to others as well. It may be difficult for others to understand why you are unable to go out, unable to talk often, or unwilling to hang out with friends. I have learned that simply being honest with your loved ones is incredibly important. When a family member calls and I desperately need to sleep, rather than stay on the phone and respond in an irritable manner, I will be honest and tell them that I need to rest and will call later. Others will understand as long as you are coming from a place of honesty.

So, while balance is hard to achieve, I work hard everyday to ensure that I am tending to my responsibilities, my wants, and my needs during my study abroad trip. Being abroad and having a busy schedule has taught me the importance of prioritizing, time management, and not being too hard on yourself. 

Check out my next blog post to hear a little bit about my trip to Barcelona!

Hasta luego,