I know that I tend to post about the big things I am doing and the fun experiences, but I think I am not doing Study Abroad justice through that. Study Abroad brings on so many emotions, reactions, adjustments, and moments that define your time here. I hate to say, but you are missing out on those things. You get my excitement, my pictures, a run down of my day, but what about the relaxed times? What about the walk to school and the differences that required adjusting too. What about the mundane parts of life that are just as important and as easily forgotten?
Walk with me to school and tap into my senses. As you know, I am a farm-girl and I go to a small school in the middle of nowhere. The city is a foreign idea, a place to occasionally visit. To live there? That is another story. Right now, I am living in a city that is home to 5.5 million people. They work, live, love, laugh, and experience everyday life here. I am a part of that. I work on my classes, I live here, I laugh at the day to day stuff, and I love the city that I am in.
I could say that I love the city because it looks like a fairy-tale, which is partially true. The architecture and history alone are enough to overwhelm the senses. However, looking beyond that, you see the people of the city, the people that truly make the experience real.
It is Monday morning. I get up and get ready for the day. The apartment is quiet and all you hear as you leave is the creak of the wrought iron door opening to more than just the outside world; it opens up to new sounds. First thing I can hear is the hum of cars, the growl of motorcycles, the pitter patter of feet walking by. Voices are soft in the morning. Children may giggle and be excited for the day despite it being Monday. When did we start looking at Mondays as a bad thing? I can't remember when I started to dread Monday. Monday is a beginning and a new start to adventure and a fresh week. Why do we dread the opportunity to start the new week? Maybe I wish to be a child again; to look at the world with a lightness and excitement that is not weighted down by expectations, responsibilities, and pressure.
Part of my time here is cursed with the thoughts of not working. At school, I am a full time student, and I work two jobs while being involved in campus organizations. I function best when I am busy. Now I go to class and all I have to do is live, to experience what life has to offer and sometimes I am not sure how. Sometimes I feel like I am forgetting something. Do I work today? Did I forget to do that? No and no. The lack of busy brings silence. Silence brings contemplation. Contemplation brings doubt, fear, and anxiety. Those feelings aren't necessarily about being abroad, but the future. The future that is easy to drown out in the hectic busy that was my life. Time catches up to you even in the bliss of exploring the new. I am here for three more months, and then I have to take my GRE, work towards my PT hours, and apply to PT school. Am I ready for that? Am I good enough?
My relationship with God is always a rope pulling me through. My time abroad leaves me feeling disconnected sometimes. My apartment-mates aren't religious. At school, I am surrounded by my sisters in SAO and in Christ. I am in Bible study, I attend church regularly, and I feel closer to him. Here, I have been lucky to watch the live-stream service, but it feels different. I am legally allowed to drink here, but I don't really like the taste of alcohol. The girls go out to bars and clubs, and they invite me. I have gone once, and I will not go again. It is not me. I will not change me to fit the idea of what an abroad experience should be or what typical college kids are. I can't be that and I won't. It is hard, but I am stubborn. Sometimes, it leaves me feeling alone and disconnected to those around me, but I still feel peaceful about my choice.
Back to the walk to class now that I went off on a spiral, which is a "welcome to my thoughts" for you all. As you walk to the metro, you smell fresh baked pastries. You can faintly smell smoke because smoking is very common here. I see shops opening and people kissing goodbye as they head in opposite directions. The metro is quiet in the mornings except for the sound of footsteps and the escalators humming. You can hear the grind of the rails as the metro approaches and fades away. I take the blue line to the yellow line. The blue line is packed. Walk further into the stop and you have a better chance of squeezing on and it is a squeeze. The transfer to the yellow line is a few minutes walk and the tunnel is full of people rushing to their next platform. There is always a performer in the tunnel playing the guitar and singing. The next train is a squeeze but you have room to breathe this time. Exiting the metro is crowded, but the wind hits you as you move up the steps. It is so refreshing to feel because you were sweating in the metro from the heat and the close proximity of people.
The walk to campus is 10 minutes. Again, the smell of smoke mingles with the smell of fresh baked goods and luckily that smell overpowers the smoke. It is almost enough to tempt you, but then you remember that you want to save money and pastries everyday would make you chubby. Plus I just started losing weight and my legs better look amazing by the time I get home. My calves are so tight from the stairs, the hills, and the stairs. When I walk up the stairs to the fourth floor for class, all I hear is the huffing and puffing of people mixed with "I hate these stairs."
The walk home is not much different, but the smell of food changes into a savory smell. There are dogs walking around on leashes. I look at them and I just miss my dogs. I cannot wait to get home to cuddle my dogs. Sometimes, I look through pictures of them because I miss them that much. At the restaurant across the street from my apartment, this old man does his crossword puzzle at the same table everyday during lunch. I notice him everyday. The streets are filled with voices. You can feel the city's energy and the buzz is energizing. All I can think about though is that I want to get back to my apartment for lunch. I am so hungry! After lunch, I sit on my bed and either do homework or take a siesta.
I love siesta time. I feel like it is the first time I have really rested since high school began. I average 4 hours of sleep each night while at school, but here I am getting 7 hours plus an hour nap. I will miss that the most when I begin my crazy schedule once more at home. That is another thing, at home my schedule is confusing and color coded. I put everything on it because I will forget it otherwise. Finding free-time is a pain in the neck. Here, I barely look at my schedule. It is freeing almost, but still leaves me with a sense of uncertainty like I will forget something or am missing something.
I guess feeling wise; you should understand the negatives with the positives. Yes, it is amazing to see all the history and beauty here. Yes, it is an experience of a lifetime. Yes, I do not regret coming. Yes, I miss home. Yes, I look forward to sleeping in my bed again. Yes, I wish my dogs were here. Yes, I feel out of place sometimes. Yes, I think that it is too much for me sometimes.
Part of studying abroad is feeling all of those things. Growth is in the missing home. Growth is in finding where you fit. Growth is feeling overwhelmed and processing that feeling to keep going. This blog helps. Getting it all out helps. Sometimes I don't know what I will say or how I feel until it is written. The process of working through your thoughts and emotions is a journey of self-awareness that you cannot get at home. I could not grow in that area of my life simply by living my routine. Putting myself out of my comfort zone, adjusting to difficulties or differences, making myself figure it out in a place that is not home and finding my way in a place that is hard and lonely at times, that is how I am growing. I came here to find independence, confidence, and personal growth. I found it, but it isn't automatic. It is a learning process that can be terrifying, yet so rewarding.
If I can do this, I can do anything. I thank God for this opportunity and I hope He continues to use this to grow me as a person. I miss you all at home, but it is only 3 more months. Time flies when you are having fun; I can honestly say that most of my time is fun. Getting stuck on homework isn't fun, but if it makes me fluent in Spanish then I am all in. I hate to throw the ugly side of study abroad on you, but I want to be authentic and genuine. Also, I think there is beauty in the ugly and in the growing pains. In my life, I have learned to be my strongest during those times. I am only becoming stronger now. Thanks for reading, ciao.