I am finally back in Arizona and couldn’t be happier to see my family and friends. I’ve really missed the beautiful desert and the amazing scenery that surrounds me here in Phoenix. After living in the metropolis Buenos Aires for almost six months, I appreciate the suburbs and the proximity to mountains and desert more than ever. Now that I’m back, I’ve had a chance to look over my journal and review a few of the lessons I’ve learned from studying abroad and living in Buenos Aires for the semester. I’ve highlighted the most important ones I’ve taken away from my trip below:
Focus on the now
I didn’t realize it before but I’m the type of the person who is always thinking about the future. I’m always planning what I’m going to do next weekend, next semester, next summer, etc. I like to plan because it’s fun. It’s exciting to pump myself up of the fact that I’m spending the weekend in California with my family or visiting my friends but what I didn’t realize was that thinking about the future can and does take away from the present. If I’m constantly thinking about what I’m going to do next, how can I enjoy what I’m doing now? What I’ve learned to do is to plan whatever I need to plan and then push that thought away so that it can’t consume the attention I should be paying on the present. It can be difficult at times but I think it’s important and I’m trying focusing on the now, now and the later when it comes.
There is no need to rush
I learned that I sometimes put myself in situations where I rush myself to complete 500 tasks in one sitting. This kind of has to do with “having too much on my plate,” which I’ll explain more later but the idea is to slow down sometimes. I think I’ve taken the idea of relaxing a little and not rushing from being immersed in the Argentine culture while abroad. I mentioned this in a blog post but I’ll say it again- from my experience, Argentinians don’t rush. They don’t know when the bus is coming or the subway, it’s okay if someone isn’t right on time, and lunch/dinner/dates/meeting up with friends may last three hours. I realized this last semester when I completed a course assignment where I tracked how I spent my time during the week and learned that I rushed myself every time I ate breakfast, lunch or dinner. There is no need to rush though. I don’t need to be watching a movie for homework, or reading an article or doing SOMETHING every time I’m eating. Instead, I’ve learned to hit the brakes and take my time when eating a meal, having a conversation with a friend or simply getting ready in the morning. There’s a Chinese proverb I read in a book I’m reading called The Three Pillers of Zen that says, “Eat when you eat. Walk when you walk.” I try to always remind myself of it when I feel the desire to multitask or speed up things. It’s true. No one ever said you had to rush yourself. However, I try to do too many things at once or put much on my plate, I’m going to find myself scrambling and stressing out, which simply isn’t necessary nor healthy for me.
It’s not always good to have a “full plate”
I mentioned this idea earlier but I wanted to touch back on it because it’s an important lesson I’ve learned. It’s not always the best idea to have several commitments in your life. This didn’t hit me until I realized that I simply didn’t have time to work, study, volunteer and invest in the culture and language in Argentina. Yes, I needed to work because I needed money. Yes, my main priority was to study but I didn’t have a balance at first. I wanted to practice my Spanish all day, every day but also work and have money to spend while abroad but I felt overwhelmed. I’ve realized that if I do all of these things, then I have to sacrifice other areas- like spending time with friends and investing in friendships. If I’m spending 90% of my time studying and working and only 10% with my friends, then I’m not going to be able to become close with my friends. I now know that I shouldn’t try and cover my plate without first thinking about how it will affect the rest of the time I have and how else I’d like to spend my time. Overall, I’ve learned to not commit to more activities than I can handle while still being able to maintain and invest in friendships.
It’s better to have 1 close friend than 10 acquaintances
I had never really considered this until this trip. I’ve always had acquaintances and friends who I’ve hung out with a few times but I never thought about the level of friendship I have with people. I met really amazing people in Argentina but didn’t spend as much time with them as I wish I would have. Yes, I was busy but of course I could have made time- I just didn’t. I realized at the end of the trip that I can meet people once or hangout with them a few times but if I don’t invest into the friendship and make sacrifices to see them and get to know them that they won’t last. For me, I’d rather have a close group of friends that I know well who I enjoy spending time with and who enjoy spending time with me rather than acquaintances who I only know on a shallow level.
Life is beautiful outside
One of the best wake-up calls I received during this trip was the idea that life is beautiful outside. I remember as a kid, watching commercials or PSAs where a kid sits on a couch and watches another kid playing outside and then it pans out and the exact same tree is outside his house yet he decides to watch it on TV instead of going outside to play. Being the type of person that loves playing sports, I never considered the idea that maybe I spend too much time on the computer or inside. However, after becoming friends with a girl named Allie through my girlfriend, I realized I do spend most of my time on the computer and that I’m missing out on the world outside. As much as I love technology and learning on the internet, I don’t want to spend the majority of my day sitting in front of a screen when I should be outside enjoying life and nature and all the wonderful things and people.
The future doesn’t need to be set in stone
Last lesson that I learned is that the future doesn’t need to be set in stone just yet. By that mean, I don’t have to have my life figured out or know exactly what I want to do for a living after I graduate. I remember hearing that when you go abroad for an extended period of time, you figure out what you really are passionate about in life and how you should spend the rest of your life but I still feel ambivalent about the path I want to take. With this trip though, I’ve learned that I don’t need to know yet and there is absolutely no reason to stress right now. All I want to do is focus on dabbling in various fields to figure out where I’ll be the happiest.
Well, that’s it for this post. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and that you’re convinced to study abroad or at least live abroad. I believe that it’s something everyone should do. Not just for themselves, but to learn, explore, and grow.