It is an open secret that UM students wait for the day that they get to go on their semester abroads filled with anticipation and excitement. Aside from the obvious reasons for this, like getting to step outside of your comfort zone, exploring new cultures, and making new friends, one major promise is that you will finally discover the true meaning of 'free time' and learn what to do during the weekend, aside from studying. With these expectations, I too went to Madrid, Spain. And I must say, the first weeks were refreshing: I got to discover little cities around the city, go on big hikes and watch the sunset over the rooftops of Madrid. Yet, what used to be my reality, has now again turned into a utopia.
Last week, I had three deadlines. This week is more relaxed with only two, but the effects of this are mediated by the week after, in which I have six. Now, of course, not all of these deadlines are final exams (those will come later). None of them is worth more than 45%, most of them dangling around the 10-20% limit (meaning that the grade makes up 10% of the final grade). While this might sound relaxing (after all, not a lot depends on this grade, then, and it is fine if it isn't your finest work), it becomes very frustrating when you have to hold a 1-hour-long presentation for 10% and write a 2500-word paper, again for 10%.
Needless to say, life, as a result, has gotten quite stressful. While my roommates (who are going to different universities in Madrid) are watching Mulan in the living room, I'm studying in my room. While my friends go to the park to sizzle in the sun and relax, I'm studying in my room. While people invite me to go hiking, grab a bite, or anything that occurs outside my front door, I am stuck studying in my room. Instead of trying to keep time from passing, not wanting to leave the beautiful Madrid, I started to beg for it to pass quicker. Not because Madrid got less beautiful or I want to leave Spain, but simply because I want to start enjoying the city properly. The kind of way you can only appreciate a city post-exam.
This was my situation when I scrolled through Instagram and stumbled over a post that read: "Doing your best doesn't mean working until you have a mental breakdown." The post made me stop my mindless scroll and think. The random stranger on the internet that posted this is right! When I take a break to go to the park on a beautiful day, maybe that's not because I'm lazy but instead it's because I take care of myself? And when I go watch the sunset, maybe that's because this is what I need, mentally. In a society focused on valuing success in only one way, maybe it's time to change that definition.
I have 8 deadlines in the upcoming 10 days. That's true. Still, two days ago I joined my roommates as they watched Shrek II. And yesterday, I got vegan burgers and cinnamon rolls with a group of friends. I also bought skates and aim to take them to the park at least a few times per week. And so, while I could be studying in my room from sunrise to sunset, I'm instead deciding to do my best.
Jesler van Houdt