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Life in the Graveyard of Ambition

4 Dec 2017

Studying abroad means you are away from your home campus, away from your usual routine, and often away from the intensity of university life. Certain levels of stress can be a good thing, providing an impetus for focus and discipline. It can help you get to the gym, do your homework on time, and apply for summer internships.

But what happens when you feel like you have one foot in school and the other foot in vacationland?

This has been a common previously unthought-of trap among many of my friends in our program in Granada, Spain. At most of our universities back home, life always feels busy and intense — a race to outrun your own tiredness. Here under the always-sunny skies and near the beach and the ski resorts, it’s easy to get lost in the slow pace of life. It’s easy to slip out of your routine and become lazy, showing up late to class, forgetting to do homework and papers.

Internships for next summer? That’s eons away. Homework for Friday? It can wait.

Over the last two months, I’ve found that I’m quite good at slipping into laziness. I thought of myself as generally driven and focused, preferring more to be structured than not. But here in Spain, I’ve found another part of myself that I didn’t know existed. Many of my friends expressed the same feeling.

At an Irish neighborhood pub, a group of friends and I were talking with the bartender Paddy. We explained our surprise at how slow we had become. He laughed, replying, “Don’t you worry. Granada is known as the graveyard of ambition for a reason.”

Indeed, it can be a challenge to stay focused the way you normally would at school. But like my host mother once told me, “You’re in Spain, not in the United States. There are just some things you have to do here.” And one of those is to take life more slowly. To be more patient. Don’t rush to the next activity. Coming up with a routine has helped me keep my discipline, but I’ve found there are just less things to do on a daily basis. Give yourself the space and the grace to fool around and have fun, but also take care of yourself and do your work well. There’s a balance to be maintained, and while maintaining the equilibrium can be tricky, it’s an important skill to learn.

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