Prior to leaving my home university, I sat in hours of study abroad preparation classes, events, and workshops. I pumped my brain full of all the crucial information I would need in this experience ridden with change. What to expect with culture shock, how to stay healthy while abroad, and how to push through language anxieties were all things I was ready to face. What completely caught me off-guard, however, was study abroad fatigue…and having it hit me by surprise almost left me down for the count.
The euphoria of arriving in a new city and country is typical. Everything is new and that leads you, naturally, to want to become familiar with your new home. You set out daily on new adventures, coordinate little trips to different corners of the city, and collapse back home at the end of the day with a ridiculous number of steps recorded. Then, once you’re settled, the door opens for traveling outside the city. Like a hypnotic spell, glamorous cities in neighboring countries call to you. Suddenly you’re entering your credit card information into budget airline websites and starting to ask questions like “How can I fit five days’ worth of fall weather clothes, my laptop, toiletries, a book, and a camera into this one (1) tote bag while still leaving enough space for souvenirs?”
I was not immune to the siren call that is easyJet airfare. After a busy (albeit fun) weekend in Munich for Oktoberfest, I traveled to Copenhagen only a few days later for another long weekend. Upon returning, I had friends from my home university visit Berlin and, as the designated tour guide, I spent yet another consecutive weekend at a tourist’s pace. The moment I waved goodbye to my friends to trek back to my apartment, an overwhelming wave of fatigue hit me. I had been rushing around for so long that the lack of an active travel objective seemed to lead my body to feel the combined weight of tiredness accumulated over the previous three weeks.
After only one night spent relaxing in my room, the guilt began. Although I could feel myself needing more rest and enjoying my solitary time, my semester progress bar on my budgeting spreadsheet reminded me repeatedly how my time in Berlin was slipping away. I found myself questioning whether my calendar having open space was a good thing or a bad thing. Beyond the daily pressure to utilize all hours of the day exploring, weekends without trips planned turned into sore points too. Many of my peers studying abroad seemed to be tirelessly jumping to new locations every week. I grew fearful that by not taking advantage of my proximity to other European countries I was somehow studying abroad “wrong.”
I think every study-abroad student is burdened with the steadily approaching end date of their program, yet most pre-arrival programming revolves around more pressing concerns that students may face. While study abroad fatigue is certainly a less detrimental challenge than others, the surprise of suddenly experiencing it makes it more fearsome.
While pointing out this facet of the abroad experience isn’t revolutionary by any means, I do hope it helps to group this feeling along with the other to-be-expected symptoms of being abroad, like culture shock and language barriers. You aren’t an adventurous machine capable of taking flights at terrible hours every weekend just to “maximize your abroad experience.” You also need that Sunday spent binging Gilmore Girls and going on a casual walk around your neighborhood. Recharging is much more important than one more monument or museum because, without it, you could accidentally take yourself out of commission for a lot longer than one day if you end up catching an illness from exhaustion. Through effectively balancing relaxing and exploring, you can still visit places like Mauerpark and Konzerthaus Berlin (pictured below) while resting enough. Bottom line: don’t feel guilty for putting coziness first.
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Howdy folks! My name is Josef Kiesenhofer, and I'm a passionate accounting, German, and Spanish student excited to explore the world. I love all things blue and embroidering on clothes. I sometimes have a broadcast radio DJ show, too!