Reflecting on Balancing Life and School While Abroad

Headshot of Kiki Giles.
Kiki Giles
December 26, 2022
Reflecting on Balancing Life and School While Abroad

One of the hardest things to do is to find the balance between the different parts of our lives. I found this to be particularly true during the three months I spent in Rabat, especially when it came to crafting a school/life balance. 

On the one hand, the academic aspect of studying abroad was always incredibly important to me and one of the factors that attracted me to Rabat in the first place. The courses seemed as though they were perfectly tailored to my interests, I immediately got along very well with the professors, and I loved what I was learning. At the same time, I had my own academic goals in mind, and I knew that I would need to work hard in order to achieve them. From there, it was easy for me to switch to a life in which I was first and foremost a student. My free time was devoted to course readings, taking notes, and working on papers. It was very rarely that I would leave my work to explore Rabat or the rest of the world.

However, this wasn’t the case for other students in my program. Each of us took a different approach to the balance of our academics and the potential for experiences abroad, and we as a group experienced a variety of outcomes. Some people traveled rarely, some were traveling internationally every few weekends, some frequently went out into the sprawling city of Rabat, and everyone fell into different spots along the spectrum. 

In my case, I distinctly fell into the former category. My travels were largely made up of our field trips with a few solo weekend trips, and very rare excursions into the larger city of Rabat. Part of this stemmed from my prioritization of schoolwork, which I deemed more important because of the goals I wanted to achieve. However, I also felt some amount of anxiety when I thought about traveling, and staying inside to do schoolwork was something I was comfortable with. I knew how that process worked, there were fewer chances for hiccups or problems, etc. Ultimately, it was a safe bubble that I could exist in within the greater environment of studying abroad, which comes with plenty of stressors!

That bubble, my comfort zone, is what I reflected on the most when I got back from Rabat. There were so many times when I was presented with an opportunity to go out or travel, but I turned it down because I was so much more prepared for schoolwork and classes than anything else. Feeling comfortable was an amazing sensation, especially for someone like me who appreciates having absolute certainty in any given situation. 

Then, after I made my way home, I thought about the safe space I had constructed for myself, and the experience I had because of it. As I considered everything, I couldn’t help but think about what I would change. I realized I would have loved to take advantage of opportunities to travel more, either within Morocco or internationally. I would have loved to go out into Rabat more often, especially to explore the amazing late-night dining scene! There were so many things I had not done, and I hadn’t even considered exactly how I had constructed my school/life balance until I sat down and really thought about it.

However, I am incredibly lucky in that I have the opportunity to take these reflections and use them to expand my comfort zone in the coming semester. I understand now where I need to push myself academically, and where I also need to provide space for me to explore the greater life experiences that come with studying abroad. It can’t be just one or the other.

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Headshot of Kiki Giles.

Kiki Giles

A rising junior hailing from the College of Wooster, I'm pursuing a double major in Anthropology and French/Francophone Studies with an accompanying double minor in MENA Studies and Statistical/Data Sciences. These intersecting fields brought me to my upcoming study abroad experience in Morocco, where I am incredibly excited to explore the many cultures and languages that have shaped this beautiful country. Other interests of mine include international baking, travel, and music.

Destination:
Term:
2022 Fall, 2023 Spring
Home university:
College of Wooster, The
Major:
French Language
Anthropology
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