Routine, Rest and Rejuvenation

Kit Shaun Tommy Koh
July 8, 2015

It seems highly ironic that a certain sense of tiredness seeps in right around the midpoint of Summer here in Istanbul. This tiredness seems out of place- unnerving, unexpected- not unlike a close friend appearing from behind a corner or a hand emerging from a dark gloom. Perhaps the latter would be the better image: have we not all been taught that tiredness is this insidious thing which catches up with us when we're not doing things right? How often have we as students stayed up to complete that (due-tomorrow-but assigned-three-long-weeks-ago) essay? A moment of folly really. Yes, a definite sense of accomplishemnt but the spirit of tiredness plagues us in the coming days, a lingering reminder of the necessity of- and the college student's inability to- making good life choices.

This isn't supposed to be. I stare tiredness in the mirror, closely examining dark eye circles characteristic of finals period but certainly not the expected norm from a summer abroad here in Istanbul. I hurridly (and only partly in jest) consult the publications by IES and Study Abroad offices which graph the pre-arrival anticipation-->arrival uncertainty-->climax of enjoyment-->post-return emptiness. Tracing the well-designed graph (no doubt done by some overworked and underpaid intern at some point in time) with a light touch matching the uncertainty of this- tired- feeling, I face the stark realization that even the great and mighty world of corporate publications and study abroad experts cannot explain what I'm facing. If I were to believe their advice that has supposedly been collected from thousands of study abroad participants, I should be living on a cloud right now. Hmm, clouds. The only thing I'm feeling is as if I'm stepping off a red-eye flight having spent 6 hours in a cramped economy class seat. You know those last row-beside lavatory-screaming baby combination that can break even the most hardened traveller.

My mind races to find answers. Utilizing the entire suite of (albeit still limited) psychological concepts that I have accumulated over freshmen year, I run through them one by one. Anxiety? No. Depression? No. Stress? No. My Abnormal Psychology Professor's words ring in my mind- "medical student syndrone"- perhaps this line of thinking should be abandoned. I turn instead to neuroscience, this interesting class I'm now taking at Bogazici. Alzeihmers? No. MS? No. Parkinsons? No. Wrong symptoms. Not to be saved by the field of psychology or psychiatry and desiring not to further desecrate mental illness with my extremely petty state, I turn to my other area of expertise, Political Science. In a current class on Middle Eastern politics we recently spoke about how everything is debatable and arguable and how there is no one correct answer (although some do think the UN is authoritative on matters such as the State). The Professor for that class is adamant about engaging with scholarship on issues we are considering. Adapting that advice to where I am now, I turn to Google. "T-i-r-e-d-n-e-s-s" goes into the search box and even Google seems to mock the paradox I'm facing. I add in the words "during summer program". The only suggestion from the top 10 hits is that its the heat.

Surely it can't be! Having been born and raised in Singapore, the heat- often over 30 degrees celcius of it- is part and parcel of life. We thrive in the heat, use it to our advantage and, when all else fails, look for the beloved AC. That can't be the reason. My mind wanders to other self-constructed explanations of this sudden weariness. It's not an academic semester, there aren't millions of deadlines, the weather is nice, weekend trips and excursions are enriching and the food is good- I've even started to become familiar with this place. How is it that this sense of tiredness has found its way into this seemingly complete and perfect order of things? It might be the travel catching up to me- or perhaps an extremely delayed onset of jetlag- I struggle for explanations, each new idea becoming even more unorthodox than the last. Just as human beings are taught to question, do we not also channel that natural curiosity into the pursuit of answers?

If anything it seems as though Summer and certainly Summer Abroad represents a change in routine- a change in the day to day meaningful yet carefully planned and structured work that we do on a regular basis. It may not seem obvious at first glance but the appreciation of another places' culture, the learning of a language, the meeting of people and the seeing of sights all require energy. Rinse and repeat this process in a city as culturally rich as Istanbul and that takes its toll. Especially as students spending summer abroad, we may all want to do everything or at least as much as possible in the short 7 weeks we are given. "Complete immersion"- I vaguely recall those words from a study abroad providor's brochure. Yet in the pursuit of this no doubt meaningful aim, we may well neglect other- just as valuable- outcomes. Is summer not a time to also rest and rejuvenate? Is it not a time to slow down and to enjoy the sights? Should we rush through this as we rush through life, we might be better global citizens, we might in fact become country experts- but at what cost?

Exactly mid-way through this Summer, I've found something which is a realization that can only be completely made in hindsight though also best made sooner rather than later. Summer isn't a time to continue the race, to merely challenge ourselves with the immersion into a new culture, to visit new places and see new sights. Summer is a time that we have to reflect, to rest. Coming off the end of hectic semesters, most of us deserve it, many of us earned it, all of us need it. It's not good practice to merely see life as chapters of a book that we endeavor to write from start to finish. Ultimately, the chapter might have ended but the story goes on. Writing the whole book is a test of peserverence, it is also a test of balancing the "here and now" with the "to be decided". We all owe it to ourselves to pause and give ourselves a break. I'm not too sure how to do that- how to breakaway from all of it and to- truly- relax. I'll need to give it some thought. But only after I kick off my shoes and take this long nap.

Because hey, you know what, I can.

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Kit Shaun Tommy Koh

<p>A Blue Jay at Hopkins, a citizen of Singapore, a resident of the world: Titles and categories often complicate how we see our place in this world. Above everything else, I see myself as a pilot. Being up in the sky grants freedom, space, possibilities- a reminder that everything can be seen from a different perspective. Be it in education, while travelling or just being with friends- I constantly seek new dimensions, new ways of perceiving, a new- greater- understanding.</p>

2015 Summer 1, 2015 Summer 2
Home University:
Johns Hopkins University
Political Science
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