“These are going to best days of your life."
“Make sure you make the most of this time."
“Don’t take any of these moments for granted.”
“Soon you’ll be home, wishing that you never left.”
When you study abroad, you are bound to hear advice like this. It’s tempting to really take it to heart and to fill your days with a billion activities and events, which is what I planned to do the second I stepped foot in Granada. The first few days were so jam-packed with fun orientation activities and exploring the new city. It was as though I was in a constant state of sensory overload, looking at all the beautiful buildings, smelling the rich scent of sweet piononos, listening to the rush and bustle of taxis and pedestrians. I was excited, thrilled, and a little overwhelmed, barely having a moment to stop and think about what was happening. My brain tried to take everything in and understand that this initial intensity would eventually fade, but another part of me didn’t want it to fade.
In Spain, there is a time after lunch called siesta, where many stores are closed and people go home to take a nap to rejuvenate themselves for the next few hours of work. After a delicious almuerzo made by my host mom, I began to feel the effects of non-stop excitement and meeting new people, plus the extra bit of exhaustion that came with attempting to keep up with the speedy and unfamiliar Andalusian accents. After washing the dishes, I plopped into bed at 4 p.m. for my first siesta. But as I closed my eyes, I couldn’t help but wonder: What should I actually be doing with this time right now? Should I be walking in the street trying to find my new favorite coffee shop? Do I need to be out trying to make new friends? I was exhausted, but these thoughts continued to keep me awake at siesta time, so I forced myself out of bed and walked outside. This same thing happened at night: I pushed myself to be awake when all I wanted to do was sleep, and to socialize when I just wanted a minute alone. I did this all under the guise that I was living life to the fullest and that I needed to overfill my days if I wanted them to be meaningful. But after a few days, I realized I was sleepwalking, making my way through the days doing everything I could, but never taking a moment to actually absorb it all. I learned that being overwhelmed all the time doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a full life, it might just mean that you’re tired. It took me a second to understand that part of making the most of my time here is about adopting the culture, and that includes taking a siesta every now and again.
It’s okay to not be doing something every second of the day. You have time to experience and see everything you want to. So take everything in and let yourself experience everything you can, but don't forget, it's also okay to take a nap once in a while. It will only make your time abroad even more enriching to have a moment of quiet to appreciate all the excitement.
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Hiya! My name is Samantha Yu and I'm a student at Scripps College in California. Some of my favorite things to do are eating, songwriting, napping, taking photos, and exploring. I'm a huge fan of plants, pups, and pancakes!