I started college with little to no idea of what I wanted to do, other than that I wanted to a) write and b) help someone. I’m halfway through at this point, and while I would like to think I’ve figured all of this out by now, I think the only true thread that I’ve connected is that I want to write to help people. I had a cousin who studied abroad in Barcelona when I was young. She had a miserable time, hated the food and the family she was living with, and was ready to leave days after she got there. I’ve been in Amsterdam for almost two weeks now, and while I can see the rosy finishes of this honeymoon phase beginning to fade off, I must say I’ve never fallen so quickly in love with a city. I like to think that this semester will further push my understanding of exactly what it is I want to do, whether that’s helping people in an artistic or clinical sense I’m not yet sure, but I think if any city has the power to teach me a lesson or two it’s Amsterdam.
Studying abroad while living with a mental illness is daunting, to say the least. Everything that you’ve come to associate with comfort and ease is suddenly gone, and you’re in a new situation with none of the support systems you used to hold so close. This happened to me when I first started college, too, so I suppose I knew how to handle it a bit better this time around. Nevertheless, it’s a difficult subject to broach when making new friends. No, these pills aren’t vitamins, I need them to get out of bed every day isn’t exactly the kind of fun fact you want to reveal during orientation week icebreakers. In fact, I’m sure many of my new friends still have no idea. In which case, if one of you are reading this post I suppose I should say hello! I’m happy to answer any questions you may have but please, please all I ask of you is to not look at me in a different light. The person you met is me, I’m not going to turn into the crazy roommate who kills everyone around her, and I’m sure as hell not looking for any ways to kill myself. I just operate a bit differently, my body needs a couple pills to help me reach the level that everyone else operates on.
It’s hard to be kind to yourself in the first couple weeks abroad. You want to keep going and going, no matter how exhausted or sick to your stomach you might be. If you miss something, it feels like you’re setting yourself up for a semester of “missing something,” which is so far from the case. I think the thing that has helped me most is remembering that not only do I need time to myself, but I am more than capable and practiced in coping with unfamiliar situations. Each time I’m in a new situation the same initial waves of panic wash over me, no matter that I’ve experienced all these changes before. I went to three high schools, a boarding school and college across the country. The addition of flying to the other side of the world, while definitely prevalent, does not mean this is uncharted territory. It’s a matter of reminding myself of my strengths, reminding myself that I am far more capable than I realize and that these moments of panic I find myself wrapped up in are fleeting at best.
I find that far too often when focusing on big cities people try and stretch themselves too thin, focused on seeing everything they can before they leave. And admittedly, that’s the mindset I went into this semester with too. It took a few days of reminding myself that I was going to be here for four months until I actually was able to slow down a bit and enjoy the places I was in. So here’s to these next four months, and all the ups and downs that I’m sure are just around the corner. I hope you continue to read my posts and experience this journey with me!
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<p>My name is Makai Andrews, born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I attended a boarding school, Interlochen Arts Academy, for my final two years of high school in northern Michigan before making another big jump across the country to study as a double major in writing and psychology at Ithaca College. Right now, I am working on coming to the conclusion that in order to write well, you have to live well.</p>