Studying abroad is exhausting, no matter where you’re studying, no matter what you’re studying, no matter where you’re from, how much you’ve traveled in the past, or how much sleep you get. When you agree to study abroad, you agree to juggle so many different things at once: exploring an exciting new home, meeting lots of new people, taking interesting new classes with new professors in a new school environment, and traveling to other new places, as well as staying connected to family and friends. Just typing all of that was exhausting! Because the amount of time studying abroad is confined to a mere four months or one year, it motivates you to take advantage of every single opportunity you are offered. I, for one, know that I don’t want to have any regrets about my time here; I want to do as much as I possibly can. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so it’s easy to keep yourself going, even if you are a bit exhausted at times. However, this does mean that physical and mental health can easily be pushed to the side.
I didn’t know anything about the Wellness series when I applied to IES Abroad London, but it has become a crucial aspect of my experience here. The Wellness series is run by members of the IES Abroad London faculty and is devoted to helping students maintain their physical and mental health and well-being throughout our study abroad adventure. It consists of three different clubs: Creative Writing, Running, and Yoga. I have been attending both Creative Writing and Running Clubs, and they have become some of the unexpected highlights of my study abroad experience.
Creative Writing Club is for anybody who likes writing in any capacity. As someone who has chosen to major in English, writing is, has always been, and will always be a big part of my life. When I was little, my parents would constantly find me writing, be it short mysteries, scary stories, thrilling adventure tales, informative newspaper articles, or even a few songs. However, as I began to receive more and more homework, my time spent writing creatively dwindled. Now I’m in college, and there is seldom a time when I’m not writing an essay for an English course I’m taking, so in those few moments when I have some free time, I want to do anything but write. We spoke about this phenomenon on our first day of Creative Writing Club, and I was delighted to discover that I’m not alone in feeling this way. We decided that we would use our one-hour block of time each Monday to make sure we’re doing some sort of creative writing. This can be anything we want - works of fiction, plays, blog entries, or even fan-fiction! While it can be hard to find the motivation to consistently write by yourself, it becomes so much easier when you’re living in an inspiring city and you're surrounded by others who also love to write.
To be quite honest, I was a bit worried the first time I went to Running Club. I hate treadmills with a burning passion, and while I’ve done some running around my neighborhood at home, I am by no means a runner. However, during our day of orientation back in January, I remember hearing a little spiel about Running Club, and I was immediately intrigued. What better way to experience the different neighborhoods of London than to run around a different one every week? So far this semester, Running Club has explored several different neighborhoods, such as King’s Cross, Camden, and the East End. We’ve run along the Thames, we’ve seen Big Ben in all of its under-construction glory, the London Eye, Victoria Park, and so much more. And we still have seven runs to go! However, Running Club, despite its title, is not all about running. It’s also about dessert. After every run, we’re brought to a local café or bakery by our fearless leader Sally, where we warm up and chat. Running Club has definitely introduced me to fascinating neighborhoods in London, but perhaps more importantly, it’s also led me to the best doughnut I’ve ever eaten in my life. Seriously. If you’re ever in London, drop everything and head straight to Doughnut Time. We went there after running the Thames a few weeks ago, and I truly cannot stop talking about it. Doughnut Time is a tiny shop in between Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus that serves unbelievable doughnuts with the best names, such as the Cornelius Fudge, or the Berry Seinfeld. My personal favorite is the Love at First Bite, which is a Nutella-stuffed doughnut covered in cinnamon sugar. I’ve already been back to Doughnut Time, and I’m currently planning another trip there next week with my family when they visit!
I think that often the best parts of an experience are the things that you’re not expecting, and the Wellness series here at IES Abroad London, for me, was just that. Because of these clubs, I can consistently count on having time to relax and unwind, whether by writing a short story or by dodging pedestrians while I’m running down the street. So, yes, studying abroad is exhausting, but I feel so lucky to have found a program in which the importance of self-care is both recognized and emphasized.