The semester I spent abroad turned me into an explorer.
I’ve always considered myself to be adventurous; I love trying new things, and making myself hone skills that were once nowhere in the vicinity of my wheelhouse, but I’m also a person who enjoys the comfort of a routine. It’s an attribute that I wanted to squash while I was abroad. I don’t mean to say that there’s anything wrong with routine, but I vehemently refused to fall prey to one during my time in Europe. I made it nearly impossible for myself anyhow, given that my only consistent regimen was travel, which is inherently inconsistent and explorative. So, nailed it.
Everywhere I went, whether it was in my host-city of Prague, or elsewhere on a weekend trip, I was discovering something at the turn of every corner; nothing was familiar.
On the night of Thanksgiving, my roommates and I were in Krakow, and feasted on mouth-watering pierogis and wine, to the serenade of adorable mandolin-wielding men. We attended Oktoberfest sporting Dirndls, and immersed ourselves in the culture of Amsterdam the only way anyone ever should. The constant exploration, and obsession with the magnitude of the world that is just waiting for me to stumble upon it, became an addictive habit with no call for intervention. I was so used to indulging in experiences that made every new day the best I’d had yet, that when I got back to the normal drill of school in the states, I found myself suffering from an enormous post-abroad hangover. Instead of waking up from a euphoric night of adventures, I had awoken one morning from a whole semester of them, and I felt debilitated with the knowledge that they were over. Even a little hair of the dog could not have relieved the ache that set in. It lasted for weeks. I was no longer in an apartment in the middle of the city, on the busy streets of Prague 1; I was at school, on a residential street surrounded only by other houses.
The transition into my new semester put me in a sorry state. I had never once been unhappy at Chapman, but it suddenly seemed spectacularly mundane when I returned, and I didn’t know how to fix my attitude for the first couple of weeks. I looked back at my travel photos every day, and wished I was doing anything more interesting than going to my classes, which by an unfortunate turn of events, ended up being the most snooze-worthy ones imaginable. On the upside, this did result in shaping my senior year course-load perfectly, but this did not boost my downtrodden self at the time. I started getting a little melodramatic during discussions about how drastically my life had changed from the previous month. Despite my frustration with the hum-drum condition of my academics, I realized that I wasn’t being a glass-half-full kind of girl, and that is usually my forte. This is when I decided that I needed to get back into the mindset I’d had while taking on new cities; I needed to explore again, whether it be the sights and sounds of Los Angeles, or even the local watering hole that was brimming with uncharted restaurants and bars I’d yet to judge. That was my first step.
I started walking to the main street after I’d finished classes for the day, and finding little joints where I could grab a cup of coffee or snack while I wrote. I can’t believe how many there are. I’m pleased to report that today, I succeeded in discovering a coffee shop that captures my exact aesthetic. It doubles as a library with books lining the wall, the coffees come out of taps, the dark roast is to die for, and Lana Del Rey is playing softly on the speakers at this exact moment. The current song is literally first on my “writing” playlist. I didn’t even put headphones in when I got here because the rest of their set list is totally upstaging mine.
I’ve had so much fun finding unique places around town. Lunching with my friends at unfamiliar spots, going out to different bars than the usual Thursday night grind, and even meeting new people at improv and trivia nights, all feel like throwbacks to the “abroad life” that I never have to forgo. I can continue to explore anywhere I go, and amidst what would have been a boring semester, the return of this habit has turned everything around for me.
I still miss what I had last term, but I’m fully embracing what I have now, and I know that I’ll reminisce just as fondly about my time in college once I’m graduated as I do about Europe now.
I have a little over a year left in school, and I am more motivated than ever to leave no stone unturned here. While a time constraint is effective, as it was abroad and is now, I’ve learned not to wait around for the pressure of one to build next time I find myself in a new environment; there will always be places to go, and people to see!