Learning to Dwell in the Present While Abroad


Jamison Rodgers learned the value of slowing down while abroad. (Courtesy of Jamison Rodgers for The Fordham Ram)

There has been an idea, perpetuated by social media, that has taken root in our society that we must always be “hustling” or “grinding.” Essentially, this idea is that success is measured in how many hours of work you are putting in or how hard you are working. This pervasive rhetoric has started to bubble to the surface as we approach the end of the semester and thus, the end of my study abroad experience.

I have witnessed this idea of constantly looking ahead, and being consumed by the stress of reaching your next goal, take over the student body here in London. There are never ending conversations in the student lounge about internships for next semester, who has or has not heard back after an interview and plans already made for next summer. Aside from the nagging pressure to get your ducks in a row for the upcoming semester, there is also this persistent feeling of not having done enough or worrying over not taking full advantage of the study abroad experience as you listen to classmates recount their travels and experiences from this past semester.

It is easy to let other people’s stress infiltrate your consciousness and cause feelings of panic or franticness. It is natural to compare yourself and what you are doing to what you see on social media or hear in the student lounge. To help soothe these worries, I have made a concerted effort to remain present and soak up the last remnants of this experience. The most prominent example of forcing myself to be present and simply enjoy where I am right now was my solo trip to Paris a few weeks ago.

I departed from St. Pancras International on my own very early on a cold November morning. After taking in the scenery of the French countryside from the train, I wound my way through the antique city streets of Paris. I strolled along the peaceful banks of the Seine river, browsed the shelves at the original Shakespeare & Co. bookstore and climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Later in the trip, as I sat on the steps of the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre listening to the peaceful strummings of “La Vie en Rose,” I took a minute to simply be present in the moment I was experiencing instead of focusing on what I had to do next.

Some other ways I have forced myself to be present instead of getting swept away into the hustle and bustle of this time of year is by making time to unwind with my friends. This has taken shape in going to Christmas markets and taking in the decorations all across the city to going out to dinner to just sitting on the couch and watching Christmas movies.

This stress is not unique to study abroad, but it does have a tendency to rear its head during the holiday season as we try to balance work and holiday activities. There also tends to be an influx of questions about what your plans for the future are around the holidays as you catch up with family and friends. It can cause an overload of nerves, so this article is simply to remind you it’s ok to not be constantly “grinding” and to take a moment and be present with what you have accomplished so far and where you are right now. 

This article is technically supposed to be my semester wrap up and goodbye to study abroad, but I felt it was important to share that reality has a way of working its way into even the most idyllic of experiences. It is hard to believe that three months have come and gone in the blink of an eye and my study abroad experience is coming to a close. While I have loved my experience abroad and would choose to study abroad again in a heartbeat, it has gotten to the point in the semester where I am getting the itch to wrap up my classes and head home for the holidays. Until that end inevitably draws this experience to a close, I will be making a deliberate effort to remain present in every moment and try to shut out the rest of the noise.