Last Friday evening was a pre-exams, post-assignments opportunity to take a break and head into Central for some Renaissance and refreshment.
Every last Friday of the month, public museums and art galleries all over London open their doors (and their bars) for extended hours to the public. Evenings include live music, workshops, additional exhibitions, ans innovative perform art. We spent the majority of the evening on the patio enjoying a mini-lecture about upcoming DNA technology and a performance art piece where “musical” DNA was released into the audience via bubbles. Yup, you read that right – shiny, soapy, floating BUBBLES. I think I can still hear Beethoven’s 5th in my hair follicles.
Suffice it to say, these Friday Late events are a great escape from the academic pressure that inspires!
It’s a funny and unfortunate conundrum we all face when the term ends; as our stress levels rise and cortisol courses through our veins like a vicious and relentless venom, it slows us down just as we need to speed up, it fogs us when we strive for clarity the most.
Today as I was leaving Brunel, I found a small, quiet field tucked behind some bushes at the end petal-covered path that led the observant passerby to it. Standing in the open space I imagined myself the character of a Jane Austen novel, and the moment gave me the smallest bit of inspiration to carry on through my studies.
And for a split second I remembered why I came. It wasn’t to get a grade. It wasn’t to please my professors. It wasn’t to impress future employers, even. It was to feed the piece of my soul that thirsted for adventure and was starved for intellectual challenge. This is what our studies abroad do; they enrich our intellect, our character and our perspective.
My dear friends who are cortisol-ridden and mentally exhausted with me, during our exams let’s keep some peace of mind by remembering why we came. Maybe this is what will keep us tethered to the bigger picture when that tunnel vision takes over.
As a Californian, I am often asked why I chose to leave the heartiest economy and sunniest state in the U.S. to migrate to London for a Masters degree. Well my friends, here are your answers in cold and bold type:
1. Travelling, duh! Travelling is one of the most eye opening and mind expanding experiences one can have in a life time. Immersing myself in a new cultural context while studying at one of the top Cross-Cultural Psychology programs in Europe seemed like a great way to give depth to the concepts I would learn.
2. One year programs. Grad school ain’t cheap, y’all. A quicker paced program means not only a quicker return to your field of work, but also reduces the holes you’re burning in your pockets.
3. More options. My particular field of study is a bit harder to come by in the states, so looking beyond the boundaries of the motherland was the best choice for me because it opened up my options.
4. The experience. You could call this a combo package of all the above, but the experience of being in a new environment and adjusting rapidly, all in an attempt to be successful in unfamiliar systems equips you with a set of skills you’re going to be hard pressed to gain through any other kind of experience.
Paris, with all its dazzling scenery, delicious food, and daunting history, also maintains the ability to burn holes in your pocket with its temptations. After a weekend getaway to the city of love, here are 5 tips to prepare for navigating through Paris:
1. Plan around the many free attractions Paris has to offer. You could dish extra dough to hit trending sites, but there is so much to pack in for free that it isn’t worth it. Sacre Coeur’s view exceeds that of the top of the Eiffel Tower, and a picnic with market goods provides infinitely more romantic ambience than a lunch on the river (weather permitting!)
2. Markets and bakeries are your best dining options. Even the cheapest goods can be the best French food you’ll taste – our best lunch by far through the weekend was a €3 Quiche Lorraine!
3. Check out Groupon deals. We stayed at a 4-5 star hotel for 2 nights and it was a steal. We were in a central location with easy access to trains, had rooftop views that included the Eiffel tower, and the deal included train tickets round trip!
4. Americans who don’t speak French- pack that thick skin. This is my second trip to Paris, and its no exaggeration to say that the majority of French really do hold a disdainful view of Americans. Even my best attempts to communicate in French had a police officer scoffing at me in his language. Though in my opinion police will be similarly abusive in any culture, this was a common theme in my interactions.
5. Download a map and loosely plan ahead. There’s no worse feeling then scrambling in a foreign culture. I made my desktop the map of Paris’s metro and perused TimeOut Paris for events and hot spots during my study breaks in the weeks leading up to our trip. This allowed us to feel lots of flexibility and freedom upon arriving as we had our fingers vaguely on the pulse of the local workings.
Bonus: Get outta that comfort zone! Don’t let the rude French stereotype or lack of foreign experience keep you from travelling. The experience is what equips you with these skills, and the experience of navigating a foreign culture equips you with skills to navigate the sometimes foreign happenings of life. In sum: minor discomfort leads to major gain!