Graphic by Nate Barton
Many people told me coming back from studying abroad can be a rough transition. After being met with an unusually busy syllabus week and an impressive mountain of homework that stretched my to-do list to lengths previously unassociated with the first week of school, I believe them. Welcome to junior year.
It is a challenging shift from spending a good chunk of time, an entire academic year in my case, in an environment in which everything is new and exciting and many aspects of everyday life are meaningful and fascinating. In London, every day was an adventure. Here, every day is another chance to tackle all of the projects, readings and tasks scrawled in my planner, albeit with the beautiful backdrop of Malibu.
And so I found myself this weekend faced with the daunting task of tackling a list of impressive length. I made it my sole goal over the long weekend to check off everything on that list, and set out at a frantic work pace. And then I stopped.
It occurred to me that I had stepped right back into what many people would recognize as a typical Pepperdine mentality: Commit to as much as you can and succeed in all of it or bust. But this drive to get everything done and draw that satisfying line through each item on the ever-present to-do list gets in the way of the actual learning process.
Readings and projects become obstacles to get through before you can go out with friends, go on that weekend trip, or, well, sleep. But these things shouldn’t just be things that take up your time. The point of all of it is to get something out of it – a point that I sometimes easily miss in the midst of trying to complete each task.
There is no reason not to bring the same mindfulness and meaning that I experienced abroad to my school work in Malibu, even if it doesn’t have the same newness and excitement as studying 5,000 miles away.
So, though it may be easier said than done, if at all possible, don’t just do work to finish it. I have to remind myself constantly that this is a valuable learning experience and that being here and taking part in all of the classes and activities available is meant to be beneficial, not just a series of things to check off.
I would be disappointed to look back on my junior year, or college experience in general, and find that I missed the whole because I focused only on the completion of its parts.
Follow Cassandra Stephenson on Twitter: @CassieKay27