A Much Needed Change of Scenery

I know it sounds cliché, but time really is flying by. I don’t really know how March managed to arrive so quickly, but I do know that when I realized the semester was more than half way done, a little bit of panic set in for me. My exchange is almost over and it seems like I haven’t managed to do half of the things I wanted to do. Getting caught up in school and everyday life meant that I’d forgotten that part of the point of an exchange is to do fun, exciting things.

So I hopped on a last minute, super cheap flight to Amsterdam. Partly, I took the trip as a birthday present to myself (spending a birthday in Amsterdam seemed like a pretty good way to celebrate!), but I also wanted to take some time away from school. It’s important to have an adventure and do something completely different once in a while, right?

Taking off for Amsterdam (and escaping school!)
Taking off for Amsterdam (and escaping school!)

I don’t know if this is just me, but I find that halfway through the semester, I get so wrapped up in school work, going to class, doing assignments, and stressing out about everything and anything, that I forget to do things that are just for fun. I feel like I need to be productive all the time, and that school is the only important thing going on in my life.

It should be pretty obvious, but that approach to balancing life and school is not the best recipe for happiness. You’d think I would have learned that after four years of university, but somehow I always forget that having fun and taking a break from schoolwork is just as important as checking work off your to do list.

One great thing about being on exchange is that you can totally separate yourself from school if you want to. Especially in Europe, where cheap flights are so easy to find, it’s easy to put a few hundred kilometers between you and your school stress. You can pack up your bags, “accidentally” (or on purpose) forget all of your school books and your laptop, and escape for a couple of days.

Amsterdam's famous canals
Amsterdam’s famous canals


I know, I know – at first glance, that sounds a little bit irresponsible, or it seems like you’re just running away from your problems. But I don’t think that’s true! Taking a few days off to go to Amsterdam last week was a surprisingly great decision for my school work and productivity.

First off, it gave my brain a well-deserved rest. But it also helped me to get a fresh perspective, to think about things a little bit differently, and to – most importantly! – just relax and have fun for a while. As a side note, it was also a really beautiful and cool city, and it was tons of fun to explore.

I know it’s hard to take time off. As counterintuitive as it sounds, sometimes it really is hard to have fun and relax. Even though these should be the easiest things in the world to do, they always get lost in the jumble of school work and other responsibilities, at least in my experience. So I’m not saying you have to get on a plane to Amsterdam to finally make the time to relax and have fun, but from one overstressed and tired university student to another, I can’t recommend a break and a change of scenery highly enough at this time of year!


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