The time has come, my friends. The dreaded midterms week. Every semester it feels like this week always sneaks up on me, but this semester in Rome it feels like midterm preparation is hitting me extra hard. Even though I knew these exams were coming, I felt very surprised by its arrival. When you are studying in such an exciting and adventurous city like Rome, your mind does not want to focus on tedious studying and cram sessions, you only want to eat gelato, make some pasta, and hang out with your friends around the city.
I feel like I have been trying to avoid my class work, and only focus on relaxing all day, but that is not healthy for maintaining a balance between social life and academics. So, with the help and encouragement of my roommates and Temple staff, I have been creating more schedules and routines for myself to stay focused at school, but still have fun on the weekends. It is extremely beneficial to have a lot of people encouraging you to stay on track. My roommates and I are able to watch out for one another and make sure that we are not becoming too stressed and feel like we are drowning in school work. During the week we often ask one another if everyone wants to go to the library and the studios to get some work done, and having someone reminding me that I should be productive has kept me more active and alert with my courses. Not everyone needs someone to “guilt trip” them into coming to school to get work done, I didn’t think that I would, but all the distractions of Rome have pushed me to change my typical studying plan in place for a more group orientated environment.
With me being so stressed this past week, I have felt very disorganized and unprepared so I have turned to some of the resources at Temple Rome to get myself back on track. I have spoken with Gianni, one of our student activities/life coordinators and Laura, Temple Rome’s psychologist/counselor. Again, I didn’t think that I would struggle so much keeping myself motivated to do classwork, but I am happy that Temple Rome has a number of people for students to turn to just in case these situations arise.
Laura has been very helpful in making sure that I am taking the time to decompress and not let my courses suffocate me and make me feel depressed, and has encouraged me to look at this study abroad experience as a complete life change; doing an excellent job in making my distressed emotions feel validated and recognized as legitimate feelings and concerns. Studying in a foreign country, which you feel alienated from, really is a multi-dimensional lifestyle change and you should recognize that it is okay to be overwhelmed by this new situation. It is okay to feel overwhelmed and take a lighter class load than you normally do because having an overall fun experience in Rome and maintaining your mental health is more important than proving you are smart and studious.
My roommates have been very kind and supportive during such a difficult time for me, and we celebrated surviving this week by going out together on Friday for some bonding time. I was skeptical whether going out would actually make me feel better, but in the end, it was worth it. We trudged through the torrential downpour to our favorite small bar near our apartment and spent some time with our local friends. I ended up feeling closer to my roommates than ever and feel more comfortable turning to them for help or guidance in the future.
This whole week I have also been repeating randomly in my head the “Alive, Awake, Alert, Enthusiastic” song in my head. I first heard this song a few years ago from my boyfriend and best friend, who had learned it from Boy Scouts. I always told them it was a little dorky, but I have recently embraced its dorkiness and used this song to keep up morale. So, no matter the amount of work I have accomplished nor how prepared I feel for class discussions, as long as I am alive, awake, alert, enthusiastic, it’s going to be a great day.