There’s no doubt that studying abroad is a wildly exciting, revelatory, and personally profound adventure. When you arrive in a new environment, especially one that’s radically different from your own, its natural to want to explore and sample as much as you can. When I arrived in Tokyo about three weeks ago, I had a strong urge to see, taste, feel, smell, and hear everything about my new “home”. While I still have those same urges after a few weeks, I’m slowly starting to realize what you do, how you spend your money, and the energy that you maintained in the beginning of the semester is not sustainable for the entire duration. The homework starts to catch up to you. Summer internship applications burn at the bottom of your to-do list. Your bank account starts to look a little desolate. When you snap awake to “Carter, what is the answer to number three” and you have to take a second to remember which class you’re in…it may be time to pay your sleep debt. I’ve come to realize, when you reach this point, it’s okay to say “no”.
Everyone maneuvers through the world at their own respective pace. No one way of existing is the best. Some individuals will have highly organized checklists and go to bed at regular intervals – budgeting their money systematically. Others will seem to exist in a perpetual whirlwind – spontaneously bobbing through life’s adventures. Everyone regains their energy in distinctive ways. Some people recharge themselves by being around others and socializing. Others prefer to decompress in solitude and spend quality time on their own. Many, including myself, enjoy a combination of the two. In my new home, there are nights when I want to stay out dancing in Roppongi until the trains begin running again in the early hours of the morning. Conversely, there are nights when I want to binge on Netflix’s new Ted Bundy docu-series and go to sleep at 7 p.m. Both options can be equally fulfilling.
I want to remind everyone who is studying abroad or planning to that it is completely fine to say “no” when your peers ask you to do something or pressure you to go out. It can be really hard to say “no” and sometimes declining an invitation can make you feel like you’re offending the person who asked you. I’m not saying that you should spend a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity shut up in your room. Rather, I’m suggesting that it’s healthy to take time to yourself. Going to the beat of your own drum is absolutely acceptable and you aren’t a “party-pooper” for choosing what YOU want to do. If you want to save some money and buy Kombini food instead of going out to dinner every night, spend a cozy night in, catch up on some well-deserved sleep, or even get ahead on some homework during the weekend, it is more than okay. Bottom line, do what floats your boat.