Beyond the Books: Embellishing University Life
Part Two: Travel
In an effort to succeed academically, many of us students prioritise our studies above all else; but while our diligence and hard work is doubtlessly positive, we often neglect valuable opportunities to develop the non-academic aspects of our lives in favour of spending gruelling hours hunched over our readings, sealed off from the rest of the world. So what lies beyond the books, and how can we tiptoe the fine line between being conscientious students and perhaps sacrificing a little too much? In this multi-part series, using my own experiences in striving toward well roundedness, I hope to illuminate the strands of student life that may have less to do with our studies, but may still be immensely valuable to students seeking a balanced university life.
To anyone who asks what my favourite thing is about living in London, I almost always respond with the same statement: it feels like being in the centre of the world. This is not only true in the sense of London being a bustling capital where cultures collide and people from across the globe flock both to work and to play; it is also idyllic in location, with beautiful Europe at its doorstep, as well as Asia and Africa often only a flight away. Before moving here, this was one of London’s most attractive features to me, a Canadian longing to see more of the world but struggling to do
so from my own vast country. In comparison to feeling so far away from the cities and landscapes I had longed to explore, I am now more connected to the rest of the world than I have ever been, both in location and in experience.
Making the effort to explore new cities on free weekends was another priority of mine when I began university on a different continent, and thanks to that goal I was able to visit four countries I’d never been before during my first academic year. Although it was at times challenging to set aside time to get away between studying, socialising and working part time (see my first post about holding a part time job while in uni!), I returned to London each time feeling revived, ready to take on a new week. I cannot stress enough how rewarding it can be to persevere through a busy week knowing that an exciting weekend is coming up, and how refreshing it is to break our usual routines in favour of experiencing someplace new. Aside from offering a little reward for our hard work, travel can also bolster our studies as we begin to notice the concepts we have learnt about in lecture halls come to life in the world around us. Whether you study law or science, history or art, engineering or literature, I am a firm believer that there is valuable knowledge to be extracted from every place we venture, if we make the effort to look and listen.
While it can be easy to get wrapped up in our university lives and it may not always be financially possible to travel, I truly believe we function at our best (both as students and as human beings) when we give ourselves time to slow down and soak up new surroundings; and so I encourage fellow students to save their pennies, clear their schedules for a few days, and board.