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Managing Stress and the Mid-Semester Slump

Managing Stress and the Mid-Semester Slump

Today marks the end of my ninth week in Vietnam. During that time, I have had plenty of ups and downs as we started classes, spent time with our partners, took our 10-day excursion to the North and Central Regions of Vietnam, and got settled into a routine. Overall, I’ve been enjoying my time here, but the last two weeks have brought around that mid-semester slump – ya know, the one where free time with friends becomes non-existent due to midterms and projects and it’s a constant battle with procrastination.

To be honest, I had been warned that the mid-semester slump while studying abroad came with its fair share of home-sickness, but because I had traveled for four months before the program started and had not yet experienced an extended case of it, I think I thought I would get through the semester without it. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It doesn’t help that Chicago is alive with the excitement of the Cub’s success and the World Series is right around the corner.

I find myself dreaming of my mom’s apple creations, homemade hard cider and raking leaves (yes, I’m surprised, too…). Without homemade desserts to distract me, it has become increasingly more difficult to manage my stress. In the past few days though, I think I have begun figuring out what works best for me.

For one, I have been cooking more meals in the dorm after discovering that kettles are a beautiful thing. I have made everything from hummus to lentil soup and discovered how refreshing it is to have fresh vegetables and a homemade snack once in a while. I have also relearned the importance of slowing down, taking a deep breath and making time for myself – which can be very difficult in a program with 17 students that live in close quarters and take most of their classes together. Additionally, long Skype conversations with loved ones and the occasional western meal by myself have been overwhelmingly beneficial as I start to climb out of my slump.

Of course, everyone handles stress differently, and I think most, if not all, of my peers are feeling a similar way. Some have gotten massages or pedicures, others have sought more alone time, while still others turn to a good night out to help lift them up. Whatever one’s personal needs may be, it is so very important to recognize them and work towards them.

Tomorrow, already, we leave for our Cambodia excursion and I think with the first round of exams and papers behind me, things will again start looking up. With only a month and a half left of this program, it’s time to delve back into Vietnamese street food, attempting to use my language skills, and neighborhood walks. I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of this semester holds, both the bad and the good.

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