Finding the Perfect Balance

Loren Thomas STEM Summer Research - Dublin, Ireland


June 21, 2019
Currently Studying at: STEM SUMMER RESEARCH - DUBLIN
Homeschool: University of Michigan

Hi again!!

I can’t believe it’s been over two weeks since I arrived. I feel like I’ve been here for months, yet there’s still so much to see and learn. The past two weeks have included many personal struggles – some more internal than others. I’d like to share a few different things that I’ve learned to balance here. It’s been a lot of firsts for me – first time working 40 hours per week, first time living outside of the US, first time living with five roommates, and so on. Learning how to live in many different ways than I have before has been a real challenge, but I’m happy to say that I finally feel completely comfortable here in Dublin.

One of the most obvious conflicts is money. Part of me is thinking, “You’re in Ireland! You shouldn’t be so frugal; you’re not going to have another opportunity like this. Spend your money here trying new things and seeing new places.” Yet, on the other hand, the other part of me knows that I should be saving money. I don’t need to buy a pastry every morning or go out to eat every few days. My mindset went back and forth for a while, but I’ve finally found that balance: Make food at home during the week. Only eat out on the weekends. Spend money on experiences, not possessions or food. I won't remember what I ate on the second Saturday, but I’ll remember where I went.

The second thing that I’ve been working on is balancing my work and play life. I work approximately 9-5pm Monday through Friday in my lab. I’m on my feet most of the day, but it’s not mentally exhausting. Pipet this, measure that, weigh this, incubate that. Don’t get me wrong – I love what I’m doing, and I am learning a ton, but it isn’t quite as mentally straining as classes and studying. At the end of the day, I don’t feel tired. I love when 5 pm hits because I’m free to do whatever I want. The first few weeks, I spent the evenings grocery shopping or going out for drinks or exploring the city. But by the end of the week, I was tired of being on-the-go. I’ve learned that it is okay to spend an entire night relaxing (it’s also cheaper). Everyone needs to relax, even if they aren’t stressed. I’m still working on achieving the perfect balance of relaxation and exploration, but I think I’ve gotten better at listening to what my mind and body need.

Similarly, I’m working on finding the right balance of socialization and alone time. Back at the University of Michigan, I work as a Resident Advisor and live by myself in a single. Here, we live in a six-bedroom apartment with six people. I absolutely love this setup! The individual rooms allow us some personal space, but the communal kitchen and lounge area allow for a group dynamic. My flatmates and I get along really well – we play card games a few times per week, organize group dinners, and wash each other’s dishes voluntarily. (Pictures of these amazing people attached). Although I’m extremely extroverted and love hanging out with the girls, they don’t always feel the same. It took me a few days to realize that not everyone thrives off of social interaction the same way I do, and it doesn’t mean that they’re being harsh. Some people need that alone time to rejuvenate. We’ve naturally developed a schedule that allows for both – alone time for a few hours right after work, socialization and card games after dinner, then back to our own rooms before bedtime. I’ve been forcing myself to spend this time actually relaxing – watching Netflix, reading, or writing. I’ve found that I’m more positive and energetic around people when I get this opportunity to be by myself.

Lastly, I’m working on strengthening my relationship with myself. I turned text messaging off for the first week of the trip. I wanted to force myself to keep my experiences to myself (instead of texting my best friend the minute something cool happens). From this, I’ve learned to live in the moment more than I have before. I’m trying to stay focused on what I’m doing and seeing, rather than thinking about what I’m going to tell my friends afterward. This transition has honestly been the hardest. I’m so accustomed to talking to my friends and family every single day that going a week was really difficult. Talking to people back at home helps me feel grounded and comforted. I’m learning to make myself my home and to comfort myself in times of change. And surprisingly, I’ve felt more at ease than I have for months.

I love seeing myself grow. I may be a legal adult, but that doesn’t mean that I’m fully mature. Being abroad has abled me to flourish in ways that I never could have back at home. I’ve attempted to explain my personal growth in this short blog, but it’s not something that can be understood or even learned. Through uncomfortable situations, new friends, strange places, and self-reflection, I’ve naturally discovered so much more about myself and the amazing things that I am capable of overcoming. Cheers to six more weeks!