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Overcoming Obstacles and Staying Positive During Study Abroad

November 17, 2016

Even after two months here, I am still in awe of Jakarta. Despite its reputation of being dirty, crowded, polluted and noisy, I can’t help but appreciate the chaos and the people that survive and thrive in it every day. But that doesn’t mean I am unaffected by the realities of urban Indonesia. Recently I realized this country often forces me to practice patience by placing me in situations out of my control.

I started a little experiment for my sanity. Whenever I began to feel frustrated, I recorded exactly what was happening to me in a notebook. Here are some examples of what I recorded within the past few weeks:

  1. When my group of friends and I were going out to dinner together, the GO-JEK or Grab apps said that our driver was only three minutes away – just around the block! – but traffic delayed him for another fifteen to twenty minutes before he actually reached us. This is an almost daily occurrence.

  2. During our group trip back from Pangandaran, not only had it unexpectedly rained all weekend causing our evening bus to be late, but an originally eight hour bus ride turned into a thirteen hour overnight bus ride due to the different route we had to take because the original route was flooded. Needless to say the journey was both physically and emotionally exhausting. After this night, I felt like I could survive almost anything.

  3. The care package my mom so generously sent to me via mail has still not arrived, and it is nearly two months later from when she sent it.

  4. To my luck, my Mac laptop’s RAM broke last week. After the initial challenge of finding a place that can service my laptop, I spent a couple hours in line for a short five minute conversation with a customer service representative, only to have them send an email to me the following day stating that it would take fourteen working days in order to fix what I believed to be a simple repair.

I learned a few lessons from this personal experiment. In the moment, yes, it is hard to experience anything less than frustration. Writing the situations down on paper, however, shifted my perspective towards the bigger picture and opened my eyes to recognize these moments for what they really are: temporary situations.

Exercising patience every day makes it easier to accept these temporary situations as a tiny part of our bigger, more wonderful journey, and ultimately let them go.

Because study abroad is not only about gaining new experiences and embracing unknown possibilities, but also learning how to maintain a positive perspective in the face of difficulty, and keeping calm during an experience that we will surely look back on and laugh about later.

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