I’m so tired and my feet are killing me. I hope there’s good pasta on the menu for dinner tonight. I wonder what my friends are up to back home. OMG it’s Jeremy’s birthday and I didn’t send him a message yet. I need to talk to everyone and find out where they want to go next weekend. Greece would be my choice. Oh, I better start that paper for my Italian lit class or I’ll never get it done in time.
“That concludes our visit to David,” you hear the guide’s voice say as you come back to reality. You fumble for your iPhone to take a quick picture of the statue and continue the tour of the Accademia Gallery in Florence.
Study Abroad can be a perfect opportunity to practice living in the present moment. You don’t want the above scenario to be you. Time flies while on Study Abroad and you want to savor every experience, not be stuck worrying about what’s going on at home or scrolling through Facebook. You might be physically in Florence standing in front of David, but your mind isn’t even in the building!
The key of Living in the Present Moment is something I talk about a lot in my book because it has the ability to help you create a more fun and fulfilling experience. In my countdown of the Top 10 TED Talks For Study Abroad Students, #8 was a talk by Matt Killingsworth about how staying in the present moment can actually make you happier. The main conclusion of his study was that the more focused you are on the here and now, regardless of what you’re doing, the happier you’ll be.
Here are 5 ways to live more in the present moment while on Study Abroad:
#1 Turn off technology
First and foremost, turn off your technology! Turn it off so you’re not tempted to be scrolling and posting to social media while visiting some of the world’s wonders. Your first thought upon entering a museum should be more on the excitement of seeing the famous works, not about finding a free wifi connection. Without the distraction of technology your mind is more apt to stay present with the people and things going on around you.
#2 People Watch
Since your technology will be turned off you’ll have more time for people watching. People are fascinating, especially when you’re in a foreign place where mannerisms and customs can be quite different from your own. Become an observer. By doing so your mind stays present, looking for the stories happening right before your eyes. Maybe you’ll witness something amusing, like the skinny old lady in a pink tutu, tube socks, and a boa I saw walking down Broadway in NYC a few weeks ago. Or maybe something sad, like a sea of people glued to their smartphones, completely isolated from one another.
#3 Take a walk
Study Abroad is packed with opportunity to explore. Take a walk, discover a new street or neighborhood, a new cafe or plaza. The act of taking a walk to somewhere new can bring you more into the present moment as you pay attention to where you’re going, the street names and landmarks. Try practicing the first two points here too. Leave the smart phone at home and people watch. Getting around using a paper map, or gasp!, asking a real person for directions can connect you to the place and present moment even more.
#4 Talk to yourself
Try talking to yourself. Not in the old lady in a pink tutu, tube socks, and a boa kind of way (I forgot to mention she was mumbling), but in an observant and conscious way. Using your internal voice talk yourself through what you’re doing and what you’re seeing. It’s a trick to keep the mind focused on the here and now. Some call this a walking meditation. Even if you couldn’t focus on what the tour guide was saying about David, talking yourself through what you were seeing and doing could have prevented all the other noise of past and future and connected you more to your experience.
#5 Set an alarm
The first step in becoming more present is awareness. How can you become more present if you’re not even aware of when you’re not? Set an alarm to go off every so often, try 30 minutes or one hour. When the alarm sounds, stop and ask yourself what you’re doing and if you’re present. It can act as a reminder to focus on the here and now. Think of it like training a new muscle.
How will you use Study Abroad to practice living in the present moment?