Go with the flow

April 27, 2016 | Angela, DVM, WUSC, Botswana, International Student Management (ISM) Program Assistant

As my internship in Botswana is coming to an end in about two weeks, I’m constantly answering the question “when do you leave?” So, I’m always reminded of how much time I have left in the country. Around the mid-way point of my placement and a bit after it, my mind could not leave the notion of time running out and the worry of whether I was spending my time the right way or not. I would ask myself “what have I done so far”, and “have I experienced what I wanted to/needed to?”

What I learned from thinking this way, was that I had a whole list of expectations for my internship and myself. These expectations ranged from the work I would be doing, the people I would be meeting, the places I would visit, and things I would see. A lot of those expectations were not met and this reality accompanied with the notion of time running out set me into a state of regret and self-doubt. I think that’s where I felt the lowest in my internship. I would ask questions like “what did I do wrong” or “why didn’t I take this chance” “should I have planned more” and so on.

After some tough love from my close friends and family I snapped out of my gloomy mindset. I stopped analyzing things and I let go of my previous expectations of how my experience “should be”. I changed my outlook and let myself move forward by just going with the flow. If something happened that didn’t meet my expectations, I didn’t resist it or face it negatively. To give an example, for the longest time I was hung up on the fact that there are not a lot of other expats in the area for me to interact with. I was upset that I didn’t have a group to socialize with because that is what I pictured before my arrival. But my family brought up a good point in asking “what if that’s not why you’re there” or in other words “what if I don’t need a group of expats to enjoy my trip”. Sometimes we think we are aware of what we need so we search for those things with a tunnel vision. I’ve learned that thinking with a one track mind, rather than seeing the value in what I’ve already been presented leads to unnecessary negative feelings.

Moving forward with this open state of mind, I ended up having some of the best moments during my placement. After this bump in the road, suddenly the little things that I was unhappy about didn’t bother me anymore. Prior to this mindset, when I said to people that I had about two weeks left in Botswana, I felt a feeling of doubt, regret, worry, stress, sadness, and frustration all in one. Now when I say how much time I have left in the country I don’t feel bothered because I know that I’ve accomplished a lot during my ~12 week stay. In sum, I would say that we do not know what a stay abroad has in store for us before we get there. No matter how many times we travel, we can’t say what we will learn or how we will grow. However, there is always positive token that we can go home with, it’s just a matter of understanding what that token is.

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