I suppose I should begin this article by admitting that I have already lied to you. This article is not about how to make a perfect smoothie – however, if that’s all you came here for, I’ve included my recipe towards the bottom. If you’re curious as to what this piece is actually about, please, read on. It’s not about making smoothies but rather about making balance – the most important ingredient in your delicious, daily breakfast drink. If you make a banana-strawberry smoothie with 3 bananas and only one strawberry, well, you’re really just making a banana smoothie with an almost-invisible strand of red DNA. And just like balance is the most important ingredient in a smoothie, it is the most important ingredient in life. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is a tired, cliché expression, but it’s absolutely true.
Just like life and smoothie-making, studying abroad is all about balance. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the romanticisms of living in a foreign country and spend so much time exploring that you forget why you’re there. It can also be easy to become so preoccupied with your studies, deadlines, and other academic obligations that you forget to enjoy yourself. This balance between ‘study’ and ‘abroad’ can be difficult to reach, and it’s different for everybody. What’s important is to find a balance that works for you. One where you aren’t locked inside studying for eight hours every night, but also where you aren’t out at the pub from 8pm-2am, Sunday-Saturday. The perfect smoothie isn’t about having one flavor that tastes amazing and dominates all the other ingredients, it’s about weaving a seamless quilt of many flavors that blend and complement each other flawlessly.
So what can you do to figure out your personal balance? Well, before you can make a smoothie, you need to decide which ingredients you’re going to use. So first you need to choose your interests and make those the ingredients of your metaphorical smoothie. Here’s an example ingredients list:
Learning how to surf
Homework and assignments
Producing lo-fi hip hop beats to study/relax to
Reading for pleasure
These should be all of the things that you want to do during your time abroad. Alongside all of your ingredients, you’ve got the things that you have to do – the metaphorical milk of the smoothie (because what is a smoothie without milk?). These are the unavoidable components of your life, like sleeping and going to lecture. Without these things, your smoothie just isn’t going to work. So when you’re adding ingredients to your smoothie, you always have to keep in mind what its base is going to be, and how much time that will take up.
Once you’ve determined your milk and your ingredients, you can begin the delicate process of balancing it all. When I first began making smoothies, they were mediocre at best; I had too few ingredients in too large amounts. This is probably what your life-balance is going to look like for a while. Maybe you have some activities that you think you want to be ingredients, but once you try them you find they don’t actually taste all that good, or maybe there are some ingredients that’ll end up in your smoothie that you have yet to discover. The best way to perfect your recipe is to try lots and lots and lots of different combinations until you find one that works. For example, if you find that you’re exhausted from playing quidditch every single day after class, try substituting it with piano practice two days a week. If you really enjoy learning how to surf, but you’re sad that you only get to do it once a week on Saturdays, try signing yourself up for a Sunday lesson as well.
Truthfully, I still haven’t found my perfect balance, and I’ve been in Sydney for well over a month. There are some days where I wake up and my smoothie tastes too thin, or I accidentally used too much peanut butter and now I can hardly taste anything else, but it’s a heck of a lot better than when I started, and it’s improving every day. And of course, your balance is going to differ from week to week. Sometimes you’ll get out of bed and decide that you’d rather just stay at home and read than travel all the way to the beach for your surf lesson. Maybe two months into your experience you’ll decide that the novelty of playing quidditch has worn off and you need to find a new sport to take its place. And that is A-O.K. Only you know your favorite ingredients, and only you can decide how much you want of each.
Lastly, if you came here just for a good smoothie recipe, here’s mine:
1 banana, sliced into wheels about 1” thick
A handful of frozen blueberries
A handful of kale
3 spoonfuls of granola or muesli
2 spoonfuls of yogurt, Greek or vanilla
1 spoonful of peanut butter
Fill with milk until the other ingredients can barely be seen above surface level
Add cinnamon for extra flavor
Blend for at least 1 minute
It’s not flawless, and it changes a little bit every day, but so far I’m enjoying it quite a bit. I hope that you can glean more from this article than simply how to make a tasty breakfast, but if that’s all you wanted, then I’m happy I could help. Studying abroad is a big decision to make, and everyone who does it will have a different experience, but with a good blender and lots of enthusiasm, I truly believe that everyone can find their perfect smoothie.