A s winter break winds down, most University of Colorado students are preparing for another semester on the Boulder campus. But senior Abby Faires is taking her last week off to re-evaluate her life and make the most of her final semester.
The news editorial major spent most of her college career working full time at Alfalfa's while juggling schoolwork, but two recent study abroad experiences have changed her outlook on life.
"The biggest thing I learned is that life isn't something to be hurried through or something to just get through," Faires said. "It's something to be enjoyed and I'm definitely hoping to slow down and enjoy my life and Boulder more before I graduate."
Faires attended the first Global Seminar to Tanzania last May where she spent two weeks hiking and camping while learning about local indigenous tribes.
After reaching the peak of a mountain in the midst of the Simanjiro Plains -- what she called the toughest hike of her life -- the group was given a five-minute break to "just sit and be."
Faires said it was the first quiet moment she had since she began college in 2008.
"I'm that type A personality where I schedule every hour of my life and I'm always going, going, going," Faires said. "At that moment I realized there was so much more to life than just getting through another work day and finishing last minute papers."
After learning about land conservation for several weeks, Faires said she realized she could make the most of any opportunity in life.
"Now I know that these different lifestyles are possible and that if I wanted to go live in the bush with these people for the rest of my life, that's an option," she said. "These people had almost nothing and yet they were the richest people I've ever met."
Laura Deluca, director of the Global Seminar Tanzania, said many students were impacted by the two-week experience.
"In Tanzania, they have this saying, 'haraka, haraka, haina baraka,' which means 'hurry, hurry has no blessing,'" Deluca said. "I think a lot of the students connected with this idea of slowing down and living life."
Deluca said the impact of living among the indigenous people gives a new meaning to experiential learning.
In the fall, Faires spent the semester studying in England, her first semester without a full-time job and hours of volunteering to fill her down time.
Stepping out of her comfort zone in an unfamiliar city was difficult at first, but Faires said she spent time reflecting on her trip to Tanzania and tried to apply the lessons she learned.
"I got bored quickly and started looking for ways to fill the time," Faires said. "So I started focusing on school and having a social life and spent less time trying to fill the gaps with more responsibility."
Faires said she is hoping to continue her slower lifestyle this semester by making time to explore Boulder, which she hasn't done much of over the past 4 and 1/2 years.
"I'm so lucky that I learned this before it was over," Faires said. "Even though I'm working full time this spring, I'm only taking six credits this semester and I plan on spending a lot of time doing things in Boulder that I didn't make time for before."
Faires said she's even planning to extend her slower lifestyle beyond graduation by spending a year in Boulder working at Alfalfa's before searching for a career.
"I have no idea what I'm doing after graduation and that's scary for me," Faires said. "I haven't even tried to plan out my career or what I'll be doing.
"All I know right now is I'm going to try to enjoy my last few months at CU and then spend a year enjoying Boulder."
Follow Whitney Bryen on Twitter: @SoonerReporter.