I think that, for me, the hardest thing about studying abroad, is by far, the studying part. Okay, I know that’s what I signed up for when I chose to travel through this program, but there simply is not enough time to do everything I’d like to do and complete two whole three-credit courses in just six weeks. Still, I really cannot complain. My courses are actually quite enthralling and I get to live in London for heaven’s sake! Settling in, it was very hard to balance everything, but there is a way to do this—I’m just still figuring that out. I do have a little bit of a better idea at this point though, and I’ll share that with you now.
Here are some tips to stay on top of your work while you’re away:
1) Bring a laptop:
I brought my tablet and I curse the day that I made that ingenious decision. Oh, it’s so much lighter, I thought! Who needs a big, bulky laptop when I can use my Microsoft Surface RT to do practically the same thing? ME! I need my bulky laptop! I’m so sorry I ever left you behind my big, beautiful Macbook! If you ever plan on studying abroad, don’t skimp on the technology you’re bringing. It is essential for the work you will inevitably have to do, and you should feel comfortable using it for whatever you might need. While I do love my tablet for taking notes and other, simple things, I am not really familiar with many of its features, and certain things have been extremely hard to figure out when I’m already scrambling to get my work done.
2) Plan ahead and keep a to-do list:
If you know you have plans later in the week, do not wait to do your work. I have fallen victim to this mistake many-a-time, and I can tell you first hand, it is not worth the stress. Personally, I think it helps to keep a to-do list. If time management is not your thing, like ‘tis not mine, then give yourself a deadline before the actual due date and stick to it. It is so easy to get distracted here, but you just have to make these things happen. It’s still a university program and you’re getting credit for it. One thing that you could do to make the most out of your time, while still being productive, is just find a park or a nice, peaceful, scenic area around where you’re staying, and do your reading there.
3) Stay in touch with your professors:
I obviously cannot speak for all the professors that teach in every study abroad program, but for the most part, they know that while you’re abroad, you have a ton of things you want to do other than homework. In fact, they want to do their own thing, too! Remember that you can always ask them for help, and if you end up falling behind for whatever reason, let them know. My professors here are so great and knowledgeable. They really just want to help make this experience as productive and meaningful for you as possible. If you need a little extra time on a paper or project because you’re going away for the weekend or because of some other extenuating circumstance, just ask. They’ll probably be very understanding. Just don’t make a habit of it.
4) Try your best to sleep and wake up at a reasonable hour:
Jet lag is not fun. Since I’ve been here, I still haven’t quite gotten used to the time difference and my sleeping schedule is all out of whack. On top of that, I have a terrible, terrible case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and sleeping just seems like a waste of my precious time here. Sleeping is obviously essential though and therein lies my problem. Plain and simple—if you don’t sleep, you are not going to feel your best while exploring your study abroad destination. Don’t ruin your trip staying up all night—especially if it’s to watch Netflix or utilize your Wi-Fi the limited times you have it. It’s hard, I know, but just force yourself to go to sleep before midnight and wake up early. If you can get out and about early on, you’ll most likely get to see more anyway, and then you’ll get tired by the time you should be going to bed. It will also probably make you more productive than you would be on no sleep.
5) Realize how much the material you are learning is connected to the space around you:
For instance, I’m taking a Shakespeare course here. I would have taken the same course for the same amount of credits at home, but here I get to visit Shakespeare’s actual grave and see performances of his plays in the Globe Theater! I mean, how cool is that?! My other class is loaded with relevant history and literature as well, and it is definitely so much more exciting to take here, where we are able to incorporate amazing field trips into the curriculum. Studying and doing the assignments becomes much easier when you can relate it back to all you are observing while abroad.