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The dilemma of being a college student who loves to travel

A common question I’ve always asked myself as long as I’ve been in college is “how will I be able to get all my work done but also relax?” There always seems like there’s an assignment due and it can be stressful to try to turn everything in on time. I know many college students can relate. It’s safe to say that the workload you receive while studying abroad isn’t much different, at least in my program in Costa Rica. In the beginning of the semester, I was telling everyone back home how I was surprised I wasn’t receiving as much work as I’m used to back in the U.S. I spoke too soon because a week later, I was loaded with work. It can be especially hard to be motivated to do assignments in another country because you’re in a different environment. I know for me, I want to see as much of Costa Rica as I can before I leave in December. But how do I sightsee and travel the country if I have lots of schoolwork?

Start assignments early

This is way easier said than done, and I would know because I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator. But, if you know you’re going on a trip or have plans coming up, it can help a lot if you to at least start some assignments beforehand. I remember for my first vacation here, my friends and I traveled to a small beach town called Puerto Viejo for four days over a weekend. I had a couple writing assignments that were due the next week when we returned and I knew I wasn’t going to feel like doing them after the trip. I thought maybe I could work on them a little during the trip, but I didn’t have access to very good wifi or service, which made it difficult. I didn’t start the assignments before we left, and I regretted it as soon as we got back. So, for my second vacation, I tried to do as many assignments as I could before we left. I was able to complete some and start another to finish it when I got back. I felt a bit more relieved since I hadn’t left everything for the last minute.

A view of the beach on my vacation to Jacó.
A view of the beach on my vacation to Jacó.

Make a schedule

I sometimes make a mental schedule for myself, by referring to my planner where I’ve written down my assignments, if I know I’ll be traveling or hanging out with friends. I’ve come to terms with the fact that not every assignment will be done before whatever plans I’ve made take place. It helps me not to stress as much. In my mental schedule, I’ll see what assignments I have to do in my planner and then compare it to my plans. Some homework is assigned weeks before it’s due so sometimes I’ll just make a mental note to not focus on it as much. It makes my to-do list seem less daunting. If there are certain days that are free before the due dates, I plan to work on specific assignments for those days. I tend to make a mental schedule but writing it down can be more effective for some.

Day trip to Volcán Irazú (Irazú Volcano)
Day trip to Volcán Irazú (Irazú Volcano)

Take advantage of your time abroad

It can seem difficult to explore the country you’re studying abroad in and stay on top of your schoolwork. While homework and grades are important, it is also good to make the most of your experience. In my mind, I may never get to experience studying in another country again. It’s also beneficial to take breaks from school because the constant stress can be overwhelming. Oftentimes, exploring Costa Rica and taking small vacations helps with that. You can forget about school for a few hours or days and recharge and not get burnt out. 

While one or two semesters may seem like a long time, it flies by very fast. I can’t believe it’s almost November, which means I’ll be returning home in a little over a month. In my opinion, it’s best to take advantage of the time you’re given and explore your host country. Stay on top of work, of course, but don’t let that get in the way of letting you experience what the country has to offer.

Other students have found ways to make the most of their time abroad, too.

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