I bet you’re thinking about studying abroad because you’re interested in traveling. If you have studied abroad, you know that taking trips is one of the highlights of living in a foreign country for a semester. Just so you know, there’s actually some studying involved in studying abroad. I know it’s a crazy thought, but don’t worry. It’s absolutely possible to take advantage of all the opportunities to travel and still work hard in school while studying abroad.
The key to balancing school, work, and travel is getting an idea of the academic demands of the university where you’re studying as early on as possible. Depending on where you are, you will probably find that you have more free time abroad than you normally would in the States. The amount of busywork that foreign universities require of their students seems to be much less than what U.S. universities require. Last semester, I was directly enrolled in a university in Northern Ireland. This semester, I’m studying at the University of Seville through ISA. It took a while at the beginning of each semester to get used to the differences between the local system and the American system. In the States, I normally have weekly quizzes and reading assignments in addition to multiple exams, papers, and presentations each semester. European universities tend to put more emphasis on one midterm and one final or on one project and one exam. It has been up to me to keep up with reading assignments and making sure that I understand the material through independent study. Even though I do all of this, I still have much more time abroad than I would in the U.S. It’s all about self-discipline. It’s great to take advantage of extra free afternoons and weekends to explore the city where you’re studying.
When it does come time to travel outside of your city, you can use the extra time to work ahead and make sure that you don’t have to take schoolwork with you when you go on trips. Don’t book any trips until after you get an idea of how the semester will flow. Once you know when your exams are scheduled and when your projects are due, you can book trips to your heart’s content. Even if you have a trip planned and something big going on the next week, you can make it work. I went to Portugal the weekend before midterm exams and I didn’t have to study at all while I was there. I had studied enough during the previous week that I just had to review my notes the night before each exam and I did fine. If you have a paper or a project, don’t wait until the last minute to complete it. If you plan ahead and do what you need to ahead of time, you’ll have plenty of time to travel wherever you want.
The world awaits…discover it.