STUDY Abroad

Moving abroad and becoming a member of a new community and culture is very exciting. The “need” to do and see everything immediately can be overwhelming. Questions like “when should I travel,” “what other countries should I visit,” and “why shouldn’t I skip class to sightsee” can quickly take up home in one’s mind. Through all of these thoughts, one must take a moment to step back and reflect on the purpose of going abroad. Yes, of course, one should take in all of the sights and experience the culture, but one’s studies cannot get lost in the haze. If you want a perfect balance, my biggest piece of advice is this: learn the expectations of the class and the formatting of the examination, be very liberal with the time commitment expectations, and only then, plan your fun stuff.

I make this recommendation from personal experience. No, I am not a bad student. No, I didn’t skip class. But yes, I could have avoided a LOT of stress and days of no sleep if someone had told me this from the beginning. The biggest surprise to me was that my school doesn’t give midterms or homework. The course grade is determined by one’s performance on a final exam (and no, they weren’t multiple choice exams; they were all short response and essay format) or a presentation. Also, please realize that not all classes should be given the same time commitment. Some exams are easy, like my data analysis course, where we could bring a cheat sheet. Other are not. Take, for example, my investments course, which is the hardest course I’ve taken in college. I found the course very interesting, and I felt pretty confident that I could do well with only a few hours of studying the day before the exam. With all of that confidence, I took extended trips to nearby countries and surrounding cities whenever free. I never turned down dinner out with friends, a drink at the bar, or a long, nightly Netflix session. That was until about two weeks before the exam, when I learned from older students that only five students of about 100 passed the exam (before the professor was required to adjust the scores) the previous semester. Calm turned into panic, confidence into fear. Over the next 14 days and 8 exams, I drank approximately 45 cups of tea, 12 bottles of wine, ate 6 bags of Snickers bars, and pulled 3 all-nighters.

For the sake of your mind and body, please learn the expectations and learn them well. You’ll thank me later.

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