Being abroad is this juggling act, trying to balance travel and studies at the same time. As a college student, we always face these struggles to balance our lives. When I’m in Pittsburgh, I have to precisely schedule my club meetings, volunteering, studying, social life, and an adequate amount of sleep. As a junior, I have nearly perfected this balance, but being abroad is like starting from scratch. You have this idea when going abroad that classes will be easier and you won’t have to put work in, which is a misconception. Even if you have the ability to do well with minimal work, the classes you take when abroad really help round out your experience, and it’s beneficial to put effort into them. For example, to complete my Italain studies minor, I am enrolled in a literature class where we read the works of Dante and Boccaccio. Literature is not my favorite course, and it is extremely time consuming to read these long pieces of literature and analyze them. However, I have learned so much about the roots of the city I live in by putting effort into this class. I have learned about government and the medieval times, as well as architecture and where the language comes from. I have gotten so much out of this class beyond literature, and it has made me appreciate my study abroad experience even more. Studying abroad is not a semester-long vacation, and it’s important to get to know the city you call home for four months. The easiest way to do so? Put effort into your classes – ask questions, get to know your professors, and take advantage of the opportunities staring you in the face.
While abroad, it is also important to be realistic about your time when planning your studies. As most other students abroad, I can completely count out weekends for studying due to trips to other countries or exploring Florence. This means that I have to be sure to keep up with my assignments during the week, whereas in Pittsburgh I have more wiggle room and can push some assignments off until the weekend. Thankfully, most classes are three hour sessions once a week, so I normally have the entire week to work on assignments. The class I struggle most with completing my work for is Intermediate Italian, which meets three times a week. As one of the advanced levels, I am the only student in this class, which is a lot of pressure and even more work. I find that when I slack off and don’t put extra time into translating my homework or I don’t ask questions in class, I notice myself falling behind where I should be. This makes it even harder for the next class or assignment. If you are taking language classes abroad, it is really important to try to actually learn, rather than just trying for an A. Even with the small amount of Italian I know, I have been able to speak to the locals, and they appreciate the effort put in by someone who clearly is not fluent. Keep in mind that you are living in someone else’s country and it means a lot to them if you put in effort to speak their language, rather than expecting them to do the work. Do not assume that everyone you come across speaks your language.
Lastly, trying to study for midterms is harder than you think! A lot of professors here assign readings for homework that you can get away with not completing, or do not assign homework at all. This sounds wonderful and saves you time, until midterms week. If you are enrolled in a class where you do not complete weekly assignments, start studying in advance. You’d be surprised how much you forget when you don’t have to write it down. As for the classes with a lot of work, you definitely know more than you think, and you might not have to spend as much time on that subject since you focus a lot more on it on a regular basis. Regardless of the subject, midterms are still hard when you’re abroad and it pays off to plan ahead. Don’t wait until the week of your exam to begin studying a subject you’ve been learning about for over a month.
Studying abroad is this amazing, overwhelming experience where you get to dive into new cultures and travel the world. However, it is still part of your college experience. Try to find the bright side to studying while abroad and take advantage of learning about this new culture – it will make your experience just that much better.