Five Success Tips for Managing Academics While Abroad

I AM STUDYING ABROAD IN COSTA RICA!”,  I screamed last semester.

When I finalized that I was studying abroad in Costa Rica, I felt all

these warm fuzzies. I was excited to finally travel outside of the country for the first time. I hopped directly on Pinterest and did what I do best. I researched everything. A week later, no lie, I had boards full of places to visit and activities to participate in while abroad.

I was excited about everything from meeting new people, trying the food, and meeting my host family. But I forgot one thing. SCHOOL. Like I am actually going abroad to study. Even when I started packing my school supplies my mind was disconnected from academics. Ya girl was just ready to explore.

Haha but it got me. After, two weeks of being in class and that first exam came, I realized I actually had work to do. I cracked down and here are the tips that helped me survive.

  1. Schedule

A struggle, I repeat, I struggled. There were many things I could do while abroad including traveling, participating in program activities, hanging with friends, or volunteering.  And, actually, the list could go on. So, I had to just sit myself down and give myself a pep talk. I needed to come up with a plan to tackle my academics and FAST.

What worked for me:

  1. Placing on my calendar the days of my exams and assignment due dates.
  2. Then writing down my commitments such as volunteering, conversation partner meetings, and interning.
  3. After doing that on a random piece of paper, I wrote down all the traveling I wanted to do and on which weekends.
  4. Based off of that, I went back to my calendar and figured out when I had time to study and complete activities.

P.S. Make sure to make your schedule as soon as possible so that you can make any adjustments necessary.

I created a monthly calendar for February to give me an overview of my classwork and obligations.

2. Take advantage of every opportunity to study (goes with Tip #1)

I would utilize any free time that I had. I remember on one of my weekend trips, my friends and I wanted to take advantage of a long weekend to explore, but we also had an assignment due next week. In order to do both, we decided to do our reading while traveling.  So, after exploring the area, during the day, we returned to the hotel where we read together and completed our assignment. It was incredibly fun and we got our ish done.

This is one of things that you can do to maximize your study time. While on the bus or airplane to your travel destination, you can read. Take your book to the beach with you. If you want to try that new café down the street, you should go, but don’t forget your laptop or book and bring a friend (if you want).

I tried the Coffee Milkshake at the quaint Cafe Bohio in Costa Rica while studying for an upcoming Spanish exam

3. Study dates

I studied through a program provider called USAC and I only took classes with other U.S. students. With this type of program, many of us would study together. So, when we needed to prepare for an exam a couple of us would go to a café or the library to study. This made the time more enjoyable, interactive, and less dreary.

If you have a set up like my program, than I would suggest you guys meet up once a week to knock out some of your assignments and prepare for exams. For those, who take classes with students from your host university you have a wonderful excuse to hang out with them while studying together. Not only are you studying but you are building genuine relationships that you can have forever.

Taking a quick break from studying to enjoy yummy cookies with two other friends.

4. Office Hours

If office hours are available within your program take advantage of them. If you are struggling with classes, go talk to your professor. Even though you could be spending your time elsewhere, don’t let your grades drop, especially if they are going to transfer back to your school. Depending of the study abroad program your study abroad grades will affect GPA. I say this because some programs are pass or fail while others transfer the grade directly over so if you got a D, that D will show on your transcript.  

5. Last of all, DO NOT STRESS.

I know I have given you information overload. That’s because I want you to do your best. On the same foot, this is a once in a lifetime experience so make the most of it. Do not let the classes stress you out.