Midterms here at BU Padua finally ended on Friday, coming to a close with a weekend group trip to Italy’s most famous city, Rome. It is not everyday that a week’s worth of studying and testing is rewarded with a beautiful trip to an amazing city.
The temptation to be distracted or to procrastinate is worse than ever while studying abroad. There is perhaps nothing more distracting while you are trying to sit down and read than the idea of a sandy beach in Greece or a shopping excursion in an Italian city. Here, I give some advice on maintaining the balance between fun and academics.
GO TO CLASS:
At home in Boston, it is hard to wake up at 7:30 a.m. for a 9 a.m. class. When you are in Italy and you have just returned from a weekend-long trip to Madrid that involved flying, trains and a shuttle bus, it is even harder. Make things easier by scheduling enough time for sleep after a trip. Furthermore, combat travel temptations by planning your trips for weekends and days without classes. Do not schedule your excursion to Paris for a Tuesday and skip class. Your grades will thank you.
Make good use of your time:
When you are studying abroad, a lot of time is spent on flights, trains, buses, etc. At these times, instead of playing with your phone or watching a movie on your laptop, have some reading or light work with you. A three-hour train ride can turn into a three-hour study session. This way, you can save time for friends and fun by working during a time that would have otherwise been wasted.
Be mindful of cultural differences in education:
This is something many study abroad students tend to overlook or forget to consider. It goes without saying that college classes
are taught differently from country to country, just as they are from professor to professor. Here at the University of Padua, for example, students have a greater hand in scheduling their workload. At the beginning of the course, students get a textbook — possibly one prepared by the professor himself or herself that is a collection of chapters and essays from various works — that the student must read before a single final oral exam at the end of the course. The student must figure out for himself or herself when they will read the book. While this means less assignments, it also opens up the possibility that you will find yourself reading an entire work on a train home from Berlin just days before your exam. Thus, it is important to consider cultural factors in this arena.
Plan ahead and pace yourself:
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. The best way to keep up with your work amidst all the traveling and excursions and hanging out with friends is by pacing yourself. Do not let your work build up. Because weekends are so packed with activity, it is even more difficult to plan to write an entire essay on a Sunday before it is due. It is better, as it is anywhere else, to slowly work away at assignments. All-nighters are even more impossible after a day or weekend of travel and adventure than they are at home.
When you are in a beautiful and new place with so many things to experience and adventures to have, it is difficult to think about ancient philosophy or macroeconomics. However, study abroad is the epitome of the idea of “work hard, play hard.” In the case of BU Padua this week, “work hard, play hard” became “study for midterms, see Rome.”