This post is a guide to balance. Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity to broaden your horizons, to immerse yourself in a new culture or family, learn a new language, see the world and overall have a great time. All of this makes it easy to forget about the “study” part. Not only for those of us actually studying abroad, but for those who are at home flipping through the Facebook and Instagram and blog posts of the adventures and thinking that study abroad is a semester long vacation. I wanted to write this post to remind everyone–including myself, now that finals are upon me–that a huge part of why I’m here is for the education.
As an English major, nothing is cooler than writing my essays about Expat writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald from the actual cafes that they worked at, or wandering the streets of their novels that I’m currently reading. And to me, nothing is more rewarding than painstakingly studying a building or painting for my art & architecture class , only to go visit it in person for the second half of class. Seeing these things in real life makes them tangible for me, and allows what I learn in the classroom to fully translate to reality.
While both the education and travel aspects of the study abroad experience are rewarding, it is essential to find a balance between them. After all, I’ve been living in one of the most exciting and beautiful cities in the world–no one expects me to be sitting in a library all day. And yet, I’m (obviously) expected to keep up with my work. So how to manage both? At the beginning it was certainly a daunting task–Paris was new and exciting and I wanted to explore every corner of it, to meet French people and get to know the people on my program and hang out with my host family all the time. So how was I also supposed to be reading a novel per week for my English class, let alone manage French grammar exercises and a presentation or paper nearly every other day?!
It quickly hit me that this was much more of an academic experience than I had anticipated, and I had to adjust accordingly. Here’s how I’ve been managing; hopefully these tips can serve as a way for you to learn your own methods of balance. Bon courage!
- Cafes and coffeeshops. I cannot stress this one enough. A post dedicated to my absolute favorites will be coming soon, and they have truly been my life savers. As a caffeine addict and white wine lover, these places are my haven every hour of the day. Finding wifi can sometimes be tricky though, so check online beforehand to see if the cafe you’re going to has it!
- Take advantage of down time! If your commute is long enough, use it productively. Whether that means finishing up an assignment, sharpening your French abilities by eavesdropping, or catching an extra 20 minutes of sleep, using that time in transit can be a big help.
- Set realistic goals, or make a system to help you manage your workload. Make a reasonable list of things you want to do each week (visit museums, explore a new neighborhood, grab drinks at a funky cafe, etc.), and check them off as you have time. Writing it down means you’ll be more likely to do it when the downtime actually appears, and will serve as motivation to get your work done until then.
Feel free to comment with any suggestions on how you manage to keep up with work while making time for yourself!