Because, you know, there is that word “study” in studying abroad…
I simply cannot believe it. In only a few short weeks, it’ll be April 29th and I shall be officially done with all of academic obligations while abroad. If I were going to be completely honest, academics while abroad have been much easier than the usual course load I take at home.
Disclaimer: This does not mean I have not put in just as much effort!
One of the things I did not fully realize before coming to London is just how different the UK education system is. Students at UK universities enroll in a three-year program to get their undergraduate degree because they usually solely focus on what they’re studying. That’s right- No gen eds or, for my fellow Fordhams, none of the fear of “The Core”. This means that the students focus more on practical application of their studies rather than just regurgitating facts, but it also means that there is a lot less to be graded on.
In the States, a typical class will have a grading breakdown that usually includes participation, homework, a few essays, test, or quizzes, and a final and midterm. In the UK, both of my class only had two grades that determine my entire grade. We are assigned homework every week, usually long readings, but we don’t have to turn in analyses or anything. All that matters is the assignments, but your professors, or tutors they are called in the UK, will expect you to have been reading along the whole semester in order to flush out your work. These assignments are also very structured with firm deadlines (you’ll fail the assignment if you’re even a second late turning it in) and specific lengths, but have really forced me to absorb what I am learning and reinterpret it in my own way.
Let it also be known that just because you are studying abroad doesn’t mean you’re on vacation. Teachers will expect you to be in class every single day, and this is especially true with the Fordham Centre. If you miss a class, you have to explain why and sometimes even make up work. They take it very seriously because students do sometimes end up failing classes while abroad because they aren’t up to date on their work. These grades will go on your transcripts, even if they don’t all go into your GPA, and graduate schools will be able to see them. There really isn’t a point to letting all of the hard work you do at home go to waste while here, and employers and grad schools will want to see that you are dependable, follow through, and have a good work ethic.
So, how do you balance studying and traveling? Just as you balance your life back at school! It’s about being organized and setting a schedule. I use my Erin Condren planner, which might as well be my child at this point, and write down every assignment that I get when I get it in my planner. That way, when a friend invites me to dinner, I can look in my planner and see that “ooh…. I have an essay due the next day….”. The last thing you want to have happen is plan a trip and realize you have to submit an assignment, but that you don’t have wifi. It’s happened more than once to people I know. Trust me.
Schedule study sessions just like you would schedule a doctor’s appointment or club meeting back at home, and try and explore different places to study like public libraries, classrooms, and parks when it’s nice out! Treat yourself to a coffee and set yourself up for success in whatever way you need. Sometimes all you need in order to focus is a change of scenery and a little push to get it done.
What I also have found to be really helpful is always carrying around a little notebook. In spare time while traveling or commuting, I like to take it out and make to-do lists, grocery lists, or write down ideas that I have. That way you also have a physical reminder of “you have work to do!!!”, and paper! You’ll never know when you run into the stranger of your dreams and need to get those digits. Really, I don’t know. It hasn’t happened yet.
When it comes down to it, studying abroad will always involve actually studying. You can’t run away from it, and you shouldn’t! I’ve actually had fun learning here. My classes are much more about getting you to think and examine rather than writing down facts and dates. However, sometimes it can be hard to stay on track, but it is very much doable. Set a schedule, know when your assessments are due, do work ahead of time in order to really enjoy traveling, and keep on top of your readings and other assignments! You have to set yourself up for success and with motivation and a little bit of #treatyoself, you’ll go a long way.