As I’m nearing my second exam cycle and checking off my pre-departure requirements, I know it can be hard to balance planning for going abroad with being present in your normal academic life. I just want to share a couple of things I’ve found helpful in getting a better balance between school work, social life, and preparing for study abroad, and I hope they’re useful for you!
First, make a list of all the things you have to do for pre-departure. Only by knowing all the tasks you have and what it will take to complete them can you plan your normal life around it. Make a list with the date something is due, how long it might take, what you need to get before completing it, and how you will get those necessary things. For my college, I have another portal for study abroad with other requirements separate from IES Abroad’s. After thinking I was done with everything, I realized that there were tons of other to-do lists and panicked, using it as an excuse to avoid doing normal academic work. I made a long list combining all the requirements so I could get a full view of what I had on my plate. Then I communicated early with my parents about what medical history documents, passport / visa requirements I needed, or what financial aid information was necessary for me to have to fill out the forms. This was extremely helpful, since now I am not in the situation of having an approaching deadline where I need something that my parents can’t get to me in time, and has definitely decreased my stress. However, I don’t recommend prioritizing the requirements over normal school work—I made that mistake and it ended up creating more stress.
Second, try to make abroad requirements take up a separate amount of time than school work. It can feel like you're being really productive completing a bunch of small tasks, but then if you’ve neglected doing actual course work, you’ll get stressed. Try to only do study abroad tasks during the weekend and do them alone, not with friends, so you can concentrate fully and have a better balance with other work.
Finally, don’t try and get all of the requirements done in one sitting. My school’s pre-departure requirements along with IES Abroad’s took me around 2 days worth of work to finish, not to mention the hours of conversations with parents and my school. I don’t say that to scare you, but it’s necessary to spread it out instead of trying to cram. As a major procrastinator, I understand the urge to want to get it all done in one sitting, but trust me it’s just stressful.
I hope these tips are helpful and good luck during this time! Don’t stress yourself too much and keep focused on how much fun going abroad will be.
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Hi All! My name is Curtis Kline, I'm from New York City, and I am abroad in Barcelona this spring. I am interested in food, culture, and urban studies. In my free time I will be exploring Barcelona and Europe and am excited to share my experiences with you!