Balancing Finals and Final Weeks

Kat Peterson
December 10, 2021

As we near the end of our study abroad journey, I have found myself experiencing a rush of mixed emotions—but mostly stress. There’s still so much to see and do! But with only a week left and finals studying taking up most of my free time, I am coming to terms with the fact that my journey is coming to a sudden close and I will have to start saying goodbye. 

Juggling all of the work there is to do at the end of the semester is always tough, but has been especially challenging to me since I’ve been abroad. I often find myself working away in my room or in study halls instead of being out in the streets taking in the culture. Everything people have shared about the “study” in study abroad is true—expect to be busy, challenged, and a little frustrated with just how central school is in your life abroad. 

One thing I didn’t expect is just how chaotic finals week(s) would be for me. At my home institution (Liberal Arts college), finals usually consist of either a paper or project that you’ve been working on for weeks. In Spain, finals have consisted of group projects AND papers AND sit-down exams, sometimes all for the same class! I’ll be honest, this style of assessment has thrown me for a loop. Sometimes I find myself resenting school because it keeps me from wandering, spending time with my friends doing non-academic things, and truly enjoying free time without feeling guilty about not doing work. Everyone comes into study abroad with different academic goals and needs. For some students, they are taking classes that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to take at their home institutions such as watercolor and dance. Some of my classmates in my program have already finished their major requirements, and opted to take study abroad courses pass/fail in order to ease their stress. But for other students like me and my friends, our courses will be counting towards our major degrees and matter a lot! For this reason I would suggest being prepared to encounter people whose academic goals and needs are different from your own, and being aware of this when completing group projects or assignments. Of course, always talk to your professors if there is any kind of difficulty!

Because of the amount of work I have to complete in such a short period of time, organization has become an essential part of my life. Everyday, I review what assignments I have left to do and check off the parts I have already completed to remind myself that progress has been made, even if it doesn’t feel like it. My agenda journal has helped me to map out deadlines and write out assignments so that I won’t forget about them! I also keep a Google Doc of all the assignments I have and their instructions with links to important sources so that I don’t have to search for everything when I want to start an assignment. Deleting the assignments on the doc as I complete them is almost euphoric, honestly! I also switch up my study methods, locations, and times in order to prevent myself from becoming bored. These small measures to increase motivation have seriously helped me avoid the stress I often feel when I am disorganized. 

To me, what has been most important is incorporating my goodbyes into my study schedules. I have been reaching out to people I haven’t gotten to talk to much to schedule study sessions. Trying cafes I have always wanted to visit but hadn’t gotten the chance to. Sitting out in the study rooms in my residence hall and saying hey to the people who walk by. Studying abroad is all about adapting and overcoming challenges, and these are just some of the things that have helped me overcome the challenge of preparing for finals in a new culture!

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Kat Peterson

<p>Hi, I'm Kat! I'm a junior at Scripps College and come from a small town called Beaumont in California (about halfway between L.A. and Palm Springs). I am a Linguistics and Spanish, Latin American, and Caribbean Literatures and Cultures dual major. I would describe myself as a Netflix junkie and culture enthusiast. I love to have movie nights with my friends, talk to people about their ancestry, check out museums, and cook Buzzfeed Tasty recipes!</p>

2021 Fall
Home University:
Scripps College
Beaumont, CA
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