Balancing School while Abroad

Kate Allen headshot
Kate Allen
February 21, 2024
view of nice

Prioritizing school while being abroad has been an entire challenge within itself. Don’t tell my professors! 

As midterms approach within the next week, I feel overwhelmed. I’ve been traveling the past few weekends, and the last week of February has come quicker than I imagined. I have several midterms and presentations due next week, and it feels like too much to manage at once. That’s probably my own fault…. :)

At home, I feel as if my life revolves around going to school: attending classes, spending time at the library, and studying for exams each and every day. I find that very specific windows of time on the weekend are reserved for socialization and exploration, and there is more of an expectation to remain focused on schoolwork in general. I suppose it’s much easier at home, because I am in a distinct university setting, surrounded by students with the same initiatives as my own. We all have rigid schedules, extracurricular responsibilities, and even job commitments to attend to. 

But abroad, it’s easy to dismiss those priorities. It’s hard to plan trips around class schedules, exams, and mandatory class trips. I attend class each day, but then I am tempted by the sunny skies and five minute walk to the beach. Instead of going straight to a coffee shop to open my laptop and study, I aimlessly wander through the streets, sit at cafés, and create travel plans for upcoming trips. The excitement is distracting. 

I believe this is a good thing; I am fulfilling my goal to stay present and explore. I avoid dedicating time to doing school work or even studying, because I am so focused on fully absorbing my environment and utilizing my time in a foreign country. I think the typical American university student  “grind” mindset has been something that’s hard to balance here. I can’t seem to find a happy medium between devoting time to my studies and exploring to the fullest extent. 

At the end of the day, I believe it’s all about discipline and sacrifice. It’s really tough to make sacrifices while studying abroad, because time is the most prominent constraint. There is an overwhelming attitude surrounding abroad, that you have to constantly “go-go-go!” In the past, I haven’t heard much about actually attending school while abroad. It’s easy to get caught up in this attitude, because everyone wants their experience to be the best. This false notion is probably the first mental block I need to overcome, in order to strike a better balance. 

If you’re worried about this for your upcoming semester abroad (or are currently struggling with the same thing), not to fear, I have some advice. It’s not too late to create new habits!

First, at the beginning of the semester, compile your syllabi for all of your classes and make a comprehensive list of due dates—it could be a spreadsheet or a written sheet of dates. This is so helpful when trying to plan for weekend travel. This is something I do each semester at home, but for some reason I didn’t think to do so when I arrived in Nice… 

My second tip is to devote specific time during the week to getting things done, school-wise. If you schedule specific time blocks each week to dedicate to schoolwork, everything will go much more smoothly. I need to be better at this (and practice what I preach). Ha!

Wish me luck on my exams! But for now, the beach is calling. I’m not used to the sun and warmth in February. 

À la prochaine!

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Kate Allen headshot

Kate Allen

Hi! My name is Kate Allen and I am a third year at the University of Virginia, studying Foreign Affairs and Global Commerce. I love to read, cook, take photos, and explore. 

2024 Spring
Home University:
University of Virginia
International Business
International Relations
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