Study Abroad: How to Balance Classes, Traveling, Budget and Social Life

March 19, 2015

Come on, That psychology paper and creative writing assignment can be done on Sunday night! Paris is calling our name; the crepes and the wine are going to be half gone when we get there,” said the Devil.

Don’t listen to him,” said the Angel. “School is more important, Paris isn’t going anywhere. Succeed on these assignments and get plenty of rest. You can go to Paris when you’re older.”

Damn, the Devil and the Angel are at it again, playing with your mind while you’re studying abroad. Which one would you choose? How about neither?

Balancing your social life, traveling, budget, and classes can be quite difficult. I was always guilty of picking traveling over studying (at least I admitted it!), and it was sometimes difficult to make it to class. However, there is an almost perfect balance between the four. You just have to figure out what works best for you. That’s why I’m here to give some study abroad tips on balancing classes, traveling, social life, and budget.

Classes

This is where you can be your biggest enemy. Don’t take a ton of classes, and don’t take 2 classes so you’re struggling to graduate when you get back to your university.

Scheduling

You get to make your schedule before the semester begins. I chose all classes that were on Mondays and Thursdays, so I always had a 3 day weekend. Thankfully, all of these classes also fit into my major. In my opinion, this was a wonderful choice, and if you can, try and do it. Why? You have more time to travel on the weekends!

Although you won’t be traveling every single weekend, you will thank yourself for clearing up your schedule. You’ll also give yourself more free days to explore the city you live in, and have more free days to get a lot of your homework done.

Study Abroad Tips

Wake up earlier

One hour earlier. You’ll be surprised with how much you can get done when you have that extra hour. Who needs sleep when they’re studying abroad anyway? The day I left for Amsterdam, I woke up an hour earlier, finished an essay, and handed it in on my way to the airport. I had nothing to worry about the rest of the week.

Get smart about studying

Take pictures of your textbook pages, take notes, screen shot those articles, whatever you have to do. Bring that on the plane or bus with you. Think about it, you’re sitting in a seat for 2+ hours, doing nothing, while you could be studying! Start your essay when you have downtime before dinner at your hostel, or are relaxing before a night out.

Get creative here. I once wrote an entire essay on my phone during a flight, which I then emailed to myself when I had Wifi. The weight was lifted from my shoulders the entire week.

Study abroad tips

Don’t skip your classes

Half of my final grade at the school I studied abroad at came from attendance. It’s not worth it to skip a class just so you can sleep more, or do something you could have easily done after class. Like I said above, schedule traveling for the weekend.

Not skipping a class will also allow you to have a better grasp on what you’re learning. If you skip a class, you may create more work for yourself when you’re supposed to be having fun. I know it’s tempting to skip class, but don’t do it.

Ask for help

If you’re struggling with your grades, go to your professor’s office hours. They understand that you’re studying abroad, and that it’s a bit difficult to balance everything. They’ll be happy to help you.

Study abroad tips

Traveling

A lot of schools give their students time off to travel, for example, spring or fall break. But you’re studying abroad: Why would you want to wait for one week out of the entire semester to travel, whether you’re in Europe, Asia, or Australia?

Travel on the weekends, but don’t travel every weekend. You’re living in a brand new city; there’s so much to explore there alone that you don’t want to miss out on it by trying to see everything else.

When I was abroad, I didn’t travel the first and last month. During the middle of my semester, I had a few breaks where I was able to travel. The only weekend trips I took was to Germany and Norway, otherwise, it was when I had an entire week off.

Check your class test schedule, and figure out ahead of time when the best weekends are to travel. If you’re studying abroad in Europe, a weekend trip could easily be taken to another country. In a larger country like Australia, a weekend trip will likely involve seeing other parts of that country. Don’t forget to explore the different regions of the country you’re studying in, spending time in just one locale doesn’t give you a full taste of what that country is like!

Study abroad tips

Social Life

I’m not just talking about your friends abroad, but keeping in contact with your family and friends back home. I FaceTimed my family every few days when I was abroad; whenever I had some downtime after classes. I kept in touch with my friends through FaceTime, Snapchat and Facebook.

You’ll probably be traveling with your friends when you’re abroad, so that’s a perfect time to relax and hang out with them. My friend and I had a routine where we would watch strange Danish movies every Monday night in her room. I barely saw her during the weekdays since our schedules were so different, but I always managed to see her whenever we were both free. It may seem overwhelming at first, but you get the hang of it pretty early on.  

Trust me when I say you’re going to want to party when you’re abroad. I know I did. It seems as though every single night is a party, there is always a club to go to, a bar having a special, or someone in your dorm that just wants to get drunk. You should obviously have fun when you’re abroad! But don’t go too overboard, you’re still in a foreign country, and you’re still in school. And you probably have a limited amount of money.

Study abroad tips

Budget

Money is one of the hardest things to balance when you’re abroad. There are so many things you want to taste, see, and do, that all of a sudden, the stash you’ve worked for all summer has run off into the sunset, leaving you cold and hungry.

Budget. From the start, you need to be thinking about how to budget your money. Although that $30 Thai Food looks delicious, it won’t be so worth it when you realize how much you could have gotten at the grocery store for that kind of money.

Look for free tours and free things to do when you’re in a new city. I recently wrote a post on the free and cheap things to do in Copenhagen, one of the more expensive cities in Europe.

Stay in hostels and go Couchsurfing. Take advantage of the free breakfasts at places, and look for cheap street food.

Don’t forgo your health. Remember to get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat healthy food. It’s so easy to get that 4 am schawarma four times a week, but your body and wallet will not appreciate it in the long run.

Just remember to have fun. You’re in a brand new country having the time of your life. The memories you make studying abroad are going to be ones that you remember for the rest of your life. You’re a college student in a foreign country, what can get better than that?

P.S. Take your studies seriously. You are a student after all and should experience student life in your host country to the fullest! 

Do you have any more tips?

Top Photo Cred: Kayla Gray 

4 comments

  1. Comment by Yvon ~ TripBitten

    Yvon ~ TripBitten Reply May 14, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    Some great tips!
    When I was studying abroad I did pretty much the same thing. I went to all my classes, got all the ECTS I was planning on getting and on top of all that I went on quite a few trips.

    • Comment by Globe Trottica

      Globe Trottica Reply May 15, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      Thank you so much! I love hearing about people’s personal experiences balancing everything when they were abroad, thank you for sharing 😀

  2. Comment by Susanna

    Susanna Reply August 24, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    This is such a great blog post! I have been studying in Wales for the past year now (2 more years to go). At first it was really hard to get everything done because I was in complete travel/adventure mode. I mean, we need to be willing to go with the flow and stay open to unexpected opportunities. However, if you are studying in a place for a few months or more you need to be able to set up a schedule or routine to make the most of your time there! Something not often talked about in the study abroad community is actually getting studying done. That’s why I’m so glad to see this!

    • Comment by Globe Trottica

      Globe Trottica Reply August 24, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      Thank you so much Susanna! Wow, that’s incredible that you’re studying there for so long, it must be such a wonderful experience! You’re so right, it’s definitely a bit difficult to adjust at first, but yes once you’re able to settle into a routine it gets much, much easier! Thank you for reading :]

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