Who put the study in study abroad?
For those of us studying outside the U.S., it’s a sore spot. Whether you’re in Barcelona or London, you’ve probably come up against the painful realization that a semester away from your home university is not, in fact, a semester off.
I came to Copenhagen with the best of intentions. I was excited about my classes. I figured that since I’m not taking a language program, they’d at least be easier than my upper-level courses at home. And they looked pretty interesting.
Plus, I’d bought into all those stories told by friends who’d studied abroad in past semesters. I’m talking sun-soaked beaches, totally homework free afternoons and two page final papers.
I guess the “study” part of study abroad should have been an indicator of the workload I’m dealing with now, but I have to tell you, doing actual work in Europe is rough. I’ll freely admit that I get lazier the longer I’m in school. But what I hate the most is spending time studying when I could be out exploring.
“Experiential learning” is somewhat of a buzzword these days. My program likes to get us out and into the city as much as possible, and I appreciate that. But study tours can’t top a good day getting lost in the city or discovering a great new café. Those were the experiences I wanted most when I signed up to study abroad, and with every paper and class I see them slipping further away.
And unfortunately, I can’t just blow my classes off, either. Unlike a lot of my friends, my grades transfer back and factor into my GPA, and I abandoned the notion that I’m a cool but intelligent slacker somewhere in second grade.
So here’s the conundrum: how do I deal with papers, exams and group assignments when every minute indoors alone feels like a waste? And how do I do it while keeping my grades intact?
I’ve learned a few tactics. The first is to plan ahead. That way I can enjoy those fun all-nighters and avoid the academic variety.
The second is to move my study spot outside my comfort zone. Trying a new café or park space while writing a paper knocks out two goals at once, and makes me feel less like I’m missing out.
And finally, I try to put it in perspective. Being here means a lot of tradeoffs across the board. Just like in elementary school, I have to do my homework before I can go play with the other kids. But even if I’m stuck inside writing a paper, I’m doing it in Denmark. And really, it might not get cooler than that.
Photo: at http://www.gossipavenueblog.com/2010/10/free-help-for-k12-college-students.html
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