Managing Academics During Study Abroad

When you think “study abroad,” what comes to mind? Traveling to exciting destinations? Indulging in local cuisine? Making friends with local and international students? Those are all critical parts of a well-rounded study abroad experience, but did you think about academics? That’s right — school.

Here at USAC, we pride ourselves on providing academically rigorous study abroad programs that are designed to help students advance in their academic and professional careers. Yes, the weekend travel is fun, but it’s called study abroad for a reason, so your studies should still be at the top of your priorities. Not sure how you can balance your coursework with everything else? Fortunately, we know what it takes to be a successful study abroad student. Keep reading for our best tips.

A professor takes his students outside for a lesson in environmental geology.
Photo was taken before COVID-19.

Form A Relationship With Your Professors

One of the best ways to set yourself up for academic success is to get to know your professors on a deeper level. Make a point in your first few weeks of class to stop by office hours or stay after class to chat with each of your professors one-on-one. Not only will this show them that you’re a dedicated student, but they’ll be able to understand your goals as a student and what you need to succeed.

You’ll also grow more comfortable with them, making it easier to reach out for help if you ever need it. Additionally, forming a bond with your professors can help make the class more engaging for you, as you’re more likely to listen to and absorb the lessons of somebody you actually know.

Students gather around a computer during a co-working session.
Photo was taken before COVID-19.

Use A Planner To Track Assignments

The first thing you probably did when you enrolled in your program was map out all of the places you want to visit, right? Well, it’s important to make sure you manage your time wisely so that your schoolwork fits into that bucket list. Use a planner (digital or pen to paper — whichever you prefer) to keep track of all your assignments for the semester. Write down every class period, test, project, and homework assignment, and even block out designated study times for each class throughout the week to make sure you have time to get it all done.

Also, plan your travel wisely. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time (at least 24-hours) between that train ride and your first class on Monday. Trust us, there’s nothing worse than scrambling to write your paper in an airport on your layover the same morning it’s due.

Students study at a local cafe. Photo was taken before COVID-19.

Know Your Preferred Study Methods

One very important aspect of being a successful student is understanding how you best learn and what study methods work best for you. Do you work best memorizing from flashcards? Or is listening to a recording of your lecture easier for you to process? This might require some trial and error, but find what works best for you and stick to it. It helps if you can find students in your class who like to study the same way you do. Ask around and form study groups with this in mind.

Photo was taken before COVID-19.

Create A Productive Study Environment

Where you study is just as important as how you study, so take some time to create an environment free of distractions to study. Depending on your housing abroad, you might have to get a bit creative, but creating a solid study space is worth it. Just like at home, you want your space to be free from distractions (sorry, roommates) and somewhere you can stay put for a couple of hours (hello, free Wi-Fi!). Consider practicality, as well. As magical as it sounds to write your papers in a beachside cafe overlooking the water, it might be a more distracting location than productive.

Students explore natural wildlife during a lesson in Costa Rica.
Photo was taken before COVID-19.

Enhance Your Education Outside Of The Classroom

One of the best ways to supplement your classroom education is by applying what you’ve learned in the real world. You’ll be more likely to retain the information if you use it outside the classroom, and the experiences will be unforgettable. USAC offers quite a few ways to apply your lessons outside the classroom:

  • Practice your language through language buddies and out in the community.
  • Participate in an internship (in-person or virtually) in your field of choice.
  • See your lessons come to life on field trips, optional tours, and field studies.
Ready to internationalize your education? Explore study abroad programs in more than 25 countries with USAC. Visit our website to get started.