It’s already week three of my studying abroad experience and the reality of being in school has finally hit – hit in the sense that I have been dealt with the hand of a dooming homework pile at what seems like the worst possible time. Currently, here I sit locked in my room, sipping on my third cup of evening coffee (phenomenal in Costa Rica – I recommend) as I dive into the abyss of all the assignments that gracefully fell on my lap the week before an excursion weekend trip that has eaten away virtually any time that would have otherwise ideally been great to finish the piling graces. I have led myself a bit in this predicament however, and now as I contemplate a forth serving of aromatic-caffeine indulgence, I thought it’d be a perfect time to reflect on all that I could do in advance to prepare and prevent this situation for future reference, now that I am more aware of my schedule for the coming weeks. As I foresee it, this will be the first, but not the last of my reflections on managing schoolwork and life while studying abroad as you will see near the end.
Backtracking a bit to the beginning of courses, I remember the first week of classes and the fresh feeling of being in a brand new environment. While still a bit nervous about figuring out and finally deciding on courses those first few days, feeling them out, the workload was still not intense at all, something I was very grateful for. I had the opportunity to explore and do things before and after school thanks to this free time from minimal assignments, something that added to the wonderful bliss of taking in the new surroundings. However, now that I (and all the other students) have started to truly settle in and become accustomed, the workload in classes is starting to reflect what we have all experienced back in our home institutions. To give you an idea, this past week I was reminded of the essays and presentations that are due in the coming days, all piled up near the beginning of the week following a busy weekend. I have a total of two essays, two presentations, and a few smaller assignments that I have to complete by ideally, tomorrow (Monday – today is Sunday), and the process of completing them after coming back from a long weekend is not very enjoyable. Fortunately, I did begin outlines and compiled resources in advance, which is currently making the essay writing experience a lot more tolerable than it otherwise would have been.
In reflection of this pile of work, the best advice I can give myself is to immediately space out work and begin chewing away at it in the early stages, managing it between enjoying exploring this new country, engaging with those around, and partaking in planned excursions. I do not regret going to the weekend field trip – they were and will be (when you’re abroad) incredible opportunities that you don’t want to miss out on – however I do wish I had given myself a bit more discipline during the week to finish some parts of assignments earlier on, something you should definitely remember and keep in mind for yourself. I am grateful for planning some things ahead however, which is something I will continue to more adamantly do for the forthcoming week days even during the lack of weekend planned activities; it’s just a good habit to get used to that will help you indulge and appreciate your free time a lot more.
If you do end up with the fortunate opportunity of studying abroad, I promise you will not be the only one struggling with grasping the reality of school the first few weeks. In fact, you’ll find that nearly all those around you will be undergoing the same experience of “this still doesn’t feel real” for those first few days. All in all, make sure to enjoy yourself but be realistic of how much you can complete throughout without leaving things to cram last minute (unless that’s how you work – props to you). Still, if you do end up procrastinating terribly, don’t beat yourself up about it at the immediate moment (it will waste more time), and instead take it in as a learning period for future reference.
Image 1: Turtle Graffiti near Universidad Veritas (certain wall art is encouraged in the city of San Jose)