In the first week or so of your time abroad, it may seem as though the world has opened unlimited opportunities. However, once you fall into a semi-normal routine and fall in love with your new home, your time will undoubtedly begin marching into an invisible black hole, never to return (true story, not joking).
I know, I know, you are having the adventure of your life! You need to stay flexible to last-minute invitations and off-the-cuff adventures. Still, if you don’t schedule your time, you’ll be on the plane home before you blink twice, wondering how you got through the entire study abroad without ever visiting the castle five minutes from your house or trying that weird food you saw in every shop?
If you were just traveling, you’d have a little more wiggle room to be flexible all the time. However, the glory of studying abroad is that you get to LIVE in a new place. If you don’t ever have a semi-normal routine, it will never feel like a home. If you just let life come at you, you will very soon find yourself swimming unsatisfied in school projects and half-baked friendships.
Okay, let’s just say you are. Now, how do you go about scheduling the ‘adventure-of-a-lifetime’?
For me, it came down to creating a list of priorities and making sure I balanced my time according to my most important priorities.
Time to Study
- School assignments
- Relationship with professors and academics
This seems stupidly obvious, but guys, it is easier than you think to get overwhelmed with life itself and all the changes and kinda-sorta forget that you are here to learn something and earn some college credit. Don’t let your school assignments fall by the wayside til the last minute. Do you know what that leads to? That leads to stressing and cramming on assignments at the end of the year when you finally actually have friends that you could be doing cool stuff with.
Time to Explore
- Exploring your city
- Exploring local attractions
- Weekend trips
Don’t just live in a new place, explore every inch of it. It helps a lot if you research before you go. Make a bucket list of the coolest attractions in your city and the best day trips nearby. Use your bucket list to schedule out your weekend and school holidays.
Time to Make Friends
- Social events
- Building relationships
Don’t forget, building lasting relationships take time. What does that look like? It might mean offering to cook one of your favorite American dishes. Seriously folks, who could turn down a chance to try pumpkin pie, root beer floats, or some other famous speciality from your home region? Also, politely ask for help in assimilating to your friend’s culture. Be open to discussing things with coursemates and acquaintances. Meet up before or after class to share a coffee and a language lesson. Give yourself time to hang out with friends, focusing on building a few deep relationships rather than trying to meet every single person in your course.
Time to Stay Connected
- Social media
- Letter writing/pen pals
- Staying connected to friends and family
You don’t need to totally abandon your friends and family back at home, but schedule your time on FaceTime and social media so that it doesn’t get out of hand. You are here to have new experiences and meet new people. While your family will really appreciate you staying connected to them, don’t bring your whole life with you across the ocean… trust me, trying to balance two lives at once is gonna leave you depressed, lonely, and exhausted.
Time to Stay Healthy
- Exercise routine
- Adequate sleep
A lot of people gain a ton of weight while studying abroad. It is shockingly easy to let your health habits slide when you are busy taking in a new place. It will take time, effort, and planning, to stay on track.
Time to Reflect
- Drawing/Creative hobby
Be conscious about your experiences, don’t let life just slip by you. Journaling helped me to consider the changed that were going on around me and in me. Taking time to articulate the kind of cultural confusion and pains and joys I experienced helped me to gain more out of it all in the end.
To summarise, keep track of your goals (including schoolwork, friendships, and bucket list of attractions), relax, and spend time to reflect on what is going on.