13 days Until Departure- What’s Left to Do

I fondly remember the Global Reveal day back on February 17th, 2017. I had a good idea of which program I was going to be nominated for, but either of my selections, UOttawa or Lancaster, would have been satisfactory. Upon opening the envelope, a red leather baggage tag with the DU logo engraved on the front held my study abroad destiny, which ended up being UOttawa. I was elated and from that point on, I started to prepare for my departure.

University-of-Ottawa

From February 17th to today (August 20th, 2017), 184 days have come and gone. The amount of preparation so far has been immense, from registering for classes to finding on campus housing. Although the majority of the tough preparation is over, there are still things to do in these short 13 days.

Start organizing and packing: I created an “Ottawa box” in which I set aside various items I knew for sure I wanted to bring with me abroad. These were winter sweaters, coats, boots, school supplies, and other things along that line. Instead of scavenging through my winter clothes in the basement, keeping them in my box saves me a ton of time. I plan on bringing a carry-on suitcase and large suitcase with me, no more and no less than that. Would one suitcase be ideal? Yes. Is it practical? Nope. I had to buy some of the books for my classes ahead of time, which adds some weight to the case. I would like to avoid having to pay extra for a heavy suitcase, so I spread out my belongings between two cases. I am extremely lucky that my mother is coming with me to Ottawa to “drop me off” and visit the city, so she can help with some of the belongings too. I just need to organize my belongings in a way that is practical and “weight-conscious”. As of now, there is a heap of belongings in both cases. It will be packed eventually, but some stuff in my life right now is keeping my schedule a tad busy. I’ll talk about my packing and organizing more in a later post.

Creating Communication Plans: I am leaving my family, dog, best friends, and boyfriend behind in Colorado for four months. This makes my stomach turn a bit, since four months seems like a long time. However, in the grand scheme of things, four months isn’t the longest time away. That said, I am setting up communication plans with all my loved ones. My phone carrier, Verizon, isn’t changing my communication plan because I am still living on the North American continent, a definite perk for me. My friends and I have Skype, so we plan on communicating via that media as well. I’ll need to schedule time to talk with my family, friends, and boyfriend, whether it means waiting until the weekend or finding some downtime in between classes. We’ll make it work and I plan on being “present” at my home while I’m physically away.

Settling DU matters and plans before departure: I changed my English major and dropped one of my minors over the summer. These forms needed to be turned in before I left in September. I also sent in some course approvals request for my English classes that could count for major requirements. For me, doing this all ahead of time before you leave is easier than trying to deal with everything abroad.

Talking with the Roommates: I’m living in a four bedroom apartment on the UOttawa campus and had the pleasure of finding out who my roommates were just this past week. One is from England, the second from Germany, and the third from South Korea. All those people that told me Ottawa wasn’t an exotic study abroad location may be biting their tongue now. I have the opportunity to befriend and network with girls from Europe and Asia through cross-cultural connections and various global perspectives. How cool is that? All of us set up a group chat on Facebook for questions, comments, and just getting to know one another before we live together for four months.

Depart to Ottawa: Finally, we have to actually reach Ottawa. September 2nd is the golden day in which I’ll connect from Denver to Chicago, then Chicago to Ottawa. I can’t wait any longer for this day to come.

airplane

Next time I write, I will be in Ottawa, staying at the Swiss Hotel waiting to move in to my dorm. Until then. . . I’ll be packing, communicating, creating, and departing. 13 days! I am so excited!

Midterm Madness

One thing that everyone seems to forget while abroad is the fact that classes do exist, and that tests do exist. For me midterms just passed and everyone’s hair was absolutely on fire. We spent tons of time exploring and gaining the most out of our experiences… but everyone in my program also forgot that our classes are fairly difficult, and that we hadn’t quite caught up with the material by the time that the tests rolled around. There was a last minute cramming period the week before exams that none of us really saw coming. We all realized that our tests were going to be much harder than expected, and that on top of the difficulty levels they were all in quick succession and so we had no breaks in between to get more studying done.

With quarter system we are all used to tests being pretty close to each other, but we are also used to 4 classes and our expectations are manageable in terms of what is on the syllabus and what we expect on the study guide. But here we don’t know the teachers or their style, and also most colleges abroad are on semester system, which can also be a bit of a shock. More material on each test than we are used to, is basically what that means.

Not only do you need to learn to manage the tests in terms of spacing out studying, but you also need to learn the best ways to manage your stress. I don’t know if it is karma or some kind of murphy’s law, but some of the worst things happen when people are most stressed. For instance my suitemate got bed bugs by no fault of her own only two days before finals. Not only did she have to study, but she also had to fumigate her room, wash all of her clothes, bag everything that might have bugs, and find somewhere else to sleep. She was stressed and took it out on absolutely no one, but we all felt the stress and responded to it. Her room mates got angry at her/the world, and the rest of us in the suite tried to do damage control to little avail. Midterms and Finals are stressful times and you need to find a place where you can be alone and cope with your own stress without affecting anyone else. You miss home more, you miss your family and friends more, and you miss your usual routine for responding to stress.

My suggestions are these:

  1. Keep up with your studies as much as possible. Give yourself Thursday afternoons, or the few hours between classes to lock yourself away in a coffee shop to study. If you find a different coffee shop every time it is still exploring, and it helps you keep ahead of your studying so you don’t go completely under water when tests roll around.
    This is Mozaik, one of my favorite places to study in Budapest. It is in the Jewish Quarter and has a list of teas to die for. It is also a good place to “leave your mark,” since they recommend and urge you to draw on the walls with chalk. You cant see it in this image, but it is a total hoot. Very popular among travelers and Budapestens. (And free wifi! Sign me up!!) This is part of my study routine, since I love experimenting with new teas it is a good place to consistently travel to for the purpose of getting that reading done or finishing the other homework. etc.

    Mozaik can get a bit dark sometimes-- dreary weather and "mood lighting" aren't particularly conducive to reading light. But either way I happily work away in my nook.
    Mozaik can get a bit dark sometimes– dreary weather and “mood lighting” aren’t particularly conducive to reading light. But either way I happily work away in my nook.
  2. Give yourself a routine. If yoga helps you calm down, then do yoga during study breaks. If waking around in a park helps, then do that. Skype family, skype friends, do whatever it is that will help you calm down and re-center yourself.
  3. Don’t Panic. Let it go. Studies are important and you should still do your best, but if you end up with a B in the class then it isn’t that big of a deal. Calm down- just do the best you can and then don’t worry about it. I am not saying you should fail your classes, but it seems to me that you don’t have to keep yourself to your usual standards while abroad. You are in a new country, a new place with tons of things to do. If you have trouble balancing studies and exploration then just remember this: You are gaining multiple learning experiences. Even college at home has the duality of learning about yourself versus learning about your major. Yes, it is important to study math or science or business or what have you, but you went abroad to discover more than just that. Keep that in mind if you get a bad grade on a test, and move on. Do better next time, but don’t hold on to the past because it won’t help you in the future.

-Miranda Blank, DUSA Blogger