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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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