The time is now, the week is here: midterms. Exams abound, and essay assignments never seem to stop coming. As a third-year college student, this isn’t my first tango with that dreaded M-word. As someone who is studying abroad, though—yes, the study is a key factor here—it proves a bit more challenging.
My workload has been very manageable, but in the last few weeks my assignments have been piling up and led to some initial stress. It’s not a secret, but practicing time management is so, so important: especially while living in another country, where the world is your oyster and there is endless life pulling you in all directions. Like I said, it’s not a new development: but polishing up this habit will combat stress and leave ample time for immersion! I haven’t perfected my formula, but what I’ve been doing to date has worked swimmingly.
1. Make a list.
I haven’t gotten a formal planner while here, but I do have a notebook where, each week, I make a to-do list and organize it into sections of classwork, events to sign up for, papers to print, and miscellaneous things to take care of. It’s also best, for me, to write everything in order of importance. Paper due in four days? Starred at the top. Reading for class next week? Listed towards the bottom, below the upcoming assignments needing to be taken care of first. It’s a good visual of what needs to get done when. And sometimes I start from the bottom of the list and work my way up, to be able to cross a few minor tasks off. Really, a day for me can’t begin until I know what needs to be done when.
2. Find your most productive time
I’ve always had a get ‘er done work ethic (thanks, mom and dad!): I prefer morning and early afternoon classes, and try to get as much homework done as possible before dinner. There are times where I have to work into the night, but if I can avoid it, I will.
Weekends, for many studying abroad, are set aside for independent travelling through Ireland and the whole of Europe. With that in mind, two or three days of the week are generally written off as days where no homework will be done. As they should be: no sense in fretting over homework while enjoying a café in France, vrai?
That does mean, though, that there needs to be a more rigid schedule during the week. A time and place for the work to get done, and to get done well.
Champlain Abroad courses meet once a week, leaving ample time throughout the week for students to get that studying in. Of course, you have to work around class schedules: but figure out when you put out your best work, and run with that time frame. And be consistent with it, because soon enough it will become second nature to get up a little earlier to work, or to leave two evenings a week cleared.
3. …and place.
Champlain Dublin keeps the academic center open every day during the week; and with midterms, have looked into extending hours for students. We’ve got cozy couches and blankets in the basement where I like to curl up with my computer or packet for class. I have found, though, that I work best in my apartment, as my roommates usually have class in the afternoon and I have a few hours of quiet to get assignments done. But when it’s nice out—and we have been very lucky in warm, sunshine levels—sitting in St. Stephen’s Green Park near the academic center is relaxing, among clusters of couples and students also studying or chatting. It makes for a serene and productive environment.
Wherever it is, find that place. Where you can get into the do mindset. Make a solo date of it. Find a corner coffee shop, park, or even a room not being used in the academic center. Dublin is the epitome of sweet hideaways that offer solace from bustle: your place is out there. I know I still have some of mine to discover.
I like to leave my phone in another room, or turned over at the end of the table, where it can’t be easily reached from where I am. And it may not seem like it does much, but take your Facebook tab down. I am guilty of keeping it open in the background; but not seeing it there makes me all the less likely to even open it up. It isn’t in my conscious at that moment, and I’m much more focused.
4. Treat yo’self
In organizing a list, I like to read through and decide what can be done at that time; and I like to, if I can, plan out what my week will look like in terms of what I will do when. If it’s a few smaller assignments, I’ll do them and reward myself with something small, like a break to listen to a few songs (currently from the new musical, Hamilton) or to grab a snack.
When it’s a larger project, I’ve found that forcing myself to work for a few hours with a piece of cake or a run in my future makes me all the more driven to finish where I told myself I would. With something to look forward to—sometimes it’s just finishing that paragraph and then getting to go to sleep—things get done. And the reward is that much sweeter. Especially a reward from The Queen of Tarts, or a run through the yellowing leaves of the trees of Phoenix Park.
It’s very easy to get sidetracked; it’s normal while abroad. But carving out time every week to study will make stress almost nonexistent and the adventure wider.
Champlain Abroad Dublin, Fall 2015
Writing, Literature & Publishing Major at Emerson College
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