Timetable your classes to consecutive midweek days
Lots of foreign universities give you the option to choose from a variety of different timed classes. If you are lucky enough to be able to choose when you study spend a bit of time looking at when both your ‘original’ and ‘reserved’ modules on your study plan are timetabled. Try to join classes that are on consecutive days in the middle of the week, because this can give you Mondays, Fridays or both to combine with the weekend and travel for longer, even during the term.
Travel before University starts
Depending on where you are going, the semester could start a few weeks later than in the UK. Find out the exact date you are supposed to attend the induction day at your foreign university - it is usually at least a few days before your first lecture. This means that you could plan to arrive just before the orientation day, and still have time to settle in before you need to start studying. In the potentially significant amount of time between the end of your summer, or Christmas break back home, and your orientation you could do a few weeks of travelling before you start. You can also easily combine it with the preceding or following holiday.
For example universities in Australia start their year in March rather than September, so I went to New Zealand at the beginning of February and arrived in Sydney at the end of February in time for my induction day.
Travel in the breaks
This is pretty obvious but most semesters have a short break in the middle that you can use to take an extended period away from university. I have been able to take long weekend trips during the semester when I have not had upcoming assessments or a heavy workload, but if this is difficult for you make the most of your mid-term break or reading week to go further afield. Combined with weekends this can be up to ten days if organised properly.
Make the most of bank holidays
This is particularly relevant if you are studying abroad in the second semester and are away around Easter because there are lots of bank holiday surrounding Holy Week and May Day.
Know your deadlines
At the beginning of the semester sit down with all your learning guides or module handbooks and work out:
- When you have assessment deadlines.
- What percentage of your grade each assessment is - this can help you prioritise which assessments to spend more time on, which will need greater preparation and which simpler ones you can easily get out of the way.
- Whether or not if it involves group work - group work requires more preparation. You can’t just leave it until the last minute because other people are relying on you. You need to work out if going away in the middle of a semester might mean you miss group meetings, unfairly disadvantaging other people and effecting their workload and grade.
- Write down the deadlines on your calendar and plan trips around them. Trips are more enjoyable if you don’t have an assessment to do the night you arrive back, (although sometimes this is unavoidable!).
Be clever with your time. This goes for studying anywhere but your time abroad is limited and you want to spend as much time as you can exploring. When you’ve decided your going to do your university work, in the words of Shia LaBeouf, just do it.
- turn your phone off
- get all your reading together
- set timers to work straight for 30mins (or longer) and then take a break
Recap your lectures whilst travelling
Most university have online platforms where lecture recordings are posted after they are given. If you need to recap or catch up on a lecture download it on to your phone or laptop before travelling, or use data or public WiFi to access it whilst out and about. This means you can take notes and listen to your tutors whilst at airports, on the train or on the bus. Just don’t miss your stop!
Downloading reading for travelling
Rather than needing to drag large folders books and lots of paper articles around with you, download e-journals onto your phone and read them on the go.
I hope these tips help if you travel either as a study abroad student or during the holidays without having an impact on your grades!