This blog post is courtesy of Gianessa Refermat, a Business Management and Marketing major who went on the University of Manchester – Alliance Manchester Business School program. This Study Abroad alumna is also currently a Recruiter in the Study Abroad Office!
I am going to explain how I, a business student taking five upper division business courses, traveled to 13 countries while completing my coursework. I studied abroad on an Exchange program in Manchester, England for four months.
Though it wasn’t easy, it was worth it. Wherever you are planning on going, take a look at a few of the things that I did and ask yourself if you will want to do the same. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on all the places and cities you can explore, but you don’t want to fail either. Here are some tips on traveling to other countries during your study abroad program:
Configure your classes to best suit your travelling
Set yourself up for travelling success. To the best of your ability, try to pick courses that run Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday. This way you have three day weekends, which is how I traveled to a different country/city each week without missing class. For those of you studying abroad in another country for several months, trust me, you want to plan this out.
Schedule trips in advance
I had every other Wednesday off while I went abroad so I took advantage of it and often took a train to a different city near Manchester. Though I wasn’t able to do it once school got busy, I was able to go to Liverpool, Leeds, and Chester. For weekend trips, plan them in advance (at least a week or two) so that the days leading up to it, you have time to get the bulk of your homework done.
Get to know the coursework and education system of the university and country you are studying in
At my university, we had very few assignments. But at the end of 4 months, I had to turn in several 12 page papers. This may be different for many of you if you have tests and other coursework. The key is to know the system. I may not have had many assignments that I had to turn in, but I was supposed to be reading articles and chapters in various books so that I had a lot of material to write my essays on. Find out early on what your teachers expect of you so that you know how to organize your time.
Keep yourself in check by using a planner or calendar on your phone. The goal is to know exactly what you have to get done and what you can push off. Otherwise, you’ll see a whole bunch of things to do and end up not doing any of it. I would make a list of everything I had to do and then I would prioritize. While travelling, you’d be surprised how much you can get done when you pick specific tasks. Make a plan so that when you have free time, you get it done.
Set your own deadlines
I cannot emphasize this enough. Four of the five essays I had to write were due in January after Christmas break. This means that if you didn’t get the work done gradually, you were forced to write the majority at the end. And we all know this doesn’t make for a good essay or assignment. Depending on the location and university you are studying at, the assignments will vary. The universities in England take a more hands-off approach for third-year students, so I basically had lecture throughout the week, required reading, and several essays due at the end. I recommend that once you get your assignments, you split them up into parts that are more manageable.
Utilize travel time and any other downtime
While abroad, you’ll be on planes, trains, taxis, and boats. You’d be surprised how much time you spend on any of these modes of travel. Some cities have busy night life or you may catch yourself on a holiday (that you didn’t know about) where nothing is open so there may not be much to do. Utilize this time and have materials with you. To best use this time, try to either carry all your materials with you or go mobile.
Go mobile (as much as possible)
This is one of the best ways to actually get work done. Many times, I had a spare moment and was able to read an article or send an email on my phone. It is quite easy to do this either by emailing links and articles to yourself or getting an app to access your University login. You can also purchase many books as eBooks and access them on your phone. If all else fails, bringing a small notebook and pencil can force you to brainstorm for an essay or an assignment. Countless times I found myself writing out the major parts of my argument or research in my notebook and writing questions down to ask my teacher later.
Find a travel friend from class
Making friends in your classes will be a great way to better understand your assignments, double check them, get help, and find a travel buddy. It was hard for me to first grasp the grading system in England and the structure and expectations of academic writing, but I was able to reach out to some other students as well as my teachers.
Make time and just get it done
When it comes down to it, just get it done by the deadline. Luckily, all my essays were mostly done at the end of my travels so I didn’t have to actually complete and submit them while I was travelling. But, I travelled with my friend from New Zealand who is studying law and she had her essays due throughout the semester. So, she had to spend more time getting that done and making sure she met deadlines. Give yourself some time before the deadlines and throughout your time there to get the bulk of your coursework done.
And more than anything, enjoy where you are. I was able to complete my work while also travelling to several countries. If I can do it, so can you!