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How to Balance Work and Play During Your Study Abroad Program

May 15, 2017

While experiencing a new way of life during my time abroad, it has been easy to get swept up in the moment and forget that this is study abroad and not just an extended vacation. That is, until I remembered that I had opted out of making this a pass/fail semester.

It was hard for me to get into work mode in the beginning because the semester here starts so much later than I am used to. I was overwhelmed by the new scenery around me. I really just wanted to travel and immerse myself in the culture around me without having to worry about classes.

It took me a while to get into the groove of things, but I soon realized there are a few strategies that could help me find the balance I need. Here are four things that might be able to help you if you’re having a hard time balancing your extra-curricular activities and your courses.

1. Plan Ahead

Even if you’re not really good at planning, there’s someone in your friend group who is bound to be. Latch onto them, and anyone else who has good ideas, and figure out in detail what you want to do and when. It is okay if you stray from this plan at times but it’s good to at least have a solid framework.

2. Study in Different Places

I’m not so sure about other countries, but here in South Korea the cafe and ‘room’ culture is unreal. There are karaoke rooms, PC rooms, cat cafes, raccoon cafes, princess cafes and even archery cafes. The best thing about these cafes, you ask? They are everywhere, and most of them offer places to study as well as refreshments. It took me almost no time to learn there’s nothing more relaxing than reading vocabulary words with a green tea latte in one hand and an adorable cat in the other.

3. Study with Friends

Studying alone in your room can be stifling and disheartening. Do your best to get out and study with friends. Having the extra company to bounce ideas off of is a great way to stimulate the mind. Even if you don’t feel like walking to the nearest study cafe, you can always make your way to the campus library.

4. Reward Yourself

I am a procrastinator and I often find myself in lacking motivation to get the job done. Setting up a reward system and sticking to it always helps me balance work and play. It is important to write down or outline everything you need to get done as well as everything you want to do. Tell yourself in writing the only way you can do this fun thing is if you get this other not-so-fun thing out of the way.

For example:

  • Writing in my language journal every day for an entire week earns me enough points to redeem a long night out with my friends.
  • Finishing the research for my proposal equals a weekend of camping and hiking on Jeju Island.
  • Reading the assigned article and taking notes means visiting one of South Korea’s oldest open air markets.
  • Studying at least two hours a day for my exam earns me enough points to redeem a nice dinner at the Mexican restaurant in Hongdae that I’ve wanted to go to for weeks.

This way, not only can you can have the experience of a lifetime, but you can also get the grade while doing it.

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