Nathan Overlock is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A professional writing and information design major at Cedarville University, he is studying abroad in Dublin this semester.
In this week's post, Nathan gives us 6 tips to help manage time effectively abroad, from academics to organization.
When most chances to travel overseas and explore new countries come in 1-2 week vacations, a full semester abroad can feel like all the time in the world. And it’s true: 4-months in a foreign country is an amazing amount of time to spend immersing yourself in a new culture and travelling around. Yet, looking back after 4 full months in Dublin, my time here is almost up, and every week felt as busy as it was exciting. Add on classes, studying, internship, meetings, city commutes, and campus events and suddenly find yourself with no more free time than you’d have during a normal semester at home. Even if the specific classes and internship are why you chose CAPA, they're probably not what brought you to Ireland. Don’t worry though; even with everything I mentioned above, and a part time job on the side, I still managed to travel across Ireland and Europe, explore the city, hang out, and even keep up with my netflix queue without falling behind. So, here are 5 tips I learned for getting to do everything I wanted to in Ireland while keeping up with classes and work.
1. Get organized
No matter where in the world you are, the basics for staying on top of tasks are the same. First, you need to know everything you need to do and when and where you need to be to do it. As basic as it sounds, I found myself making a list of all of my obligations the first few weeks in Ireland--orientations, classes, scholarship dinners, internship hours, first assignments--and keeping it on my desk where I could look at it every morning. Taking away the stress of remembering everything I need to do and everywhere I need be frees my mind so I can just enjoy my time, and focus totally on tasks as I’m doing them.
2. Use your resources
Hopefully, you’ve already learned the importance of keeping a planner, doing research, and leveraging the other resources you have available to make the most out of your time. CAPA has a lot of great extra resources for students in Ireland. Hayley, Susanna and Darren in the on-campus offices are always excited about talking to students, and ready to give advice on anything from registering for classes to how to answer the phone properly at your internship to where to get the best coffee within walking distance. Likewise, their weekly memos keep us up-to-date on everything we need to know about the program such as travelling, grades, and upcoming events, and fun things to do in the area like trying new restaurants or checking out local markets and festivals.
3. Do the hard things first
No matter how many times CAPA and Griffith staff told me that coursework in Ireland would be harder than what I was used to, I couldn’t help snickering. Each of my courses had exactly two pieces of work for the entire year: a mid-term assignment and a written final exam. I figured, all I’d have to do to get good grades is listen in class and remember enough to write down later. Likewise, even though my internship was my first true “office” experience, it felt totally laid back and flexible. My supervisors probably would have given me a full week to just settle in and get used to the workflow if I’d wanted. But taking the time study, write and get ahead early in the semester, and to make a big impression at your internship will save you from stress of worrying about these things later, and let you use the time you have now to get them done instead of dedicating full weekends to studying and catch up later.
4. Clear your head
You can’t do it all at once. While you may feel pressured enough to force yourself into a strict routine of lectures, study, eat, sleep as you’re getting used to the vigourous lecture schedule, taking regular breaks to unwind, socialize, and recharge can actually boost your productivity. Don’t just save all the fun for the weekend: take time each weekday to get off campus, check out new events like Comedy Crunch at the Stags Head or Call the Dancers at Whelan’s, or simply get outside and enjoy the fresh air along the coast and beaches and to check some of the things you want to see of your list. You’ll come back feeling refreshed without missing out on any of the things that made you choose Ireland in the first place.
5. Stay organized
No, this isn’t an accidental repeat: it’s easy enough to make plans at the beginning of the semester, look ahead at everything you want to do and the obligations alongside them, and sort out everything you need to do to get there. I had a long list of cities I wanted to visit, like Paris and Amsterdam, and things I wanted to learn like the Kerry Polka on my penny whistle. Then, I found myself flooded with other things to do in my own neighborhood, and different cities to see. Your plans will changes, and you’ll get involved with more things as the semester goes along, but if you let your careful organization slip away as the semester goes along, you’ll find yourself spending April and May, the best months to travel or just get outside in Ireland bogged down with work you could’ve been picking away at all semester.
6. Don’t stress
I know, it’s easier said than done. But that’s the point of working ahead, staying organized, and relying on people around you: not to overwhelm yourself with all the work of a new semester at a new school in a country you don’t understand yet, but to get it all out of your head so you can enjoy yourself. I know I’m Ireland to learn first and have fun second, but those two things don’t have to be exclusive. Some of the people I got to know best were in my classes and internship, once I got over the daze of having no idea what was going on and stopped thinking about what I’d need to do to get by. If I hadn’t let myself enjoy my obligations in Ireland as much as my free time, I would’ve ended up feeling like I’d wasted half my time here. So, prepare yourself for hard work and busy days, but don’t worry about getting through it all or stress over plans changing: let yourself be spontaneous, adapt, take things as they come, and have fun through it all. You’ll find yourself fitting right in and seeming a little more Irish because of it.
Nathan's journey continues every Friday so stay tuned.