Maximizing the Minutes of Studying Abroad

Apr 26, 2017 5:30:00 PM / by Julie Ritz

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Spring2017 - Profile.jpgColin Gilbert is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A marketing and supply chain management major at the University of Pittsburgh, he is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.

In this week's post, Colin talks about completing his academics in Sydney and why time management is especially important abroad.


I chuckled to myself and pondered over an appropriate response to my professor as he asked, “Did you spend your entire Easter Monday finishing up that final paper?” because I hadn’t. In fact, I was waking up in Melbourne on Easter Monday, enjoying a delicious breakfast and hopping a plane back to Sydney, where I spent the afternoon around wandering around Darling Harbour and dining waterside for one of the last times.

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“Not the whole day!” I replied cheekily, to which I received a face of relief and small banter about the previous weekends’ activities. No, I hadn’t spent all of Easter Monday finishing up my final. In fact, I hadn’t spent any of my Easter Monday finishing up my final paper because I didn’t even start it until 9pm the previous night! While I wish sharing this truthful information would impress my professor, I assumed it may not represent my work ethic in the best light as he went to grade the 3,000-word long research paper, so I decided to cut my losses and fib a bit.

To be honest, I impressed myself. Over the course of 15 hours, I outlined, researched, and composed a 12-page analysis of Aldi’s entrance into the Australian grocery industry. I wouldn’t deem it the best paper I’ve ever written, however, it closely followed rubric specifications and I felt I had a fair grasp on the industry based on my internship with Marley Spoon. I haven’t received a grade back, but I’m not sharing this story to woo you with an A on my procrastination skills. I share this story so anyone studying abroad—or anyone in general, but especially those overseas—would learn from my mistake of putting things off until the bitter end.

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I received rubrics for all of my courses during Week 1, laying out the various quizzes, assignments, and final projects. With 13 weeks ahead, my priorities were set on scheduling trips, making friends, and scouting out the best sights around Sydney. All was well. I squeezed in readings during time between classes. I participated in class discussions. I was doing well on quizzes. Juggling classes, 20 internship hours, and a social life wasn’t nearly as hard as I had imagined!

One of my professors mentioned during the first few weeks how from arrival to break week, the program moves at a normal, relaxing pace. After returning from a week of traveling, he warned, the last six weeks would fly by in the blink of an eye. Let me tell you, Al—you were right.

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Of course, I wasn’t going to start my final papers and projects during Week 8 or even Week 9; we had just barely covered half of the course material! What I didn’t account for, however, was how quickly Week 11 turned into Week 12, and Week 12 turned into Week 13. Truthfully, I knew I wasn’t going to even think about the papers until a week before their due dates, but I think starting a final research paper, accounting for 40% of the final grade, the night before its due date is the worst idea I’ve had of my entire time in Sydney.

Allow me to provide some realistic advice regarding time management abroad: you’re going to need it. Make a list of your “must do” experiences and put those on a calendar as soon as you receive a syllabus to ensure you aren’t interfering with any major assignments. Then, compile a separate list of things you’d like to check out. I’s handy to refer to that for ideas of what to do whenever you find yourself with a free moment. Lastly, put due dates for major papers and projects in your calendar, and put in the dates you’d realistically like to start them in your calendar, too! This way, you’ll recognize when it’s time to start planning extra bits of time to work rather than realizing it’s due in two days and you haven’t even thought about it.

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In my CAPA profile, you’ll note one of my personal goals is to be more spontaneous and plan fewer things. While this sounds like just the type of adventure many students—myself included—seek during the extended break from university, it’s simply not realistic to ensure the best study abroad experience. For each of the 95 days I’ve spent abroad, there are 95 more experiences I wish I could’ve fit into each day. With a bit of planning and time management it’s possible to accomplish everything on your bucket list without having to write your final paper in 15 hours! Fourteen weeks seems like a vast amount of time, but Al was right. It truly does fly and you’ll be left with items you wish you had done, because I know I do.

I suppose that just means a future trip to Sydney is in order—what a burden!


Thanks Colin!

Colin's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned!

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Topics: Sydney, Australia, Academics Abroad