As a student your time is precious. You have lectures, practicals, homework, maybe a part time job, and you want to see your friends and to excel in your hobbies — on top of all this, as an international student you have a new exciting city and country to explore. And of course you will want to make the most of your time abroad! It can all become overwhelming, however, and so being able to balance your studies and social life becomes an essential skill during your studies abroad.
If you are finding it hard to focus on your studies or you find yourself neglecting your social life and hobbies, keep reading. Here we share a few steps towards finding that balance so you can maintain good grades despite exploring more than just the university’s lecture halls.
The bottom line is to learn proper time management and use your time efficiently. It sounds painfully obvious, but it is also easier said than done! Get organised right from the beginning of the new semester and learn what to prioritise. Start with writing down all your deadlines, exams, and other big dates, and continue by planning your week ahead. Be sure to make time for socializing, hobbies, and breaks in-between studying. You will see that with your study time organized it is so much easier to make time for everything else, too, and you won’t have to feel guilty about neglecting your studies.
Study efficiently — don’t forget to take breaks!
To make the most of the time you have reserved for studying, make weekly study plans to know when you are studying which subject and for how long. To avoid that dreadful feeling you get when there is tons of new material to learn and not enough time before the exam, start revising early. Even better, try to keep up with the course materials right from the start — it ensures both more efficient learning and less work during your exams. Or do you really want to have those all-nighters right before your exams?
If you find your concentration wavering, consider making changes to your study environment or study techniques. For example, if you have hard time focusing on the textbooks at home consider studying at the library where there are less distractions. If you feel like you are not really internalising what you are reading, try different study methods like taking notes and making mind maps — anything that you might find helpful.
Research proves that taking short breaks during a longer task improves your focus on the task. So be sure to take short breaks every now and then for more effective studying!
Enjoy your free time to stay motivated
As for your social life, make time for your friends and other social activities every day. Above we mentioned time management as the source of balance: scheduling does not go only for studying, but also for your free time. Being a student is like a full time job for many, and so during your week you might want to prioritise your time with the textbooks and projects. But be sure to leave your study lair for fresh air and meet a friend for a coffee, keep up with your interests, and exercise. This is all about balance after all, and spending all your hours with your nose in the books will not be good for your social life nor your motivation in the long run.
Dedicate one day a week or the whole weekend for things other than textbooks. With good time management this comes naturally: if you keep up with your studies during the week you should be able to have a day or two to clear your head and recharge your batteries at the end of the week. Unwind in a party or arrange a movie night with your friends, whatever relaxes you the best. Taking care of you body, mind, and relationships is essential for your well-being, so spend this day wisely and spare no thought to your textbooks — you have earned it.
Boost your social life: get involved!
If you are feeling like your social life needs a boost get more involved by joining groups: make a study group with your classmates, meet new people through Campus Life activities, or do sports in a group at the university. This is easy especially in the beginning of a new academic year when everybody is still looking for their crowd and many activities are arranged both by the University and various student organizations in the city. Dedicate time for social activities that can also teach you something — start a language class to improve your Spanish, take part in language exchange events, or join one of the Campus Life clubs to make like-minded friends.
As an international student you will want to know how exploring the city and the country, the whole international experience, enters this equation. It comes again back to time management, as by making a plan and sticking to it you will also be able to schedule traveling into your plans. Study harder one week and treat yourself to a weekend trip the next: plan one with your friends, or participate in pre-organized trips through student organizations.
Take advantage of the various student events organized by the University and different student organizations: city tours and trips outside the city, language exchanges on weekdays, parties on weekends, and so on. As an international student you will be in a privileged position to meet a lot of other international students so it is easy to be social. Just make yourself available and say yes.
Once more — by learning to manage your time and doing your tasks efficiently you will be to find balance between your studies and social life. And, be sure to include both studying and socializing in your weekly plans, or you will find yourself in trouble once the exams come or exhaustion takes over!
However, if you find it hard to achieve all by yourself, you can always turn to the University Guidance Service (SOUAD) for guidance.