Studying abroad can be one of the most amazing and adventurous experiences of your life. Once in your new home you feel like you only have so long to see, do, and experience as much as possible before your time runs out. We’ve been there and have learned (the hard way we assure you) that if you don’t take the study aspect of study abroad to heart your GPA’s will suffer the consequences (kind of a kill joy, I know). While you might be fine letting your grades slip, your academic advisors, scholarship committees and graduation requirements may not see your amazing experience as an excuse for a less than stellar study abroad transcripts. Here are some ways you can have a blast abroad without killing your academic standing:
Pick and choose when you miss class. If you’re going to miss class (and you are) make sure it’s for something really amazing like a long weekend watching soccer in France or spending your birthday riding an elephant in Thailand and not something totally cliché like a hangover. Also, if you know you’re going to be out of town talk to your professors ahead of time. Many of them understand that you’re a study abroad student and that, as such, you want to explore and reap benefits of cheap/subsidized transit. Often they’ll be willing to work with you or give your assignments early so your grade doesn’t suffer.
Take your assignments and exams seriously. They’re important, especially those final exams, you might even find them being worth 40% or more of your final grade.
Don’t feel like you can’t travel or have fun while doing your work. You should plan on taking your work/readings, and study aids with you for those unavoidable and epically long tram, bus or train rides. Better yet fill some of the time you find yourself waiting around in random airports, train or metro stations with studying or doing work. It’ll free up your time later and allow you to keep up. True story: a member of the indelible team once studied for finals in a casino in Macau, if she can do it, you can do it.
If you find yourself struggling to understand something don’t be too intimidated to ask for help. It’s a great way to chat up that cute local in your class, or win favor from an international professor, and get some after class tutoring or studying done.
Keep in contact with your advisor back home. Let them know if you’re struggling or having difficulties keeping up. They might be able to help or if all else fails help you come up with a plan of attack to minimize damage to your GPA.