Finding a School/Life Balance When Studying Abroad
Mikayla, Spring 2022, Rome
April 12, 2023

Studying abroad is an incredible experience that gives you opportunities to travel and interact with new cultures, but it is important to remember that you are still in school, and things like your grades can impact you upon returning home.

The classes I took while abroad at John Cabot in Rome had very similar course loads and structures to classes I have previously taken at my home school. For me, this looked like a few projects or assignments throughout the semester, but a majority of the weight was on exams. This can make it hard to budget your time, and you may feel like you can put academics on the back burner and cram for exams the day before, but it’s important to remember that your grades are still important and will be counted towards your degree. Finding a balance between your academics and social life is the key to making the most of your time abroad. Because the courses closely mirror the structure of courses at my home school, I was able to study the same way I would back at home, but I made a few adjustments to make the most of my time in Rome. Here are a few of the ways I was able to find a good School-Life balance while I was abroad that I think everyone should implement:

1) Find a local coffee shop to do your work!

While abroad, I took a course in Finance, and as math has never been my strong suit, I went to the cafe three days a week to study. I found that working from a coffee shop rather than the desk in my apartment allowed me to feel connected with the local community and culture, but still allowed me to get my work done. I also had a few projects in various classes throughout the semester, and local cafes are great places to get group work done and get to know your classmates.

My Recommendation: Cafe Settimiano, next to the JCU Guarini Campus (Rome)

My friend Maria and I getting coffee at Cafe Settimiano 

2) Pre-Download Lectures and Readings to Take With You

One of the best ways I was able to maximize my time abroad, specifically on weekends when I was traveling, was by downloading my lecture notes or readings and getting them done on the plane. Travel times for me were usually between 1 and 3 hours, so I would utilize my time by studying for exams or prepping for my lectures. For my Entrepreneurship class, we were expected to have brushed up on material before the lesson, so times, while I was traveling, were the perfect opportunity to read through notes for the next class, study flashcards, or work on projects that didn’t require an internet connection.

On weekends you are not traveling, or even during the week, I liked to pre-download my notes and walk to the local park. I loved being surrounded by locals and it was a great opportunity to see outside of the main parts of Rome. If you don’t need an internet connection from a cafe, this is a great alternative that gets you outside!

My Park Recommendations: Villa Sciarra or Villa Doria Pamphili

Villa Doria Pamphili in the spring is a great place to read or get some work done

3) Get to know the local students!

In a few of my classes, like marketing and entrepreneurship, we had semester projects that were done in groups. This is not only a great opportunity to connect with people outside of your program, but it can also be a great way to connect with the local culture while focusing on your academics. Having a group of friends outside of other study-abroad students can give you a different perspective on your time abroad and how and where you spend it. It can also be a great way to get recommendations for travel off the beaten path.

For me, the key was getting a little work done each day, so it doesn’t stack up, but doing so in a way that I was able to connect and explore Rome. I tried to study and work similar to what I had done at my home school, so I could stick to what I knew worked, but I also tried to implement some aspects that were unique to my experience abroad that I knew I would not have back here in Tennessee.

Villa Sciarra is also great for working, reading, people watching!

Written by: Mikayla, Spring 2022 Rome student and SAI Ambassador, from University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

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