Cultural Experience | Rome

How to Stay Organized Abroad

5 tips to stay organized and stress free while studying abroad.

One of the most exciting things about college is the opportunity to study abroad. While there’s no question that it will bring on a whole new set of amazing adventures, there is always plenty of stress related to college, let alone college in another country. Fortunately, there are things you can do to comfortably ease into a semester abroad and stay on top of everything while still getting the full experience.

1. Plan ahead. 

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This may seem like it goes without saying, but it can’t be said enough. As soon as you solidify where you’ll be going (and maybe even beforehand), start researching the city you’ll be living in and any trips you might be able to take from there. The last thing you want to do is come home and find out you missed an opportunity to do something cool because you didn’t know about it or found out about it too late to organize it. Research, research, research. Talk to friends and relatives who have been to the same country, search travel blogs, and read guides and local event news. Pick your favorites and break it down into lists of what you want to do most and what needs to be done to achieve it. If you have an idea of what is out there to see, you’ll be able to prioritize what you want to do, when you have time to do it, and how to pack for it.

2. Buy school supplies.

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Sometimes studying abroad feels like a long vacation, but it’s not. You’ll still need notebooks, pens, and (most importantly) a planner to stay on track. If you had a good routine for organizing your work at home, stick to it abroad. And if you only pick one school supply, pick the planner. You’ll need it to keep track of deadlines and trips and make sure none overlap! Depending on where you are abroad, you should be able to find a paper store in your city but make sure you double check this before you go. If you’re in a more rural area, you can always ship supplies from home to your destination to save room in your luggage.

3. Keep or create a routine.

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Just because you’re abroad doesn’t mean everything has to change! Once you’ve adjusted to the time zone, try to get the same amount of sleep, drink the same (or more) amount of water, eat breakfast and ease into the changes this new city will bring. This will make your transition exponentially easier. If you didn’t have a routine before, now is a great time to start. That being said, don’t hold yourself to such a tight regiment that you miss out on spontaneous adventures, because that’s really the best part of being abroad. But do take care of yourself and don’t get burned out in the first couple of weeks.

4. Find a good study spot.

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Whether it is a library, cafe, or rooftop overlooking the city, you need a quiet place to call your own. Although studying abroad is exponentially more fun than studying at home, it usually still requires some studying and having a good place to do that is key. Even if studying isn’t what you’re doing, there’s a good chance that, with everything going on, you’ll want some time to yourself now and then to relax and regroup. Do not count on your room to always be a quiet place. If it is, great, but it’s good to have backup (especially backup that serves a great cup of coffee).

5. Budget. 

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This goes along the lines of planning ahead, but being prepared financially is crucial. A lot of programs will give a rough estimate of what students spend but this is often a bare minimum for food and everyday costs. And what’s the point of going abroad if you’re not exploring and experiencing it beyond everyday life? Make sure you’ve brought enough to go on a couple excursions and really experience the city you’re in (and/or places you can get to from there). It’s okay not to do everything, of course, but you don’t want to feel like you’re missing out because you spent the majority of your money on one trip. Prioritize the things you really want to do and if you have money leftover you can treat yourself or throw in another excursion. And ALWAYS have a backup plan for money if something goes wrong. Invest in a wallet with RFID protection and a travel safe that can be attached to a bed post or closet. Thefts are real and common. Best rules of thumb? Don’t spend all your money in one place and don’t keep all your eggs in one basket.

How to Stay Organized Abroad

Margot Pollard

Northeastern University | 8 stories

Hey all! My name's Margot, I'm from a small town in western MA and I'm currently living in Boston. I am studying music industry at Northeastern University and was lucky enough to spend my first semester abroad in Greece. This was such an exciting start to my college life. I've been traveling since I was a kid and my love for it has only gotten stronger with time. Some of my other favorite adventures have been in London, Paris, Belgium, Moscow/St. Petersburg, Rome, Paphos, and Hamburg. My ultimate travel goal is to do an extended US cross country road trip, but for now I'm just saving pennies and dreaming up my next adventure!


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