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By jdippel529

It’s no secret that while studying abroad, your course load is generally easier. The more relaxed academic setting during study abroad is great because it gives students more time to focus on experiencing the culture of their host country, or to travel to other places. The down side to this no-stress atmosphere is that when midterms or finals week rolls around, we don’t remember how to cope. Even though most of us are juniors in college, being abroad leads you to suddenly forgot how to handle a couple of exams and papers that are all due during the same week. So, here are 3 extremely useful tips that I am sure will help those trying to cope with studying for midterms or finals abroad:

Find a place to study. This may seem like an obvious tip, but remember that most students who are studying abroad don’t live on campus, where finding a quiet place to student is much easier. Before midterms week, I thought that studying at home would the answer. But, the weekend before midterms my host mom had all of her childhood friends over, and I’m sure you can imagine how loud that got. Moral of the story is, find a quiet place to study beforehand. Studying abroad isn’t like at GW where you can always study in your own place, or set up camp in Gelman. Look up any public libraries that may be around, or cool cafes that offer free Wi-Fi. Just make sure you have a place to focus before the last minute; I learned this the hard way.

Keep in contact with your professors. This is especially easy for students studying abroad through a GW program. Since the class sizes are so small, it is easy to develop a close relationship with any one of your professors. At GW, however, lectures tend to scare students away from asking too many questions or going to their professor for help. But, during midterms week, my classmates and I asked any and every question we could about what topics to focus on while studying. What we found was that all of our professors genuinely wanted us to do well, and gave us a tremendous amount of helpful tips. Study abroad allows students to develop a unique and close relationship with their professors that we should all take advantage of when midterms and finals roll around.

Plan accordingly. As I’ve said in my other blogs, it feels like there aren’t nearly enough weekends to travel while studying abroad. As a result, students may make the mistake of booking a trip the weekend before midterms, or even during them. This is why I strongly suggest having all of your syllabi spread out before you whenever you go to plan a trip. I almost planned a trip to London the weekend before midterms, but thankfully thought to check my school calendar beforehand!

By Dominique Bonessi

Amman may not be a New York or a DC with plenty of areas to spread out and study in the sun or walk around, but there the one thing they do have are awesome cafes for studying.

Every weekend I have made it my job to find the best of these cafes by word of mouth, the internet, or just walking around popular areas in Amman.  Here are my top three favorite study places in Amman:

  1. Turtle Green Café: Rainbow Street near 1st Circle.  If you’re missing home and need a place that offers reasonably priced beverages and food Turtle Green is the perfect vibe for you.  This tiny two floor coffee shop is just the surface of the hipster culture in Amman.  The beverages range from Jordanian classics like lemon-mint juice to lattes to green tea shakes.  The salads are also made with fresh ingredients and zesty dressings.  For a study space the café has everything, couches and desks for comfort, free wifi, and the perfect calming tunes of study music.  And if that wasn’t enough there are also really turtles swimming in a tank next to the window.
  2. Beanoz: Across the street from the North Gate of the University of Jordan.  This café has become a hang out spot for my friends and I in between class periods.  The study and relaxation mood changes on any given day along with the music varying with everything from rap to old school Beatles music.  There are very few food options but their omelets, sandwiches, and ice teas are the perfect lunch that is a little more expensive than a regular lunch option, but good for once a week. The barista is also very friendly with everyone and always asks if we need anything.  Finally there is always wifi and chess to play for our entertainment.
  3. Café Paris: Paris Circle Downtown. This isn’t as much of a study place as it is good for a study break.  Tuesday nights are a popular night around 9pm to 12am for drinks, good dance music, and a fun time with friends.  If you couldn’t guess from the title the café is very popular for Jordan hipsters and study abroad college students.  The music varies from hardcore rap to 80s Michael Jackson music, but always a fun time.  The once issue may be the immense about of smoking there is in a given night leaves your clothes smelling nasty, but if you can see past the smoke—no pun intended—you can see this swanky café/lounge offers the best of Jordanian youth culture.

By maxikaplan

Today is the day. I have about two months left at LSE until my finals begin, but I’m beginning to study for them today due to the sheer amount of material tested. Luckily, my grades do not carry over towards my GPA directly, but I am studying hard nonetheless because equivalent grades will be displayed on my transcript. This isn’t exactly the beginning of the end for me, however, because there is only so much time that one can spend studying—eventually you need a break, and I’m hoping to take full advantage of that time. Two months is a long time to do anything, let alone study, but I suppose what I should really be talking about here is my recent trip to Switzerland.

Unfortunately, my little four-day vacation cut quite deeply into my wallet—not a surprise in a country where the minimum wage is the equivalent to 25 US dollars—but to me every penny was worth it. The contrast between Switzerland and Croatia, where I had been the week before, was immediate from the moment I walked into the airport in Zurich. Everything was pristine and every train was on time. You can imagine my excitement over their efficient public transportation considering we got stuck twice in Croatia while we were traveling because of poor bus scheduling. We were to spend two and a half days in Zurich and a couple final days in Lucerne, about an hour train ride away. Zurich was fantastic, but the beauty in Lucerne is unlike any other country I have seen thus far. We rented boats to take out onto the lake, and the weather was so incredible that we took a second boat out the very next day. With the Swiss Alps in the background and not a cloud in the sky, there wasn’t much you couldn’t love. At night, my friend from GW had invited my friends and I to dinner at her family’s apartment in Lucerne, which was placed beautifully over the city. It was maybe one of the best views that I have seen in my past few months of traveling—it compares with the top of the Eiffel tower—and these people lived there! I was instantly jealous, but it was inspiring in a sense. And just like that, all my traveling for this year came to a close. It was incredibly sad but also incredibly rewarding, a feeling I had never felt before.

At this point, I’m beginning to prepare myself mentally for the many weeks of studying that lay ahead of me. In a way I feel as though I haven’t actually studied in a very long time, since the work you do at LSE during the year can’t exactly be considered studying. You are really reading a lot of information and taking as many notes as possible so you can review them later. Now, I have to remember how to get back into the groove of studying, and although I’m not looking forward to it, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Two of my exams I’ll be taking in New York during my internship, so that should make for a very interesting experience. If you plan on coming to LSE it is important to know that their exams stretch all the way until June 20th. This is very important for students who will have internships over the summer, because it will most likely conflict. With all my traveling over and done with, it looks like my next few blogs will have to be about London and my life in this beautiful city—I cannot complain.

By nmbutler3

I've written a lot about the new experiences and opportunities I've had thus far, which are definitely the more exciting and interesting aspects of the study abroad experience. Admittedly though, they don’t include the majority of what I've actually been doing while abroad. When people think of studying abroad, they usually imagine tasty foods and exotic places, lots of travelling and unique experiences, but that doesn't really capture the “real” abroad experience. So, in honor of the first relaxed weekend I've had since arriving in Edinburgh, I figured I would write about the day-to-day life of studying abroad.

First thing’s first, as I've mentioned in other posts, studying abroad actually involves a lot of well, studying. So naturally, most of my day is occupied by studying and course work. I’m taking four upper-level classes here, all ecology or plant biology focused, which take up quite a bit of time. I usually start the day fairly early in the morning with classes, which are about a half hour walk from my dorm, and am occupied with lectures, labs and coursework until mid-afternoon or early evening. The nice thing about the studying culture here is that while it is common, and almost standard, to study during the day and between classes, studying during the evenings is not usually the norm. So, most afternoons are occupied by study sessions in the library or a nearby café, leaving the evenings generally study-free.  Instead, evenings are usually spent at meetings or outings with various student organizations. Personally, I have joined the Hill Walking Club, which is actually a hiking/mountaineering club, and the Beer and Cider Society for the semester. As an exchange student, societies (student organizations) are definitely the best way to meet people, and fortunately, the societies here are all very active and usually meet three to four times a week. Other weekday evening activities typically include the weekly flat mate dinner, a quick swing by the pub, a trip to the gym and other regular errands. As you can probably guess, it’s really not the most exciting of times, but nonetheless, it all manages to keep you busy and active throughout the week.

Luckily, the weekends tend to make up for the normalcy of the weeks and remind you that you are actually in a new country surrounded by a different culture and exciting opportunities. Even quiet or relaxed weekend can be a refreshing reminder of how exciting the experience you’re having is. Take for example this past weekend. I mentioned it was my first relaxed weekend, no trips or excursions out of the city or country, just a trip to the local Portobello beach and a few café study sessions. It all sounds fairly boring, but in addition to just giving myself a chance to recharge, it was a pleasant reminder of the fact that even the small, seemingly insignificant features around you, such as a short beach strip and pier, the local pub, or a small café, are part of a unique and exciting new culture and landscape that you can constantly be soaking in.


By nmbutler3

Blog 2

The first thoughts that come to mind when we think of spending a semester studying abroad usually run along the lines of traveling to new and exotic places, meeting new people and trying new things you’d never find back home in the States. Oddly enough though, we rarely include actually studying and taking classes on that list. While admittedly, studying for exams probably won’t be the most fun you’ll have while abroad, if you come at it with the approach, you might end up actually enjoying your time with those textbooks.

1. Café Crawl

If you’re in a city like Edinburgh, you’re likely to encounter quite a few cafes and coffee shops. So rather than limiting yourself to just pub crawls, try a few coffee crawls, (or park, bookstore or museum crawls, or wherever your studying preference may be). I’m personally a fan of coffee shops and cafes, so instead of holing myself up in my flat or the library this first week of classes, which yes, if you study in Edinburgh you will be expected to do actual work starting the first day of classes (and in some cases, before the first day), my flat mates and I spent our Friday morning and Sunday on café crawls, where we tried out the local cafes and coffee shops in search of the perfect studying spot. Not only did it give us a chance to explore the area and hit the books, but it also gave us a taste of the local cuisine and native favorites, like apricot scones and various teas and hot chocolates. It was quite a good learning experience in terms of local culture as well. For example, although not as rampant as the stereotypes would suggest, tea tends to be the preferred and usually less expensive drink of choice here. Also, coffee here typically follows the European example, rather than the American, so a warning for anyone who prefers just a plain cup of coffee in the morning: it’s hard to find. Since plain brewed coffee isn’t a common drink here, if you go into a café and ask for a cup of coffee, the person behind the counter will ask you what kind. If you’re going for plain black coffee, an Americano or a Long Black is usually the best option, but they both vary between shops in what they actually mean, so don’t be afraid to ask.

If you do happen to be studying in Edinburgh or just visiting and need a nice place to grab something to drink and read a book here are my personal recommendations:

1. Beanscene Coffee and Music House

2. Press Coffee

3. Black Medicine Coffee Co.

(All of which are located in the George Square campus.)

2. Take Advantage of Supplemental Learning Resources

This one is pretty simple, especially if you are in Edinburgh. Utilize the unique off-campus resources, like the free national museums like the National Museum or the National Gallery, historical sites like the Edinburgh Castle or the Underground, historical tours, or local and national nature reserves like the Hermitage of Braid. There are usually at least one or two sites that are relevant to whatever you’re studying and since much of the UK education system is based on self-guided study, it is a great way to immerse yourself into the material, as well as the local culture and history, without having to read a book for hours. Or at the very least, it gives you an excuse to do all the touristy-things without having to actually be a tourist.

3. Make Studying a Learning Experience

As I just mentioned, the UK education system is much different than that of the US. Courses are based on self-guided study, which means you have much less class and homework assignments, but are expected to do much more work on your own, including personal research and background reading. Now that can be rather intimidating, but it can also be a great way to explore other ways of teaching, explore your own areas of interest, and maybe even give you some useful preparation and perspective for your thesis or grad school.

4. Learn from a Local Perspective

In addition to experiencing a new teaching style, studying abroad is a great way to get a new perspective on a subject you already study or to learn about something unique to your location. For example, one of the courses I am taking this semester is Conservation Management. Granted, this doesn’t exactly seem like a typical local-perspective based course like Scottish History or Gaelic Culture, but as one of Europe’s leaders in conservation and the sustainability, Edinburgh, and Scotland more generally, offers a very different approach and perspective on conservation methods and techniques that I would never be able to learn or engage with back home. Classes like this are also a great way to learn about related historical, political or cultural aspects of your location without having to take a history or politics course. In my case, the conservation course gives insight to cultural values, historical events that have shaped the current state of affairs and political policies like the establishment of the Scottish National Nature Reserves System and Scotland’s role in international conservation efforts and planning. If you’re not interested in or not able to explore new perspectives, studying abroad is also a great time to take a completely random course unique to your location, like Medieval Scottish History or Scottish Pict Archaeology.

5. Don’t be Afraid of a Challenge

Last, but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself with difficult courses while abroad. For many programs you have the option of take first or second year courses in addition to the upper-level courses. Sure, introductory courses are easier and allow you more time for non-academic pursuits, but they also limit your opportunities. At the University of Edinburgh at least, many of the upper-level courses not only offer smaller, more engaging classes, which means you actually get to meet and get to know new people, but also more chances to take advantage of the unique opportunities in the city and university. For example, my Conservation Management course (a fourth-year course) brings in guest speakers every week from all over Scotland to teach us about policies, methods and current issues in conservation. Similarly, my Principles of Ecology course (a third-year course) involves an in-depth project at a local nature reserve and my Plant Evolution course (a fourth-year course) includes visits to several Scottish agricultural and botanical research sites, including the Royal Botanical Gardens. Of course, these upper-level classes obviously involve more work and can be rather challenging depending on your background, but it’s a fair trade-off for the immersion opportunities that you cannot get with a 200 person introductory lecture.