Whether it’s just for a semester or for the length of your undergraduate degree, deciding to study in Italy is the start of an important new chapter in your life. You’ll always remember Rome as the place where you made friends from all over the world, honed your academic talents, and developed a diverse skill set that opened many doors after graduation.
But university can be a huge leap from high school. You’ll have more independence, and with it more responsibility for your own learning. Plus, between course work, exciting campus events and field trips to historical sites, students in Rome have so much to take in! You’ll want to make sure you remember absolutely every educational tidbit that comes your way. While you’re soaking it all in, you might find that the way you studied in high school just doesn’t seem to cut it in this new, dynamic environment.
It’s normal to feel that an academic upgrade is in order when you transition to college – which is why we’ve put together these four tips to help you study more effectively, and ultimately retain more of what you learn.
Use Active Listening to Take Better Notes
Many students mistake note-taking as simply writing down everything the professor says, word-for-word, as fast as they can scribble. But education experts suggest that the best approach to recording what you hear is to start with active listening.
Active listening means not only passively attending your class or field trip, but actively engaging with the experience by asking questions, contributing to discussions, and getting to the heart of key ideas.
This process will help you identify and internalize important concepts, which you can later record in your notes. This way, what you write down will make perfect sense to you later because you’ve already thought things through and articulated key points in your OWN words.
Pro Tip: To be as active as possible in your classes, it’s best to review your last set of notes before your upcoming lecture—you’ll end up contributing more to the conversation, make important connections, and ultimately remember new content more thoroughly.
Study Smart: Time Your Study Sessions
If you notice yourself reading the same sentence over and over again during a study session, take a break! It’s a well-known fact that our ability to retain information diminishes around the 30—40 minute mark. That’s why most professors warn their students against last minute cramming, which generally results in only partial comprehension and retention.
When you study abroad in Rome, there are so many ways to take a rejuvenating study break – every surrounding seems inspirational. Instead of staying cooped up indoors, students might study in a park like the Orto Botanico, just a few minutes from JCU, where they can get up and take a relaxing stroll every hour. You could also sit at one of the dozens of piazzas around Rome, where you can easily spend your break time people-watching or scooting off to a nearby café for an espresso or caffé americano.
Practice Teaching Yourself (and Others!)
Did you know that teaching can also be a great way to learn? Instead of focusing on memorization, try studying with the intent of teaching others. This method works best if you actually have an audience, like a friend or classmate who is also attending university in Italy. If you’re on your own, see if you can explain key ideas out loud, using your own words instead of repeating from your textbook or a class Powerpoint.
If you can break down important concepts, define important key terms, and give examples to illustrate your meaning – you are on the right track! This method is a sure-fire way to boost retention by really entrenching the material in your long-term memory.
Ask Questions and Research the Answers
It’s tempting to wield the almighty highlighter when settling down for a study session, but it’s time we took a good hard look at its usefulness. Highlighting only singles out individual facts and words, and can hamper a student’s ability to make thematic connections between ideas. Instead of highlighting items, make a list of terms to define and questions to answer. The process of researching and developing answers in your own words really helps boost understanding and retention.
This tip, like the others we mention here is all about customizing your study strategy. We all learn differently and remember differently. By formulating concepts in your own words and in your own time, you will find the very best route to retaining, and getting the most out of, new learning!
Which of these tips would you try when you study abroad in Italy?