Colin’s Semester at JCU: Balancing Travel and Academics

Whether you’ve studied abroad previously or this is your very first time in a foreign country, I think most students can agree that travel is a huge component of the study abroad experience. Travel could mean a domestic trip to one of the hundreds of worthwhile destinations in Italy, or venturing to countries that you’ve been itching to explore your entire life—you’ll quickly discover there are incredible touristic opportunities in Europe available on any kind of budget. However, while traveling is a major advantage to studying abroad, it is crucial to recognize the importance of studying and to never lose sight of your academics.

We’re enrolled at John Cabot University as students, regardless of how far from home we are or how many interesting travel opportunities lie just around the corner. You absolutely do not want to fail a course abroad and be stuck later explaining that massive flaw on your transcript. That being said, it is entirely possible to excel in your academics while taking full advantage of the travel opportunities at your fingertips.

Firstly, it’s important to establish a general idea of how demanding your course load is going to be. You may find that courses are structured differently here than what you’re used to back home. For example, my courses at the University of Massachusetts in Boston typically have frequent assignments, with exams scattered throughout the entire semester and group work on a daily basis. Here, I have personally found my courses to be more reading-heavy with a smaller number of assignments—this also means that, grade-wise, these assignments are worth far more.

In classes like these, you absolutely need to be keeping up with those readings and taking quality notes in class. Otherwise, it can come back to haunt you toward the end of the semester. I personally suggest using Google Docs or a shared drive. Add some classmates to your document and you can all share or review the lecture and reading materials together. I’ve found this personally advantageous for those on-site courses offered by John Cabot.

Now for my biggest piece of advice that I can give: be sure to dedicate plenty of time to studying for those midterms and finals! I cannot stress this enough, and I can tell you for sure that I will not be traveling on the weekends before my big exams this semester. Why you may ask? Because during my semester in Ireland, I decided to travel instead of studying during the ‘Reading Week’ we were given at the end of the semester before our examination period. This led to unnecessary stress and cramming in order to pass crucial examinations that weighed heavily on my final grades. It was an irresponsible decision that, looking back, I would not have made.

Luckily enough, I took all my credits back to my home university. Furthermore, I can take this experience and apply it to this semester in Rome. I have the important dates for every course entered into a calendar, which I highly recommend you do as well so you’re not caught off-guard. In the days prior to these, the only traveling you’ll see from me is a quick commute on the 8 tram towards the Frohring Library.

Colin Barnes
Economics major
Study Abroad Fall 2019
University of Massachusetts in Boston



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