My biggest concern before leaving for my trip was if I’d be able to handle the work-life balance of studying abroad. Because I’m in Colombia to study Spanish, I knew the classes would be important, but the time outside of class would make or break my experience. In other words, the classroom grammar and conversation practice would be helpful to my language development, but it’d be the time spent with Colombian friends that would push me to grow the most.
Ultimately, I have been pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to manage schoolwork and a social life. Every day, we get up at 7:00 a.m. to eat breakfast and go to campus. Because we only have three classes each day, we use our free time on campus to complete our homework. This is typically a few pages of reading, studying, and preparing for short oral presentations. We then leave campus at 4:30 p.m. and spend time with friends at the mall, playing soccer, or going out to eat. In addition to this, we have one to two extracurricular group activities per week. This has included dance classes, cooking classes, museum visits, city tours, and weekend trips.
So, if you’re worried about the work-life balance as I was, I want to encourage you! First, the professors are very understanding of our busy schedule, and they encourage us to make friends and spend time with the Colombian students our age. For this reason, they’ve been flexible with assignments and exams as needed. Second, you’ll likely have a group of people in the exact same boat as you, and you can study with them. Third, as long as you plan ahead, you won’t have to worry about completing school work during weekend trips. And finally, don’t put so much pressure on yourself! Enjoy the journey knowing that grades are only a small part of the important life experiences you’re gaining from studying abroad!