When I came to Italy I was so excited to explore Rome, the rest of Italy, and the entirety of Europe that I pretty much forgot I came here for school. I brought next to no school supplies and I was trying to plan excursions and adventures before my plane even landed. Needless to say, school was not at the forefront of my mind.
While it is an incredible experience of self-discovery and cultural awakening, study abroad is ultimately about studying. Some people may tell you that you can slack off and just take gen-eds or electives abroad. While that may be true for some, it is a waste of the opportunity. Rome is just as academic as it is cultural and deserves to be utilized to its fullest extent. I recommend you schedule your courses in a way that allows you to take advantage of the setting and resources provided by the location. Don’t shy away from a difficult course with tons of excursions or an intensive language course; those courses will likely teach you a lot of things out would have otherwise missed about the country and culture.
As an international business major, I definitely cannot breeze through this semester. My academic time here is just as important as my cultural time and it is a privilege to study international business in a city as diverse and diplomatic as Rome. This does mean that I have to spend a considerable amount of time studying and can’t always be out having fun. I’ve always found it difficult to balance academic responsibilities with fun and work—so here are some tips for being productive while studying abroad.
- Start Strong
If you go into school unprepared you will just become more and more discouraged about your academic success abroad. Choose to be excited about school. If you know you’re picky about school supplies, bring a couple of your favorite things from home. If you’re not, there are some awesome stationary stores in Rome where you can find everything from basic notebooks to leather moleskines. Look into the course descriptions for your classes and mentally prepare yourself for the material. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate preparation, but if you go into the experience excited about the academic aspect, you’re much more likely to enjoy it. If you go in thinking school is just going to get in the way of your time abroad, you are misunderstanding the purpose and opportunities that study abroad offers.
- Find Your Studious Place
It’s important to find yourself a place where you feel like you can be productive. For my friends and myself, it’s a café down the street. It’s called Lab 116 and it has the perfect balance of an academic and leisurely atmosphere where you can work alone or collaboratively. The library at Temple is a great place to really get a lot done, it’s quiet and tranquil and the library staff are extremely helpful. It may take some time to find your place, but the streets of Rome are lined with cafés big and small, noisy and quiet, fancy and simple. Whatever suits you, they have it somewhere.
- Plan and Balance
Italians are not a people who spend hours upon hours poring over their work. Of course, they work hard like the rest of us, but they do not devote their lives to work in the way that other cultures do. The Italian lifestyle places an emphasis on leisure and relationships. Italian business transactions involve lengthy conversations and elaborate relationships with clients because that is the mentality of the people; it’s not strictly business. Likewise, you should not spend every spare moment studying. The professors know that this is a significant time for you to explore and they want you to be able to enjoy your time here while also learning as much as possible. Attend your classes and be present, plan your days intentionally and leave time for fun. With a plan, you won’t have the chance to slack off and you’ll be more likely to take advantage of the fun parts of Rome too.
I hope these tips will help you manage your time abroad in a productive and fun way. Rome is colossal and amazing and it’s hard not to get lost in the extravagance of it all, but if you consciously try to make the most of your time you will be able to excel both academically and socially during your time here.