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Exams: Love to Hate ‘Em?

by Hannah Ryans
Laptop and cappuccino coffee

While preparing to studying abroad, it’s easy to forget you are here to study. We’ve all been there. Visions of weekend trips to popular European destinations, afternoons perusing your favorite cafes, and evening walks by famous landmarks are an easy way to forget about the learning part of the experience — especially good ole exams.

As someone in the midst of finals season, I have been trying to find ways to make them feel different than the ones I dread at home. Here’s how!

Prepare in advance.

It is easy to daydream in class, so as the tried and true advice always says, make sure to pay attention, take detailed notes, and ask questions in class. Studying material is so much easier if you’ve already heard it before.

Be organized and do what works for you.

At home, I am the girl with the color-coded planner, perfectly organized desktop, and meticulously taken notes. These habits don’t (and shouldn’t!) magically disappear because I happen to be taking classes in Italy instead of North Carolina. So, I have made it a point to carve out time to focus on my studies, while still enjoying everything Florence has to offer.

Stay put in your host city leading up to exams.

My university strongly encouraged us to stick around Florence for the weekend between our two weeks of exams, and I am so glad they did. Travelling every weekend can really take a lot out of you, so having some time to rest and recharge is invaluable.

My friends and I decided to make the most of this weekend at home, and we are going to visit a museum or two over the weekend. This is a great study break because it’s an opportunity to stretch your legs, learn something new, and possibly, learn something connected to the very midterms you are studying for.

Get enough sleep.

Another important thing to remember is to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. As every college student knows, the temptation to put off studying until the last minute is all too real. This can end up hurting more than helping, as it is easy to sleep through your alarm, nap too long, or feel groggy and unfocused during an exam. Maintaining a solid 8 hours a night is never a bad idea!

Study in inspiring places.

As far as studying goes, I know it can be a difficult transition to do it in a setting different than you are used to on your home campus, but it is also a great opportunity to do it in a new environment. My home university, High Point University, promotes the idea that an “inspiring environment” is key to success. I took that to heart my freshman year, and it has been a fun adventure to find new places to study in Florence. Cafes, libraries, and other typical locations at home can be just as inspiring abroad! Definitely check the hours of operation though, as they typically are not as all-encompassing as those at home.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

Finally, it is also important to realize that exams abroad may be vastly different than what you are used to at home. Make sure to check with your professors, classmates, and study resources to make sure you are preparing in the proper manner. This is a great way to set yourself up for success when studying and guarantees your precious time abroad is utilized efficiently.

If all else fails, get yourself a gelato or pizza, and get to work!

This post was contributed by Hannah Ryans, who is spending her spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in Florence, Italy.

A "How to" Guide to Make the Most of Exams While Abroad | AIFS Study Abroad | AIFS in Florence, Italy

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