The Importance of Time Management during Study Abroad: Balancing School, Social, Travel, and Health

Written by Elizabeth October 30, 2015

Manage your time wisely while abroad, and you'll be laughing on the weekends, too!

Twelve weeks may seem like a long time, but CIMBA packs a lot into the limited weeks we have here in Italy. From LIFE and KT training to “Pizza Making with a Professor” and career workshops for certain majors, there’s a lot to do during the school week beyond attending classes. Because of this, I’ve found that it’s very important to manage my time carefully so that I can accomplish everything that needs to be done, and get enough sleep to stay healthy, too!

From my experience, time management has been strongly correlated to my level of stress since arriving in Italy. During semesters at home, I’m used to being involved with student groups and having a part-time job that keeps me busy Monday through Friday, but then I always have the weekends to catch up on homework. Here, it’s the opposite sort of schedule: the weekdays are for going to class and studying, and the weekends are dedicated completely to traveling. When I use time between classes to study and do homework, I find that I’m less stressed in the evenings when people want to hang out or talk about travel plans.

However, life isn’t quite that simple… There’s a lot to do in addition to classes and traveling! Of course, it’s also been important to stay in touch with friends and family at home. I keep up with my sisters, roommates, and friends through Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc., and I like to talk to my parents over the phone. The way I’ve managed this is by making it a goal to call my mom and dad on Monday or Tuesday each week. I tell them about the previous weekend’s travels and talk about plans for the upcoming weekend. Then, I have the rest of the weeknights to use for packing and planning trips.

As I’ve mentioned in the previous paragraphs, another major part of life here is trip-planning. For the amount of time we spend talking about our travels, it almost seems like we should be earning credit for making weekend plans! Booking taxis, trains, planes, hostels, and tourist attractions is time-consuming and it’s often confusing when websites are in Italian or other languages. It’s also difficult to coordinate all of these details with the people that are going to be traveling with you. For me, I found that it worked well to plan most of my travels for the semester during the first few weeks of class. The school workload was a little bit lighter at that point in time, plus it’s saved me stress knowing that I have my weekends booked in advance. Again, time management has been helpful with this. By getting school taken care of during the day, my evenings are usually free for talking about trips.

Last, but definitely not least, is sleep. Sleep is probably the most important thing to stay healthy, but it often falls below top priority when I’m running out of hours in the day. When we’re traveling every weekend, it’s hard to find time to justify going to bed early or taking a morning to sleep in. I can say from experience, though, that last week I didn’t make as much of an effort to get good sleep and this week I’ve got a major head cold. (Side note: make sure to pack cold meds, etc!) There’s a lot to be done, but it’s not worth it to compromise your health by sacrificing sleep.

There are, of course, other ways to go about time management, but the system I’ve developed has been working well so far this semester. I’m busy with school Monday  through Friday and I have little to no studying left to worry about on the weekends. You may be thinking that I’ve neglected to mention having a social life, but with everyone living in the dorm, attending the same classes, eating meals in the dining hall, and traveling together, there’s plenty of time to socialize, too. 😉