The first weeks of studying in a new university can bring a lot of excitement. Everything‘s new, everything‘s different! But what to do when the excitement starts to mix with fear of failure?
Here are some tips to help you feel less nervous and overwhelmed.
Use your first week‘s energy to make a study plan: go through each subject one by one, check its requirements for passing the course, and if possible – make an assignment schedule for all your courses. Make sure that none of your courses has overlapping schedules or has been cancelled. When necessary, consult with coordinators both at your Home and Host institutions. It may seem a lot, but it can all be done within the first 1-2 weeks.
We won‘t lie – studies abroad will not always match your expectations. Sometimes half the courses are cancelled, and sometimes they are taught in a local language you don‘t understand. Sometimes you simply hate all your professors. If you find yourself on a verge of cancelling your exchange semester and just leaving it all, first of all – tell somebody about it. Your friends, your family, your coordinators. You‘ll find out that there might be other solutions, for example, to make individual appointments with professors instead of dropping the courses, to have personally designed examinations, or to sort out the mess with schedules by choosing another similar course. And in the end, if you see that nothing can be changed – it‘s okay to quit. Find out the options to re-enrol to the courses at your Home university and come back home. You‘ll be ready for this (or another) experience next time!
Universities usually provide all the necessary information about studies on their website, during the welcome week, through email correspondence. However, it‘s still common that information is written in a difficult-to-understand, formal language or is not easy to find. Local students have been studying here for a while, they have a bigger picture – ask them. You can ask them anything, e.g., how the semester looks – when and how often professors make assignments, how does examination session look, whether is it possible to retake examinations. Knowing „how things work“ will make you feel calmer. If you don‘t have a local student friend yet – make it today‘s mission to find one!
Having a routine in your study life can keep you on track and make you more productive. Check how much time you need for each study subject and its assignments, make a weekly plan and turn it into a routine that works for you. And don‘t forget – not every day is the same, make some space for unexpected events as well.
Finding at least one person to discuss and share notes with can increase your confidence during the classes, improve your efficiency and get rid of frustration. Group work in a classroom is nothing new at this age, however, it might be a challenge after class hours. The latest trend among students is to create study groups online. This way everyone can share their knowledge and ask questions at an appropriate time, and when necessary – quickly arrange an online or offline meeting.
Develop your studying skills through online courses: coursera.org, edx.org
Connect with your classmates on Discord servers or study groups: https://discord.com/
Check out TEDx talks about effective learning, such as this one made by Barbara Oakley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O96fE1E-rf8
Going abroad often sounds like a dream, however, it may have both positive and negative effects. If you paid attention to our guide on cultural adaptation, you‘ll remember that cultural shock phase often comes with a bunch of negative experiences, including stress. Living abroad can be stressful for many different reasons – a new place, a new language, people you‘ve never met before, accommodation issues, bureaucracy, pining, and even heavy partying.
Stress is a natural defence mechanism which has helped us, the human species, to survive since ancient times. And even if we are not being stalked by large cats, snakes and bears anymore, we still have to protect ourselves from the modern life „predators“ – exams, deadlines, high workload and many others.
Stress can be both good and bad for you. Low stress can encourage activity, creativity, energy, and even help to concentrate. However, when stress is too big and lasts too long, it may interfere with studies and other activities. If you start feeling any of the typical stress symptoms (apathy, headaches, trouble concentrating, muscle tension, stomach problems, anger, anxiety,…), it is an indication that you need to find a way to calm down and relax.
Activities to help you relax, rest and experience pleasant emotions:
If you‘re already in stress, there are different stress management techniques that you could try out:
If you continue to experience difficulties to calm down, you may contact a psychologist.
COSTABEX video and training on stress management: https://costabex.eu/stress-management/
COSTABEX meditation audios: https://costabex.eu/meditation-audios/
World Health Organisation stress management guide for coping with adversity: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240003927
Mental Health tips from ESN: https://blog.erasmusgeneration.org/5-mental-health-tips-erasmus-students
Moving abroad is often one of the triggers causing crisis. Even if you‘re feeling fine at the moment, somebody else you know might be struggling.
An unmanaged crisis might lead to emotional instability, unmanageable anxiety, strong feelings of guilt and shame or narrowed focus of perception, so it is important to handle a crisis in the early stages.
In the previous topic „What could go wrong“, we talked about all potential situations causing negative experiences and crises, which means you are already aware of the possible struggles. The next thing to know is how to manage these situations.
The way people respond to crises is individual and may differ for everyone. Some examples include:
While in crisis, it might be difficult to function as you normally would, therefore, it is important to seek help. If you notice a change in your behaivour, please contact the counselling service at your University. University counsellors can help you get in touch with the specialists and if necessary, to negotiate with academic staff.
While in crisis, it might be difficult to function as you normally would, therefore, it is important to seek help. If you notice a change in your behaviour, please contact the counselling service at your University. University counsellors can help you get in touch with the specialists and if necessary, to negotiate with academic staff.
Maintaining a healthy study-rest balance is crucial for exchange students, who may be facing new challenges such as adjusting to a different culture, language, and academic system. Here are some tips for achieving a balance:
If you have a big paper to write or need to devote many hours for studying, it might be scary to even start. One exercise can ease a situation: give yourself only 15 minutes to do it (for example, 15 minutes for reading your notes or a book, 15 minutes to spend on solving math problems). Working for only 15 minutes does not seem to be that scary, therefore will be easier to bring oneself to start studying. During these 15 minutes of “warming up” a person usually grows some curiosity and interest that help continue studying.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to maintain a healthy study-rest balance and make the most of your exchange program.