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The Importance of Prioritizing Your Time During a Semester Abroad

Studying abroad was always one of my biggest dreams. Since I was young, I had a vision of studying abroad in London someday. So when I finally got to ASU, I  worked to make my vision a reality and spent the fall semester of my sophomore year in Brighton, UK. My semester abroad was one of the best times of my life, but I have to admit that I wasn’t very studious throughout the semester. The experience is called “study abroad,” yet I spent very little time studying.

Before I left Arizona for my new home in England, I thought about what I wanted from my time there. I chose to study in Brighton, a city just an hour away from London, because I wanted to travel both within the country and to other countries nearby. I wanted to meet new people and make lifelong friendships. I wanted to try as many new things as possible. And lastly, I wanted to complete my classes to get academic credit.

Once I got to Brighton, I realized that the classes there were very different from the classes  I had taken at ASU. In Europe, their universities place a greater focus on final projects, and less on weekly assignments throughout the semester. With no weekly assignments keeping me on track, it was easy to let myself fall behind on the assigned readings and spend my time doing anything else–hanging out with friends, going out to eat, or going on day trips.

Throughout the semester, I started to feel irresponsible. As someone who has always made academics my main priority, I felt a little guilty. But that feeling didn’t last too long because I was still having the time of my life. I experienced so many new things in just a couple of months, and the reality is that I wouldn’t have been able to fully commit to both my social life and my academic life. For the first time in my life, I decided to prioritize socializing first.

Now that I’m back at home and waiting for my final grades to come back, I know that they won’t be in line with my usual straight-A expectations. I completed all of my final assignments but didn’t go above and beyond like I normally do. However, I wouldn’t change anything about my semester abroad. I learned so much in just ten weeks– attended classes with interesting lecturers, interacted with students from all over the world, and traveled with new friends. Though I might not have top-notch grades to prove it, I learned so much more than you can put on a transcript.

Madeline is a junior studying English at Arizona State University. She was raised in California but now calls Arizona home. Some of her hobbies are reading, writing, and taking really long walks through parks with beautiful scenery.
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