Academic Tips

Changing universities really forces you to examine the way you study and prepare for classes. Here are some things I’ve learned that may be of use to other exchange students:

  • Go to class. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to rationalize missing classes for other, much more fun things that come up, like spontaneous beach trips, and going to the biggest shopping mall in the Southern Hemisphere. Going to classes prevents having to self-learn the material and cram the week before the exam. Seriously. Go to class. You’ll thank me at the end of the semester.
  • Actively revise notes. A lot of the time I spend “studying” is just me staring at my notes, trying to remember what the previous page said. I’ve found that actively engaging with the material (explaining it out loud, making mind maps, connecting it to material learned in previous or other classes, summarizing and contextualizing it, ect.) helps engrain it in my memory better. It’s an efficient way to study, and much more entertaining than dragging a highlighter through the textbook. Do this frequently, but do give yourself time to rest and allow the knowledge to solidify, so you’re not just cramming.
  • Take practice tests, and do practice problems. What can I say? Practice makes perfect: especially in math and science subjects.
  • Find a good place to study. The importance of setting cannot be overstated. I’ve found that it varies person to person. I like working in my room when I do practice problems, but I really prefer coffeeshops when I’m working on essays. I think that the bustle and noise in the background is more conducive to creative work, personally, while the quiet really allows me to concentrate on my work.
  • Engage with your professors. Incredibly difficult classes can become much easier with the help of a kind teacher. I like to meet with professors to discuss essays, prepare for tests, and just talk about the class generally. Professors have such interesting backgrounds, and are usually very eager to help out students in their class. Knowing the professor makes going to class more engaging, and assignments seem less daunting.