Questing while Abroad

Written by Anna Dolliver (University of Texas-Austin) Student Correspondent CET Taiwan, Fall 2017

Achievement unlocked! You are surviving your semester abroad. Sure, you’ve had a few late nights, a shaky speech or two, and the bus system continues to prove your fiercest rival, but you are completing — perhaps even enjoying — assignments as you balance studies and interning with your social life. And look, you just finished the next chapter of your workbook — ten points, which means you’re only twenty points away from a cup of coffee!

A furry friend at Pride

A furry friend at Pride

The last couple weeks of studying abroad can be overwhelming. Aside from classwork and final internship assignments, you have to prepare to say goodbye to all of your friends and professors, plan for your trip home, and finally attend to those tasks you’ve been conveniently setting aside because you still had time. After I cleaned my room a few days ago, I sat on my bed and spent almost half an hour thinking about how I would be leaving my housemates in less than a week and Taiwan in less than a month.

In the midst of all the emotions, tasks, realizations, and existential crises, it helps to find some semblance of order. Before the last week of classes, I wrote down my list of tasks to complete and decided that I needed a new strategy to prevent myself from falling into the abyss of cat videos every time I thought about the list. I find it easier to achieve my goals when I’m constantly reinventing the way I approach them. As a game enthusiast, I find it most helpful to structure my to-do list like a game, adding a schedule of “quests” and matching them with rewards, like a cup of coffee or fifteen minutes practicing KTV songs.

A dancer at the Cloud Gate Theatre

A dancer at the Cloud Gate Theatre

This time, I incorporated a point value for each task, giving myself more freedom with the order in which I faced them but adding extra points for the more time-sensitive tasks.

Finding your ideal approach to completing your goals is integral to embracing your time abroad, but don’t be afraid to change your structure every now and then — adding excitement to your schedule helps prevent burnout, especially in those last few days when the emotional weight of your semester makes every assignment feel more daunting. Embrace the changes in your interests and strategies, adapting your study methods to remain interested in your coursework.

And aside from your academic tasks, make sure to set aside time for your friends and other adventures in the city! Though grades are important, even more significant are the friendships you build during your travels. Meet up with your friends to study or get dinner together as a break from your work. Make plans to keep in touch after your departure — focus on retaining and cherishing those friendships rather than getting lost in the bittersweet feeling of your impending departure.