The University of Iowa

How to make the most of your time abroad

December 5th, 2017

I have learned more about our world as a whole in these four months than I had in my 20 years prior.

Like many of my fellow bloggers, my time abroad is coming to a close. And as a result, I’ve found myself questioning if I’ve made the most of my time here because as we so often hear, studying abroad really is a once (or twice if you’re lucky) in a lifetime opportunity. After all, never again will I be able to take a spontaneous trip to Slovakia with my Canadian roommate just because we both have the weekend off.

How can I tell whether I’ve made the most of my time or not, though? I’ve found myself measuring the worth of my time based on how many trips I’ve taken, but I honestly don’t believe that to be the most accurate measure. In fact, I don’t think there really is a measure to tell you if you’ve made the most of your time. I don’t have a job here because I’m on a student visa, so my only major responsibility is school. Resultantly, I’ve had more free time in the past three months than I’ve known what to do with, time that I’ve had complete authority to spend as I wish. Have I spent it all effectively? Haha, no. But I argue that’s really one of the beauties of studying abroad; I’ve gotten to take a small step away from incessantly worrying about internships, job fairs, and building my resume to instead spend my time (or waste my time) however I want. With that being said, I’ve still spent time searching and applying for internships so don’t worry too much, Dad.


Reflecting on my time here thus far and looking forward to my last few weeks, I’m confident that by the end I’ll be happy with how I’ve spent my time. I’ve made friends from so many different countries and will have visited eight new ones myself. I’ve spent time in the classroom hearing international perspectives on issues affecting the globe and have learned more about our world as a whole in these four months than I had in my 20 years prior. I’ve enjoyed movie nights in and girls’ nights out, spent time binge-watching Netflix and spent some more trekking through the Tatras, and all of these experiences have only added to my time in Austria.

If I had any advice for future study-abroaders on how to make the most of your time abroad, it would be to not worry about making the most of your time abroad. Everyone needs down time regardless of where you are in the world, so don’t worry about ‘wasting time.’ Don’t force travel plans that aren’t falling into place and be open-minded to changes in those plans. If flights to southern Italy are too expensive, go to Malta instead! You’ll enjoy your time so much more if you’re not constantly worried about all the places you ‘need’ to see and things you ‘need’ to do. I’m a short three hour bus ride from Budapest and 5 hours from Prague and I haven’t made it to either city. But, I’ve made it to so many others that there’s no point in dwelling on what I haven’t done, it just means I’ve got an excuse to come back (not that I really need one). And finally, spend time getting to know your peers, especially non-Americans—not only will they give you a widened perspective on the world, but they’re also potential hosts/guides should you ever visit their home country. 

At any given moment, we’re choosing to spend our time a particular way for a reason. Remember that reason when you start regretting the days you slept in past noon, because maybe it was to make up for late nights playing cards with your new Brazilian buds—a memory well worth the few wasted morning hours.


Bailie Uppena

Bailie Uppena is a marketing and accounting major at the University of Iowa, who will be spending the semester at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration as part of the Vienna Exchange program. 

Student blog entries posted to this International Accents page may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UI Study Abroad and International Programs.  The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.