What would we Iowa students do without our precious syllabus week? It is the only week out of the semester where we are nurtured back into the swing of attending classes. For those students who choose to take classes during a winter or summer term, syllabus week is a false promised land. My first week at University College Dublin was still nurturing even without a full syllabus week. Here are some of the biggest lessons I learned coming into a summer program abroad without having a full week to adjust.
#1 Read Your Syllabus Ahead of Time
It may sound so simple, too simple, almost suspicious… Well, my friend, I speak the truth! I waited until five days before my departure to crack open the syllabi that had been provided to me weeks in advance. I noticed that I was required to have some core texts from my professors abroad that I had not yet acquired. Obviously, I panicked (which is never needed less than a week before departure). I messaged one of my classmates and she said, “Don’t worry, we can get them there!” Phew. If it’s at all possible to get into contact with your professors abroad, do so. Find out if you’ll need physical copies of the required texts and if they expect you to have them read by the first day of class. This will take a weight off of your shoulders and truly let you enjoy and adapt to your new home abroad.
#2 Get to Know Your New Campus BEFORE Classes Start
Again, it may seem like I’m stating the obvious (which I am), but it’s so true! If your program does not offer a little orientation before your classes start, walk around the campus, find your building, and find how to get to your room. It’s always better to be over prepared than under prepared. Once you have that down, you could even try to plan a tentative schedule for the day! Figure out how much time you’ll have for lunch, how much time you need to get to class and back, and maybe if you have time to sneak in a nap! (I unfortunately do not get time to nap during the day, which was a hard transition from my Spring schedule, but I’m doing just fine.) Figure out where you can get some good studying done on campus, find the library— which is probably where your printing facility will be. It only took my classmates and I a couple of days to really get our campus map down, but we did before classes started. It truly feels much better not having to scramble to find your building on the first day of classes!
#3 Remember to Stay Rested
The third and final takeaway from my first week of classes at UCD is to get some rest! I know it’s tempting to want to go out and explore your new home during the first week that you are there (and you probably will get a couple days to do that beforehand) but remember that you are here to learn, and you cannot learn if you are exhausted. I had to opt out of a night on the town the weekend before classes started, and I cannot thank myself enough for that. At the time I was a little sad because I have severe FoMo (Fear of Missing out), but I knew that my body was still transitioning and I needed to take care of myself. Remember that you will have plenty of time to get out and experience your new home abroad. It’s not going anywhere! So stay hydrated and try to get yourself on a schedule early. It will make your transition a lot easier, especially when classes start!
So, there they are; my three most important takeaways from my first week of classes as UCD! Everyone is different and has their own way of adapting, but this is what I wish I would have known in retrospect. The opportunity to learn in a different country is truly amazing, and I hope this helps you make the most out of your experience abroad!
*Delany Breitbach is an English and Creative Writing major at the University of Iowa. A native of Cedar Rapids, IA, she will be spending her summer in Dublin, Ireland on the Irish Writing 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.