Nov 04

5 Ways to Thrive as a Study-Abroad Student

By Vivian O’Brien
Junior marketing major with a minor in economics

Adopting to a new school and its environment may seem daunting, and at times I have felt unsure of how to navigate the Danish system. Lots of research, asking people, and learning-by-doing, I came up with these five tips that I believe can help ease the worries people have about their new schools abroad. Take these tips and alter them to fit you and your needs, so that you can thrive at your new university!

Copenhagen Business School is a city campus. Six buildings are spread out right outside city center with businesses, apartments, and a shopping center mixed in between.

1. Get involved in clubs, even if you think you will not have time!

Here at Copenhagen Business School (CBS), I have joined some student clubs, even with my busy schedule, because I wanted to meet both local and exchange students. I joined clubs for Swedish students, fashion, photography, as well as one that takes trips to the opera and the ballet. I wanted the full student experience – not only because I will be here for a year, but also to see if a school abroad is the right choice for grad school.

2. Learn the system and adapt to it as best you can.

Student life here is entirely different than back home at UNC Greensboro. Classes are not mandatory, there are no homework assignments or multiple tests, and the readings for class are quite lengthy (100-200 pages a week). Plus, classes can overlap, so if I have two classes at the same time, I must choose one of them to go to. A few times now, I have had to rely on my classmates to take notes for me. 

The most stress-inducing part about classes has been the looming final exam that is worth 100 percent of the class grade. It has been a challenge to understand how exactly to study for these exams. There are take home written essays, sit-down written essay exams, or oral exams where you defend what you have written in a speech in front of a panel of graders. By asking local students, I have a better idea of what could be asked and how to answer questions on the exams.

3. Remember you are here as a student, not just a traveler.

With no mandatory classes, it is easy to become complacent and skip every single class every single week. Yes, only credits transfer back to UNCG, but if exams are worth 100 percent and you fail, then you are out of luck. There are re-takes for exams, but these occur in the next semester – long after student visas expire. It would be a waste of a semester if you do not learn how business functions in a country outside the U.S. and spend the money to go abroad without the reward of finishing the classes you have signed up for.

This is the library at CBS, where sometimes it is impossible to find a seat because everyone is quietly studying here during the day.

4. Attend career fairs and other professional development experiences!

Even if you will not be moving to your host country after you graduate, it is worth taking the time to investigate what companies and business professionals have to offer. Try finding out if they have subsidiaries or branches in the U.S., especially if you really like their mission and company culture. Having an open mind will lead to a chance to learn about so many new types of companies that you have never seen in the U.S. and could be what you have been looking for!

5. Learn by trial and error.

The way you studied at UNCG might not work for your school abroad. The system at CBS is entirely different, and on numerous occasions I have had to make a mistake in the way I studied to learn how to study correctly. I have had to learn the hard way that I cannot procrastinate my readings because there is just far too much to be done the night before class, especially if my schedule changes frequently. Most importantly, I have come to learn that taking breaks is necessary to continue studying.