How to Balance School and Travel While Studying Abroad

If you’re wondering if it will be possible to balance the “studying” aspect of studying abroad with travel and fun, you’re not alone.

Check out our former student’s account of how she successfully maintained her academic life while enjoying all that Europe has to offer at the same time.

When I first came to Europe, one of my biggest fears was that I wouldn’t be able to properly prioritize the classic “business and pleasure” part of studying abroad. Being an art student, I have learned that certain assignments take a lot more time than others, and I have had my fair share of having to decide whether or not I needed to spend another hour or two on a project or go hang out with my friends. I’ve grown accustomed to doing both and working into the wee hours of the night. When I started taking my classes after coming to Europe, I quickly realized that even though I’m studying in a different country and a different environment, I could still apply the same time-management skills that I use at home.

 

One thing that I’ve learned so far from studying abroad is that it is pretty easy to study anywhere. For example, public transportation (i.e. trains, buses, and airplanes) is a great place to do your homework or catch up on some reading. Public transportation is pretty quiet which makes it an easy and not-too-loud space to spend an hour or four reading, writing, and studying. Parks and cafés are also great places to read and write as well. Just order a coffee and pull out a book and everything is good to go. In France, once you’ve ordered something at a café you basically have your table until you’re ready to leave, so there is no need to feel like you’re loitering after you’ve been sitting there for 30 minutes because it is to be expected.

Lastly, keeping a positive mindset is quite important when it comes to studying abroad. Doing homework doesn’t have to be in a library or cramped in your room like it might be at home. Studying abroad gives the perfect opportunity to study outside in a park, in a café, at a waffle restaurant, etc.

– Jordan, Globalizedu student 2018

A Student’s Week-Long Spending Diary in Europe

Before they go on The Catalyst, many students wonder how much they will likely spend while they are in Europe. The answers vary, but there is no denying that if you maintain frugal spending, you can make it out of The Catalyst without making a major dent in your bank account. Here is Globalizedu student Brooke’s week-long spending diary for some frame of reference.

Friday

1.75 – quiche

0.25 – coffee fund

16.84 – Super U

  • Laundry pods – 7.94
  • Apple juice – 1.18
  • Pringles x2 – 3.14
  • Sandwich – 1.73
  • Cheese – 3.85

Total = 18.84

Saturday 

1.70 – quiche

3.90 – coin purse souvenir

2.50 – coffee @ Place du Plumereau

4.00 – lime sorbet

9.99 – scarf

Total = 22.09

 

Sunday 

Total = 0.00

Monday

1.70 – quiche

0.95 – croissant

6.50 – kebab dinner

Total = 9.15

 

Tuesday

2.31 – paper and notebook

Total = 2.31

 

Wednesday 

1.70 – quiche

3.12 – bread from the lady who comes to the Chancellerie every week

9.50 – dinner and drink from burger place

Total = 14.32

 

Thursday

Total spent = 0.00

Friday

1.70 – quiche

1.50 – strawberries from market

2.00 – cookie and brownie from market

13.52 – group dinner ingredient and misc.

Total = 18.72

Weekly Total Spent Minus Card Transactions:

= 85.43  

 

How to Communicate the Value of Studying Abroad to Your Family and Friends

Haven’t we all come home before with ideas or plans that make total sense to us but don’t to some of the family and friends we love and lean on for support? The Catalyst can be like that. So how have our alumni explained their passion for this program to their inner circles and won over their key people to The Catalyst plan? They’ve returned to what one of our alumni from years ago called our program’s “holy trinity”:

Be clear about how The Catalyst relates to your academic interests.

First and foremost, The Catalyst is school. Parents and close friends will be much more persuaded by your Catalyst plans if they hear from you that you’re excited about the classes you’ll be taking in Europe and that those classes will help your degree plan. Student Alik studied abroad because of the academic experiences he would have in Europe: “You’ll never ever find anything like this in the United States. Ever. For me, I’ve always loved European history, and this is the place to see it, so I wanted to come here. I wanted something different.” There’s nothing in the learning world like the incredible classrooms our program uses every single day. You know that, and you also know that The Catalyst will get your six upper-division summer hours to help your degree plan. Letting your loved ones know that enhancing your academic experiences by participating in The Catalyst’s moving classrooms will give your plans a new sense of legitimacy.

Remind your family that college is always an investment and that The Catalyst is part of your college experience.

Haircuts are cost items, and so are new cars. Things that are cost items may be worth the money you pay to buy them, but they lose value over time. Investments are different. College and The Catalyst are both fantastic examples of investments. Student Bri says, “It all seems like a lot in your head, but when you actually do it, everything works out money-wise…I would have definitely would have regretted not going.” Our alumni get internships, jobs, and graduate school admission spots because they have The Catalyst on their side. Studying and living in a different culture are valuable experiences to have in your arsenal. If you haven’t heard the old adage that “you have to spend money to make money,” well now you have. 90% of the students who study abroad get a job in their chosen field or a grad school roster spot within 6 months of graduation. Only 48% do who don’t have study abroad on their side.

 

Relate your Catalyst plan to your personal passion.

Your inner circle might not be aware that the chance to learn and live all over Europe is not going to happen again once college is done. This is your chance, and this is your time. If you’ve wanted to see museums, or walk where important battles were fought, and seek out the global understanding that living abroad will give you, then keep in mind what our alum Jade has told us about how she got her family and friends excited about The Catalyst: “I took a deep breath and calmly said that I was going because my heart was saying I should. And because all of the things I’d read in books and seen in movies and heard others say about travel and growth were things I wanted for myself.”

For most of our students, The Catalyst is always one part academic fascination, one part career ambition, and one part personal passion. Let your family and friends know this, and your summer plans will make more sense.

 

Faculty Profile: Dr. Andy Wiest

Generations of students from the University of Southern Mississippi have called Dr. Andy Wiest’s classes in Europe the best learning experiences of their lives. This is partly because nobody teaches with Dr. Wiest’s amazing passion for the history of war. And it’s partly because this professor relates whatever he is talking about in the most personal and relatable ways possible.  Whether it’s on Omaha Beach or at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, Dr. Wiest’s classroom will always be the most intense and moving one anywhere. This summer Dr. Wiest will be team teaching with Dr. Doug Mackaman the program’s juggernaut course on Nazism and World War Two, “In The Garden of Beasts.” Meanwhile, if he won’t brag about how many books he has published on military history, Dr. Wiest can be counted on to make grandiose claims about his skills as a drummer. He may also tell you what it’s like to have a movie made about one of his books and attend the Emmy Awards. So let’s meet this marvel in his own words…

Tell us about your very first travel experience.

My first real travel experience was going to London as a student in the summer of 1981.  My hair was brown, my tie was skinny, and my jacket sleeves were rolled up in the best imitation of Duran Duran I could muster.  Before that summer I didn’t know who or what I wanted to be.  After that summer I knew exactly what and who I wanted to be.  Becoming a citizen of the world, instead of a citizen of Hattiesburg Mississippi was eye-opening in so many ways.  I grew up, I grew smarter, I grew more confident, and I boogied off into a much brighter future.

What made you decide to teach in Europe’s most moving classroom?

I have taught with Dr. Mackaman several times in the past, and working with him has always been like a blast of cold-fired energy.  Being in the classroom is one thing, but being outside of it, soaking up everything cities and their nations have to offer is quite another. The Catalyst does it right, and I couldn’t wait to be a part of it.

What makes your class on The Catalyst different than a course set in a traditional classroom?

By going and seeing and doing.  By touching, smelling, and experiencing.  I teach about war in my real life. It is one thing to read about it. It is another thing to grasp it by being there, by tramping the battlefields and byways themselves. To stand where history happened. To walk in the very footsteps of the past. In the classroom, you learn history. On The Catalyst, you live it.

What is your favorite city on The Catalyst and why?

Trick question! All are great! So here is a trick answer. My favorite is London — I know that place like the back of my hand. Going to London for me is like getting to visit with your old high school best pal. It is familiarity, love, and comradery. On the other hand, my favorite city will also always be the one I have never visited. I always try to go somewhere new — where perspectives are fresh, where experiences are dreamed, and where memories are created. For me, if I am lucky enough to go there this summer, it would be either Budapest or Berlin.

Tell us about a travel moment that changed your life perspective or worldview.

Every travel experience does that in one way or another, but I will pick my first trip to Paris. I was in London with my classmates on the Southern Miss British Studies Program. There were hundreds of us in London, but I went to Paris on my own. I didn’t speak the language, know how to get there, know the money. None of it. But I did it. Went up in Notre Dame, walked to the top of the Eiffel Tower —the whole bit. Me. A kid from Mississippi did that on his own. That meant that I was bound to be able to do anything I wanted.

How long have you been going overseas to teach? How do your travels enhance the way that you teach and what you have to offer to Catalyst students?

I have taken students abroad since 1992 – to London, Paris, and to Vietnam especially. So I have a LOT of experience with this. This means I am super comfortable with most of the places we go, and super comfortable if things get uncomfortable. Most glitches I have seen before and can take in stride. And I am always on the lookout for brand new things to do to keep me young at heart.

What does your favorite teaching day on The Catalyst consist of?

This is the first time for me on this particular trip — so my favorite teaching day will be all of the new ones, which will be every day.

 

Thanksgiving in the Time of Blitzkrieg: London 1942

In advance of our class sessions, students of World War Two will sometimes wonder why we choose the locations in London that we do for our classes. Westminster Abbey, for example, is known by everyone as the centerpiece of so much that is about Christianity and political power over the sweep of so many centuries. But why teach World War Two there?

Our reasons are simple. On Thanksgiving morning of 1942, the doors to the cathedral were closed as they usually were on a Thursday. What was different this year was that people were waiting on a chilly morning outside to get in. Churches all over England–from tiny towns to the great cities–had placed notices in local newspapers inviting any Americans or Britons who wanted to congregate to come to their sanctuaries and celebrate a special Thanksgiving service together, complete with the traditional meal that Americans still turn to today as the fest of this celebratory day.

Some respite from a hard year was needed. 1942 had begun as one of the hardest years in the history of the USA. Our navy in the Pacific had been ruthlessly bombed by the Japanese Empire in December of 1941. Since then, our government had been at war with the powers of the Axis states; Japan, Germany, and Italy. In addition to the active measure of warfare that were now underway at our own country’s behest, the US continued to honors our commitment to the “lend-lease” agreement we’d reached with the British and the Russian.

Meanwhile it was only very late in 1942 that some good war news had come to the British and the US. Not only had the British won a major campaign at El Alamein but on 8 November of that year, but also the successful invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch) had given the allies another key victory and morale boost.

So back to Westminster and why we teach there. That Thanksgiving morning of 1942, church officials had wanted to downplay any media around the modest turnout they expected from Yanks and Brits who might want to come for service and a hot meal. Most church and other officials thought that the gesture of solidarity and comfort being offered would receive polite gratitude and also see very few takers.

The doors of Westminster opened finally to more than 3,000 of our soldiers and maybe as many more Britons who’d come to invite soldiers into their homes or down to the local pub for a pint after service. The same overwhelming turnouts were in evidence at lesser churches everywhere across England.

We teach at places like Westminster because the heartbeat of the Second World War is still felt there. And for our students, who make such places our classrooms in May each year, there’s something palpable and unforgettable about what it is to learn in a sacred setting like Westminster, knowing how badly the Nazis had tried to bomb it and how fully its historic space and astonishing spirit survived and even thrived in the time of blitzkrieg.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Faculty Profile: Dr. Brinkman

Tell us about your very first travel experience.

While I traveled some in the U.S. when I was younger, my first experience abroad was when I was a sophomore in college. I had the opportunity to go to Rome. I was currently in a course on Ancient Rome and really enjoyed the subject. My time in the “Eternal Capital” changed my life. While I did not know it at the time, that trip changed my life. I fell in love with the city and its history. From that moment forward, a great deal of my time has been happily devoted to studying the Ancient World.

What made you decide to teach in Europe’s most moving classroom?

We are connected to the world through modern technology, but nothing can replace the learning experience of seeing the world first hand. Places have a sort of “haunting presence” which, if you pause and take it in, can connect you to a culture, a history, and a people.

What makes your class on The Catalyst different than a course set in a traditional classroom?

In a similar course in a traditional classroom, we would discuss monuments like the Venus de Milo and the Rosetta stone. We will examine these objects up close and in the context of many other ancient artifacts and ancient sites.

What is your favorite city on The Catalyst and why?

My favorite city on the Catalyst is Paris. Even more so than the amazing treasures in its museums, the city has a certain feeling to it that is unlike anywhere I have been in the world: the food, the music, the way of life. I am very excited to teach in a city where I know students will gain a deep understanding of certain aspects of the past, but also appreciate the wonders of the modern city.

Tell us about a travel moment that changed your life perspective or worldview.

The experience that most changed my perspective was when I went to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. Walking the grounds in silence, you can still feel the weight of the horrors that happened there.

How long have you been going overseas to teach?

While this will be my first time teaching abroad, I have spent nearly a couple of years total doing research at different cities in Europe.

Faculty Profile: Dr. Julia Troche

Tell us about your very first travel experience.

I grew up in San Diego about 15 miles from the border, so at a very young age, I traveled to Mexico. The first time I traveled without my family, though, was on a History department study abroad trip I took to Paris while an undergrad. I paid for the trip myself, taking out loans so I could go. It was the first time navigating international travel solo and it was in a country where they spoke a different language (I did have about a year of French classes under my belt though). It was a little scary, to be honest. But then I got out of the subway, walked to the street level and looked up and saw Notre Dame Cathedral. I vividly remember this moment. I had studied Notre Dame in my art history classes. I had stared at images of its flying buttresses in textbooks and projected in class, but now I was literally standing steps away from it. And my nervousness turned into excitement. It was one of the best things I ever did. Traveling abroad as an undergrad was such a monumental, important moment for me as a student, as a person, as a young scholar.

What made you decide to teach in Europe’s most moving classroom?

There is no better classroom! I learned about Medieval Parisian history by walking the streets of Paris during my first study abroad trip and loved every minute of it. Why would I not want to offer the same experience now for my own students? And Catalyst is such a great way to explore the world—they have a dedicated staff who make sure things go as smoothly as possible and there is such a great community that forms from all of the classes traveling together, you are guaranteed to find great friends and colleagues while you travel and learn.

What makes your class on The Catalyst different than a course set in a traditional classroom?

Pedagogically, studies have shown that experiential learning has great benefits for student learning and retention. Which basically means walking through the British Museum and the Louvre standing before Hammurabi’s Code and other marvels of antiquity will actually make it easier for students to learn and remember more than in a traditional classroom. Instead of looking at things flat on the textbook page, they come alive. You can watch documentaries or videos but there is nothing that can compare to standing in front of a building or monument that is 2,000 years old and experiencing its size or overall presence.  

What is your favorite city on The Catalyst and why?

Standing atop Notre Dame Cathedral among the gargoyles, looking out over the Seine with the Eiffel Tower piercing the skyline, is my favorite place in the whole world. So, my answer is Paris. In addition to a robust history, lots of art and incredible buildings, Paris is home to some of the most delicious food in the world.

Tell us about a travel moment that changed your life perspective or worldview.

While traveling to Egypt for my research, I was honored to be invited into a local Egyptian family’s home for dinner. Our lives are so different; we were from different worlds, with different religious beliefs and different values, and yet as we broke bread together I was welcomed into their family. As I travel the world I am always humbled by people’s genuine kindness. We may have very different worldviews, but we can also treat each other with respect and kindness. We can learn from one another and better each other’s lives through sometimes ephemeral but meaningful encounters.

How long have you been going overseas to teach? How do your travels enhance the way that you teach and what you have to offer to Catalyst students?

This will be my first time going overseas to teach, though I have been a student abroad on multiple occasions and have worked as an archaeologist in Egypt and Jordan for years. I try to make ancient history come “alive” every day in my classrooms, but teaching abroad will make this a reality.