When going abroad to work and study, you understand it won't be a chill-out. It's a big step out of your comfort zone: no family and friends nearby, alien environment, cultural and language barriers, and the ugly feeling of most non-natives that they have to prove themselves all the time.
It's a tremendous change, worthwhile yet overwhelming. To deal with such a challenging situation, you need to create a work-study-life balance in a foreign country.
What does it take?
You need to balance coursework, relations with peers, co-curricular activities, finances, duties at work, language barriers, everyday problems, and business networking. Ignoring the balance, you take risks to get stressed and exhausted, down, or physically unwell in the long term.
Some people don't believe a work-life balance to exist:
"I don't use the word balance at all," says Carol Hoffman from Columbia University's Office of Work Life. "It's never going to be truly balanced, and it makes people feel bad when their professional and personal lives aren't perfect." PlagiarismCheck tutor Nancy Christinovich, who moved to the USA for work and study five years ago, disagrees: "If you expect to adapt quickly by over-prioritizing one sphere at the expense of another, you risk failing both. Work, study, and private life all need to be in harmony, especially when you are abroad where challenges and stressful situations could take anywhere."
But how is it possible to best balance school and work when you are abroad?
1. Get Priorities Straight
The first thing you can do is making a list of areas, from most to least essential, which matter to you. It will help to understand what you expect from your life in a new country.
To ease the task, ask yourself:
- What are my values?
- What does give me energy?
- How much time do I want to work?
- What makes me feel productive?
- What makes me happy?
When the list is ready, compare how much attention and time you spend on these areas right now. Therefore, you'll see which need more work and which are less significant to concentrate on them when abroad.
2. Make It Feel Like Home
Moving abroad is stressful. Period. No matter how excited you are, you will feel lonely, confused, and lost in a new city. To balance this condition, try finding the places where you would feel like home. It may be a familiar brand, a bookstore, a cafe that makes your version of "comfort" cappuccino and food, etc. Whatever places you choose, they will serve as a base from where to explore your new environment and feel settled.
3. Schedule Everything
Just consider which area is of higher importance for you right now. Here's how Prasad Malmandi from ESPN describes structuring his work schedule when he had to combine school and sports career: "During a season peak, I chose courses which I was able to handle at that moment. And during summers, when my workload was lighter, I took tougher classes and, therefore, balanced everything."
Scheduling is not about priorities alone but self-organization, time management, and self-confidence that are so essential when you are abroad. Creating a schedule, consider methods that work best for you – reminders in a phone or old-fashioned lists in notebooks – and choose organizers accordingly. Mind maps, tools like Wunderlist or Evernote, calendars, handwritten to-do lists – regardless of the type, they help us maintain a balance.
4. Set Boundaries
When abroad, you don't have close people nearby with whom you could spend weekends or night activities. So it becomes tempting to extend working hours and spend days off at work, live and breathe by study courses, or devote nights to writing reports. However, you need to set strict boundaries on working hours and make some time for yourself.
Even when over-excited about moving abroad and ready to work hard to overcome obstacles on the course to success, you can't run on that adrenaline for too long. You need a kind of a curfew to avoid burnouts and depressions.
5. Find Time for Making Friends
Social connections and healthy friendships are crucial for wellbeing, but it becomes more difficult to make friends when you live abroad. Don't ignore networking in school and workspace, as these relationships can support you in stressful situations. "When I moved to Texas, I knew two people only," confesses Nancy Christinovich. "But my work at PlagiarismCheck.org helped to meet new friends; it didn't happen simply because we all spent time in the same office but because they understood and sincerely wanted to support me."
As a non-native, you can take some classes or club memberships in a foreign city to meet like-minded people and make friends. Studies prove the positive influence of a friendly support on our inner harmony and balance, that is why never turn inward when in foreign places.
6. Remember About Routines
Sure thing, you have some regular rituals in the schedule. For instance, you run on mornings, meditate, or read a book before going to bed. And when you go abroad, you get ready to forget about these routines, sacrificing them to work and study. Don't do that!
These tiny rituals are what helps you balance work and life. For instance, meditation reduces stress and anxiety, deepen rest, and increase concentration. Isn't it crucial for those changing life in a new country? So, whatever routines work for you at home - keep doing them when abroad.
Once you feel stressed, exhausted, and lost in your new place of living, make sure to renew energy for better balance: go to the gym, walk in parks, read, or have a heart talk with closed ones. To best balance school and work, you need ways to escape from daily routine from time to time. But don't overplay it: self-discipline, maturity, time management, and emotional intelligence are what can help you deal with all challenges on your way.