Lectures, Studying, and Preparing for Exams

You can read my previous post here: When I Became an International Student…

I was so excited and terrified for my first lectures. A full hour of learning about Science… in English! Great. Me having to understand as much as I can in order to pass an exam later… not that great.

Until that point, I knew I could understand around 60-70% of what I was told in English, yeah that’s right. Taking notes was a real challenge. I had to stop every time I did not understand something, or when I knew what the word was, but I did not know how to spell it. While I tried to figure it out, the lecture had already moved on to another subject. Uh-oh…” I thought while I left so many lines unfinished.

Maybe that’s not much of a big deal for you, but for a girl who tends to be quite a perfectionist when it comes to writing pretty notes… it was not ideal.

I was frustrated. I was disheartened.

I realised that whatever my classmates spent an hour learning, I’d be two or three. I had to take action, I had to do something. I would love to tell you that I acted immediately, and things went so much smoother, but that would be a lie. It took time to let go of my old ways of studying, but I learnt valuable practical lessons for my study routine as an international student. These lessons have really made a difference, and I want to share them with you:

  1. Record the lectures
    I bought a good audio recorder on Amazon and this saved me a few times from missing important information.

  2. Watch YouTube videos to learn around your subject
    I am so thankful for the teachers online that take the time to make videos. I was able to understand the bigger picture and it made my later reading MUCH easier.

  3. STOP AND RESEARCH RULE while reading notes/PowerPoint.
    Whenever I was not sure about a concept or not able to explain it in my own words, I committed to stop reading and to research it. It took me longer, but it was absolutely worth it. I realised I much more easily remembered the concepts I had researched and engaged my interest in.

  4. Make summaries in your own words, that you actually understand.
    “If you are unable to explain it in your own words, you don’t understand it yet”.

  5. Do past papers (even if you think you will be fine without them).
    My boyfriend taught me this lesson. I had hardly done past papers before, but it was so beneficial for him that I want to try it this year.

FInally, the most important piece of advice: Don’t be proud and don’t be stubborn. Let me explain: I knew I was going to be in trouble if I continued studying in the same way I had done throughout high school, but I did not want to admit it. I felt like a failure thinking the way I had been studying all that time (trying to memorise all the information and be able to reproduce it in a paper without understanding most of it) had been a waste of time. I tried harder; I did not want to give up. It not only wore me out but made me feel that all my “hard effort” was in vain. I was being stubborn. I was being proud. Sometimes, accepting that your old ways of doing things need a make-over takes some pride-killing.

My wonderful friend, I wish you all the best in your new academic year, please make sure you builda strong foundation in your study routinefrom the start and be aware it may take you more time than native-English students, so give yourself plenty of time. That’s not something to feel ashamed of, but rather proud of taking that very brave challenge of becoming an international student. We are in this together!

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