My new Brussels routine and why having a schedule is important when studying abroad

studying abroad schedule

I admit it: my first semester as a master’s student was quite chaotic. I was trying to figure myself out while living in the moment and studying. I did not manage my time well and ended up doing most things in a very mediocre way.

Now that I’m starting this new semester and so are the lectures, topics, essays, tasks, readings, and papers, I could not help but ask myself if I am really going to make the same mistakes again.

I have to admit that I’m currently going to a bit of an antisocial phase after moving here, and it has a lot to do with confidence (that I am lacking right now). But this moment of introversion and some free time have allowed me to work on a routine that I can actually follow and that encompasses doing well in my present, learning new skills and acting now for my future.

That is one of the basics of time management and personal development tips. It’s all about working on the things that matter now while building the future that you want for yourself.

So how does a successful routine look like for me?

Waking up fairly early

Sleeping is super important to me. I simply hate when I sleep too late because it messes me up and my entire day. So I try to be ready to go to bed at 11 pm. With that in mind, at 7 am I’ve had enough sleep.

I used to think I was not a morning person, but I’ve been getting used to waking up around 7 am since last year and I’ve seen a lot of benefits.

I start my day with enough time to do things slowly and without a rush. I get to prepare my breakfast (green tea and porridge – you need time to enjoy this type of breakfast), sit and read some interesting stuff online, watch some interesting videos on YouTube and simply take my time to start the day.

I know some people say it is not advisable to go online right after you wake up. But I don’t mind, as the buzz from the content allows my brain to wake.

Taking French lessons 

As I mentioned here, I’ve been trying to get out of my “everybody-speaks-English-anyways” comfort zone and trying to learn some French by taking online French lessons. I’ve been really enjoying it and it became a morning routine to complete a lesson or two + doing 30xp so on Duolingo so I can see some development in practice and improve my vocabulary.

I usually start at 8 or 9 am until 10 or 11, depending if I take one or two lessons that day, or if I wake up a bit later.

There are two times a week I do not take French classes in the morning because I have class at 9am. My slow waking up and getting ready routine takes time and I avoid doing taking those lessons in a rush.

By the way, let’s talk about university classes.

My classes are packed in two days a week. This is quite nice because I have long free weeks to do many things. The thing is that I have 5 classes in two days, meaning a full day especially once a week, and lots of reading and homework to catch up to if I want to be doing this more successfully than in the previous semester.

It’s easy to think that once I hit Wednesday afternoon, “school is over”! but I cannot be this naive, right?

By not going crazy with this school routine, I’m trying to develop a strategy where I develop study and catch up times in advance and in specific slots of my schedule. In this way, I don’t get lost with the feeling that I have many things to do but at the same time a lot of free time.

I know when I have to dedicate my time to that course, so I can do the readings and keep up with the homework and tasks.

Having what it seems to be a lot of free time is more of a curse than a blessing…

… because everybody works better when the time is limited. No doubt about it. When we know we have time, we simply postpone our tasks and choose the easiest thing to do next (i.e.: binge-watching on that awesome show on Netflix).

Time constraints are especially true if you are trying to be creative, such as writing. But it’s the same for reading. Believe me, a master’s program has a lot of reading. And all these new concepts that you have to learn tend to be overwhelming if you neglect them until the week of the exams!!

Attending specific fitness classes

When I’m not stretching and moving my body somehow, I feel quite depressed. I have to do some exercise and activity. But I find gyms quite overwhelming because we have a lot of decisions to make. How long should I do such and such exercise? When to change equipment? How does this machine actually work? Look at that cute boy, and that other one! It’s just too much for me.

So I prefer taking some low key classes. My university is nice enough to provide cheap classes during the week, so I decided to take yoga two times a week, pilates one time a week, bodymix and condition gym once a week. That’s 5 hours of movement a week, which could be more, but for starting of new habits is fine.

I do it mostly for well-being and not to lose weight or get stronger. So for me is a good amount. I plan on taking dance classes next fall because that’s when I have actual fun :p.

Finding time to learn something practical

Pursuing a masters program is great. I absolutely love discussions and critical thinking. However, there’s not much of a practical side to it, which is understandable. Actually, never choose a university degree thinking you are becoming a professional once you get your diploma. You only become one when you’re actually working.

I’ve been learning quite a lot, but truth be told, when it comes to the media and communications field, businesses want to hire people that know how to do inbound marketing and sales. So that’s a thing I have dedicated some time in my schedule as well. I am taking Hubspot free classes before I start writing.

Writing every day before bed

I have previously tried to write in the morning because some gurus said it’s great. But for some reason, I feel more relaxed and have that feeling I have the whole time in the world to sit and just write when I’m about to go to sleep. I’ve been writing before bed for a while now and I feel it’s the right approach to me.

Everybody has their own idea of what’s best. Everybody has their own needs. So you really have to try things out and stick to the actions that make more sense to you.

Buying more organic whole foods

I’ve been vegan quite a while now, but I’ve been abusing of added sugar and oil by consuming some processed food that seemed innocent at first, but it’s not quite nice to have on a daily basis.

See, I’m a lazy vegan. I don’t like to cook all the time. So I’ve been eating lots of packed bread, processed hummus full of sugar, and even yogurt and muesli with sugar. My goal is to incorporate more organic whole foods in my diet by switching the bread for oatmeal and fruits, especially for breakfast, cooking with no olive oil or any type of oil, and switching my few processed food for sugar and oil free versions.

I’ve been drinking more green tea instead of instant coffee. Switching my Alpro veggie milk for an unsweetened one… Anything that would help me increase my intake of proper food, fibers, and nutrients and decrease my intake of sugar. It’s not for my weight, it’s for my general health.

Of course, I’m not perfect. Some days I sleep until 10 am, some days I go out instead of writing. But the thing is, it does not matter if I fail some days. It’s really important to bring some logic and routine in order for me to thrive and accomplish things. I believe it might be the same for you. Studying abroad should be time to actually learn stuff and become better. Use this time wisely and don’t be lazy! Think that when you’re lazy and decide to do things the old way, you end up missing a lot of opportunities.

By the way, I use an old school excel spreadsheet for my schedule + momentum installed on my chrome browser.