How to make the most of your studying

How to make the most of your studying? What is the right balance between studying and having fun? Is it a good idea to work while being in college? We discussed those important questions with Ingrid Mosquera Gende, professor, blogger, and just a great person, and received valuable pieces of advice.

Find your balance

Julia: What is the best way to develop a life schedule?

Ingrid: There are two types of people: night people and day people. Sometimes you don´t decide your type, but your life and work decide it for you. It is easy to find, at the university, people who prefer studying during the night and others that do so during the day, or even very early in the morning.

They all have their reasons and no time is better than the other.

However, from my point of view, the night is for sleeping, because our body, biologically, is prepared for it. So if you decide to change that, you will have to change other circumstances in your life.

Looking at the big picture, scheduling your life is important. Routine is important when you are studying at college. When you are school-age it is not as difficult because everything is compulsory: going to school, practicing sports, going to other activities, being at home at a set hour, and so on. But when you are at the university, you feel freedom, you taste it, you smell it, you can even touch it! And you want to party, and you want to sleep, and you get to decide if you feel like going to class or not. Sometimes you are not aware of the consequences.

And you need a plan. Believe me, you need it. You need a timetable for your day. You will have enough time for everything, but you have to organize yourself and, most of all, you need a daily study routine: leaving your study time for the day before the exam is not a good choice.

Julia: How many hours should you spend on your studying to reach balance in life?

Ingrid: Again, every person is different as well as their lifestyle. Some students work and attend college at the same time, but others only study. Apart from that, each person has different strategies when studying and different capacities. So, it is impossible to give an exact number of hours. And I really think we should not give numbers because it could influence students negatively. You should not compare students on the time required for studying.

Julia: How to find the balance between procrastination and relaxation? How to know if you study or rest too much?

Ingrid: As we grow older and as we have more experience studying, we normally tend to know ourselves in a deeper way—our needs, our capacities and so on. In general, if you are studying and suddenly you find yourself distracted, thinking about other things, perhaps you need to relax a little bit. The ideal situation would be to have a fixed timetable, so that, when studying, you will have the incentive of knowing that at X hour you are going to do something that you like. However, that kind of organization is not always possible.

Julia: What is the best way to spend breaks between study sessions?

Ingrid: Depending on the person, you need to do something in order to relax. For some people, that means going for a walk, for others sunbathing, for others going to the cinema with some friends or practicing some sports.

A little exercise is always recommended due to the endorphins and serotonin generated that give us energy and happiness.

Study effectively

Julia: How to choose modules? Should you select those that are useful for your future career or those that are interesting?

Ingrid: That is not an easy decision. A combination of both would be perfect. To be honest, I think that you should give more importance to those that are going to be useful, but you also need to develop all your potential, and that is only possible when you are devoted to what you do; when you put your heart in it. It could also depend on the person. Some people are more practical, and others would not be able to study something without enjoying it.

Julia: Is it advantageous to learn 2 or more languages simultaneously?

Ingrid: I think it depends on the person. Some people find it easier since they use comparisons to learn the languages. It depends on your learning style and strategies.

Your learning strategies should be adapted to the content and the type of exam. It is not the same studying for a multiple choice exam as for an essay. In the same way, it is not the same studying history or math, one being more theoretical and the other one more practical.

The ideal student would have the necessary skills to be able to adapt his/her learning strategies to the requirements.

If we explain learning strategies to our students, we have to make them aware of all these aspects. However, many people do so.

It is also known that for children it is a good idea, due to the plasticity of their developing brain.

Julia: When studying, should you spend more time on theories or practice?

Ingrid: The best way to understand an issue is by practice. When you do something, when you experience it, you will remember it better, because it will not be something strange anymore, but something you can remember from a first-person experience.

Work deliberately

Julia: List jobs which are better for students

Ingrid: Currently, jobs related to new technologies and the internet are a plus. However, there is a study that says that 80% of today’s students are studying for jobs that do not exist yet.

That is why educational experts are highlighting the importance of developing critical thinking and creativity, instead of just memorizing the content that can become easily outdated.

Nevertheless, many students have their first work experience while at the university. In that case, you normally have a part-time job, and you have to be very lucky to find one related to your interests. Most of the time, you will have to work as a waiter or shop assistant. However, don´t look down on that! It will provide some pocket money and an invaluable experience in life!

Julia: Does part-time work influence university grades?

Ingrid: Yes, definitely, it does. But not always in the same way. I mean, on the one hand, for some people it could be a good idea, because it helps to develop different competencies having to do with responsibility, organization, establishing priorities and the value of work and effort.

On the other hand, some people would not be able to carry both tasks at the same time, and their work will probably influence their studies in a negative way—being tired all the time, stressed or just studying less.

Julia: Can a student get help from university when searching for a job?

Ingrid: Depending on the university, but most universities now offer the possibility of that kind of help through special programs or internships, giving the students the opportunity to work in a company for a set period of time. Sometimes, they could even have the chance to stay in the company when that period is finished. In some cases, those internships are paid, and in some other instances, they are not. In one way or another, students get a first work experience out of it.

image00Ingrid Mosquera Gende is an Assistant Professor at the International University of la Rioja. She holds a PhD in English Language and Literature as well as several Masters in Education.She gives conferences all around the world and is specially interested in elearning and m-learning.

She has also published various books related to Technical English and is a prolific blogger.


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