Balancing Academics and a Social Life at NUI Galway

Hui Sun  is an international student from China earning her MEconSC in International Finance.

Some Chinese friends kept asking me how I manage to balance full-time school, part-time job, recreation and extracurricular activities in Ireland when I barely knew anything about how life is like in another continent. As a foreign student studying abroad for the first time, it goes without saying how important it is to improve our work-life balance in an entirely different environment.

If you want my honest answer, there are two very important tools that I’ve integrated into my weekly life that I think each international student should bear in mind: handle your pressure and time management.

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My Master’s degree major is Finance but my Bachelor’s degree major is Accounting. So honestly, I did not have a very solid foundation with what we ought to have in mathematics and programming, except some basic understanding in advanced mathematics. So at the very beginning, I found it quite hard to catch up when we were studying quantitative finance computations related to calculus, statistics and computer programming. I have to confess that at that period, I was quite upset and even depressed because I found myself quite slow in understanding lectures (both in aspect of language and content) even though I have already spent most of my time in library learning by myself. Then I made a complaint to one of my Chinese friend who has been studying in NUI Galway for 4 years, he told me to stop push myself too hard and gave me some useful tips:

  • Step 1: Self-analysis, find your limits, your strengths and weakness, the most effective studying method for yourself and your optimal hours of sleep, etc.
  • Step 2: Stop spend all day in library and enrich your spare time, but narrow down your involvement to the things which could really ignite your enthusiasm.
  • Step 3: Keep a calendar. Stick to it.

I followed his suggestions and did a thorough self-analysis. I realized that I am always eager to understand concepts and things from very bare bottom, i.e. from the bare axioms. I liked logical reasoning. In short, I was right on choosing my major. What I truly lack is not mathematic knowledge itself, but enough confidence and patience. So I settle down to study from the very basics, little by little, and luckily, my classmates were always there to help me so I happily aced my first semester’s exam.

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Also I have decided to push myself to develop healthy habits—to work out and better my physical fitness. This semester, instead of taking everything one step at a time, I decided to take life head-on because, why not? You don’t know your limits until you challenge yourself and I wanted to learn mine. Sure, there are some hard days, but that’s when exercise comes into play. Specifically, tennis and climbing. Actually, I was quite uncertain when I begin to decide whether I should start learning some new sports because I am not used to be a total novice when I enter college clubs. It’s not like the time I attended college table tennis club in China when I have already been trained for years. Fortunately, when I finally set up my mind and stepped into the tennis court and the climbing wall, I found there were quite a few newcomers like me who had no experience and all of us were taught from the very basic. The club managers were very friendly and patient, we all enjoyed ourselves, and I should say doing sports is really a great way to release our pressure form the daily routine. I even passed my NUI Galway climbing certificate after the whole session of climbing class!  Sun Pic 4.jpgSun Pic 5.jpg

The third aspects for me to change has been organization, specifically time management. Utilizing my at-home calendar app, Google calendar app, and an on-the-go planner app has helped me tremendously in terms of knowing my weekly assignments and tasks. I believe very strongly in writing things down and setting reminders because that is one of the best ways I retain information and memorize my goals. A good organizational practice to get started is to take everything that you need to do in a week and write them down from greatest to least important and make it your business to set aside time for every goal each day. Before you know it, your entire list will be diminished and you might even have some time to spare for extracurricular activities.

These may seems like two very small methods towards self-improvement, however, practice makes perfect and habits turn into muscle memory so even if you don’t see much of a change immediately, taking baby steps towards big goals are still steps in the right direction.

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