How To Succeed In Overseas Studies

Nicole Bagala Stirling, Scotland


December 6, 2022

So you’re about to start your studies at your overseas institution. Very exciting! But it can also be quite intimidating. 

The Scotland college system is different from the U.S. college system for a few reasons:

  1. Unlike in the U.S., classes in Scotland only meet up one day a week.
  2. In Scotland, all the materials are online and you need to do your studies on your own, and you have a week to complete everything before the next class. 
  3. In Scotland, the grading system is different from the ones in the U.S. Grades are divided into First Class (70-100), Upper Second Class (60-69), Lower Second Class (50-59), Third Class (40-49), Marginal Fail (30-39), and Clear Fail (0-29). And for me, there aren’t any exams I need to take, just written papers, so these grades will matter a lot when you return to your college in the U.S.

I was very anxious about my first papers when the time came to start writing, so here are some tips on how to do well in your abroad studies.

  1. Look at the paper prompts early. I know this may seem like an obvious thing to do, but with all the materials you may receive in your weekly online materials, it is crucial that you figure out which prompt you want to focus on so you can find all the sources you need. The sooner you do, the sooner you can get to work!
  2. Read, Read, READ!! Once you figure out which prompt you want to complete, it is strongly recommended that you start reading the sources you will be focusing on. That way, if the sources you’re reading are long, you will have time to examine the content without needing to skip over anything.
  3. Take notes. Something I wish I did while reading one of my sources, The Good Soldier by Madox Ford, was write down some of the quotes. Fortunately, I was able to go back and find what I needed later, but it would’ve made my life easier if I had written down some of the more noteworthy quotes earlier on so I didn’t have to hunt through the story for them again. Therefore, make sure to write down anything that stands out to you while reading. It could be very helpful for you later.
  4. Review referencing styles. One thing that shocked me while writing my first papers was that different classes use different citation styles. The referencing styles used at my study abroad institution are Chicago, Harvard Stirling, APA, IEEE and OSCOLA. Anyway, aside from Chicago, all the referencing styles were new to me, so I looked at my resources on Canvas (the online format used to supply students with class materials) and learned which ones my professors graded with, then I used my study abroad school’s writing references pages to review them and figure out how to compose them. So make sure to learn which referencing style is needed for each class so you don’t mess up your references in your papers.
  5. Make an outline, then write your paper. After everything is ready, try using an outline to compose your thoughts and ideas for how you want your paper to go. Once that’s done, you’re ready to start writing!
  6. Reread, Re-edit, and REPEAT! Something that was stressed to me was to reread and re-edit your papers as many times as possible before you turn them in. If you can, see if you can get assistance from the university’s learning center if that’s an available option. They are very nice and very helpful.
  7. Submit paper on time. Make sure to submit your paper before the deadline so you don’t lose any points before the paper’s even graded.

You may never feel ready to submit your papers no matter how much work you put into them. I felt that way when I was about to submit my first papers, but if you worked hard and did the best you can do, that's all you can do, so don’t let fear of failure keep you from submitting your work. Your hard work and efforts will pay off!