When you partake in a study-abroad program, it almost always includes taking some classes to some extent. Without those classes, you would pretty much just be on an extended vacation away from school, and that is something that no University can reasonably justify. However, most people readily admit that the true value of such study-abroad journeys are the moments away from the classroom when you are taking in all that the city has to offer. But how exactly should you be balancing the educational aspects of a study-abroad program with the more exciting and “fun” things that you can be doing in your leisure time instead?
When it comes to general classes (i.e. ones that don’t necessarily pertain to the city you are in specifically), you should be taking as little of these credits as possible. While you are inevitably abroad as part of a University program, taking classes that you very well could be taking back in the states makes no sense at all. The only reason you should be taking such classes are if they are required for graduation and this was the only time you could fit them into your schedule to graduate on time. Otherwise, avoid these classes completely.
Now when it comes to classes that do actually pertain to the city you are living in, I would definitely make sure that you are taking a corresponding language class. This should be obvious since you are already living in the city and thus would want to be enrolled in the corresponding language class at the same time, but perhaps even more importantly, being enrolled in a corresponding language class will ensure that you have a teacher who knows the language inside and out, and can teach you not just the textbook language topics, but other topics such as slang and other colloquial phrases to truly get you fluent in the language. Plus, these classes are typically smaller since most study-abroad programs are relatively small in size as well, meaning that you can get personalized teaching that you absolutely should be taking advantage of.
Outside of language classes, to fill out the rest of your “schedule” for the semester or quarter, you should be taking classes that tach you about the culture of the country you are in. Or better yet, take classes that specifically pertain to the exact city you are located in. This additional context taught in the classroom will inevitably help you to immerse yourself in the city even further.
Outside of those two categories, you should not be taking any other classes. In fact, you should be taking the bare minimum number of credits as possible. Because as useful as language classes and other related history / social studies classes may be, they should not be the focus of your study-abroad program. Instead, you should be spending as much time as possible away from the classroom and exploring the city that you were so intent on coming to in the first place. After all, you didn’t decide to go on a study-abroad program to take classes, but rather to explore a city that you found fascinating.
If you really have a strong inclination for academics in general, you can spend your leisure time checking out museums or other historic locations as a way to learn while exploring the city itself. Otherwise you can spend your time doing literally anything else in the city! Whatever brings you excitement in the city is a good way to be spending your time, whether you are exploring the city with friends, or just talking a stroll all by yourself. Although the educational aspects of a study-abroad program cannot be avoided completely, you definitely should take it upon yourself to instead focus on maximizing your time exploring the city outside of the classroom!