Combining learning and traveling - is that possible? Yes! Even while studying law

Dear Diary,

I have been asked time and again how I was able to travel so much while studying law. I actually chose a degree course that requires an above-average amount of learning. Nevertheless, I traveled a lot in 2019. Even though I was in the middle of preparing for my first state exam. For all those not studying law: The course is not divided into Bachelor's and Master's degrees. Instead, we law students write one or two state exams. The exams are so extensive that we have to study for a long time to prepare for them. That's why it probably seems really surprising to the outside world that I still travel so much. So how do I manage it?

When I'm asked about this, my first answer is: You can't compare yourself to me! In general, you shouldn't compare yourself to others. Everyone learns and works differently, everyone has different commitments, everyone uses their time differently. That's just the way it is. For example, I didn't do my law degree in an “ordinary” way. I studied abroad for two semesters and took another semester off for an international moot court. This allowed me to layer all areas of law in the exam, which is rather unusual. As a result, I usually only had to focus on one area of law and felt I had more time for everything. What's more, my lifestyle is very different to yours. You may have different hobbies or commitments than I do and therefore can't travel as much. So it very much depends on your personal circumstances whether you can travel a lot!

Another point that might set me apart from you is the way I learn. After all, I can learn anywhere, at least depending on what I'm doing at the time. Not everyone can do that. So you have to be the right type. So get to know your learning type! What can you do when you're traveling? Maybe write summaries or index cards? On the other hand, what do you need a quiet environment without distractions for? If I have to memorize or internalize something, I can't do it on the go. That's why I would never go traveling just before an exam. I stay at home and study intensively without distractions.

You should also be aware that my trips weren't picture-book vacations where I closed my eyes and relaxed on the beach. I used the car journeys to write my own scripts. Instead of a novel, I read cases. Before going to bed, I had to read the last pages of a textbook. When we weren't out hiking, I was studying. In addition, I had to make up for the time I spent studying less on vacation when I got home. I liked to sit at my desk from 8am to 11pm, only leaving it to eat and take a pee break. Every now and then I had to give up a few things, such as a party night with my friends. So it wasn't as easy as it seemed. However, it was worth the effort.

Over time, I also found the right balance between learning and traveling. I started writing myself study plans. That put me off at first because I never had the time. Gradually, however, I became better at estimating how much time I needed for what. I learned not to take on too much and to plan realistically (this is also important regardless of whether you are traveling or not!) In order not to neglect my studies while traveling, I planned quite far in advance and in great detail. I checked day by day how much time I realistically had to study and how much I could get done in that time. I also looked at what I could do on my travels and what I should do in peace and quiet. Based on this, I planned one day at a time. In the end, I had drawn up a plan that showed exactly which topic I had to cover when and how many pages I had to complete per day.

Of course, my study plan changed constantly after that. Sometimes I finished a topic quicker than I thought, sometimes it took me a little longer. So I often changed my plan (which is why it's a good idea to create a digital plan). If I didn't get through a topic in time, I had to divide the remaining material over the other days. In the end, planning well in advance helped me to keep an overview. I was able to estimate exactly how much I had to learn and which trips I could or couldn't take.

By the way, the effect on Instagram also plays a huge role! We may have been away for two days, but we took, say, ten good photos. If I upload them all now, it might look on Instagram as if I'd been away for a whole week. But that's not true. We often 'only' went on weekend trips. We left on Fridays after work and usually came back on Sundays or Mondays. So while we spent our weekend in Paris, others might have gone to the lake and taken a day off from the stress of studying. I just organized my free time differently than others. My free time consisted of traveling, while others might have put in a series marathon. I didn't do that on top of everything else. I simply set different priorities. Effectively, my study time wasn't much less than others. And if I did want to go to the outdoor pool with friends, I always had something to read for university with me.

But I also have to be completely honest with you! You not only have to be able to combine learning and traveling, but above all you have to want to. It takes a lot of discipline to read a few criminal law cases in the outdoor pool while the others are playing beach volleyball. Of course, I sometimes played for half an hour, but then I went back to my cases on the blanket. It wasn't always easy. Only the prospect of a new trip made it easier.

Sounds a bit stressful now, doesn't it? But I think preparing for exams is always stressful. So the most important thing of all is not to stress yourself out. Listen to your body! If it needs a break, then give it one. You want a good grade and can't afford a break? Bullshit! Good grades are important to me too. But at what cost? You should still live alongside your studies! Will that one break really cost you a point in the exam? And if so, is that one point really that important? Of course, a lot depends on your degree. If you have a good degree, it will probably be easier to get a good job. So of course you should take it seriously. Just don't forget to live your life! After all, what's the point if you end up with a great grade and a well-paid job but aren't happy?

Find out for yourself! Find your personal balance!

xx Chiara

My Tips 

in a nutshell:

  • Don't compare yourself with others!
  • Learn to assess yourself.
  • Be realistic about your learning goals and don't take on too much.
  • Plan well in advance.
  • Find out what and how you can learn while traveling.
  • Be disciplined!
  • Set yourself priorities.
  • Don't put too much stress on yourself!