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As I approach the end of my semester abroad, I've been dedicating time to getting ready for my finals. This preparation involves studying for exams, refining my oral presentation skills, and completing papers. From my experience, I have noticed that my university’s focus has been on the comprehensive integration of our semester's coursework. Instead of traditional final exams, each of my classes requires a combination of a presentation, a final exam, and a final paper. This approach, advocated by my university, Lorenzo de Medici, aims to enable us to demonstrate our learning through the use of different skill sets. 

Managing the Differences from Finals at UMass

The final exam period abroad differs from that at UMass Amherst because much of our work accumulates at the end of the semester. The weeks after midterms tend to focus on completing readings and doing in-class discussions that all lead up to our final projects, papers, and presentations. 

For example, in my class “Yoga: Breathing, Meditation, Spirituality”, my professor only had us complete readings and discussion questions during the weeks between midterms and finals. All of these readings and discussions helped us prepare for our two final presentations and paper. 

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Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Because of this course structure, I suggest gradually working on your finals after midterms are over. Most universities, if not all, require professors to outline the course’s final project in the syllabus on the first day of class, providing you with plenty of time to prepare. Personally, I wrote the majority of my final papers about two weeks before they were due because I knew I would be traveling a lot leading up to the deadlines. Managing your workload while traveling is the key to your success abroad, so keep that in mind. 

Another distinction in my finals abroad compared to those at UMass, is the two-week duration of the finals period. Although not universal for all classes, this structure appears to be common. The initial week focuses on final presentations, while the subsequent week is allocated for written exams. As previously emphasized, effective time management is crucial during periods where your workload will be heavier than normal. 

How to Travel While Finals Are Happening

Another important consideration is that during the last weeks of your study abroad experience, you may find yourself trying to fit in all of the experiences you wanted to have before you leave. The last few weeks are bittersweet and most definitely busy, so be sure to allocate time for studying and final exam and project preparation. A great tip for simultaneously enjoying the last weeks in your study abroad city and preparing for finals is finding new cafés and study spots to do work in. You can either do some solo finals prep or grab your friends and have a study session together! I found this a great way to enjoy my last days in Florence while also ensuring I was productive. 

Don't Stress

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A photo of Ponte Vecchio

My last piece of advice is to remember not to stress yourself out. Moving out of the city you called home for the past few months and preparing for finals can be a lot to handle all at once. As a student who has already been through this, my best advice is to use the resources you have available to you, such as tutors and writing workshops. My host university offered writing workshops, just as UMass does, and this is a great resource to take advantage of. 

So when your finals season approaches while abroad, remember amidst the flurry of farewells and final assessments, it’s important to enjoy the culmination of all that you have learned throughout your semester abroad. It is such a great opportunity to be able to expand your knowledge in a new and culturally enriching academic environment!