Manage Work and Classes like a Pro: International Student’s Guide

Manage Work and Classes like a Pro: International Student's Guide

You’ve got a paper due and a work deadline to meet in six hours. Which one do you choose?

Experience says neither.

You are likely to waste three of those six precious hours in a pit of anxiety and nerves, contemplating your life choices. Even if you scrape something together to submit to your job and college, it likely won’t be your best work.

If you find this scenario all too familiar, you’re struggling to fit work and studies into a coherent schedule. But your cause isn’t hopeless. You just need a little guidance.

To create a plan to manage work and classes, here are some crucial points you need to know:

1. Are You Studying And Working On Something You Like?

If you lack passion for what you do, it’ll be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to keep at it.

Studying something you don’t enjoy makes college feel like prison. Toiling at a meaningless dead-end job will soon feel like a life sentence.

As soon as you are completely worn out, nothing will feel worth it. That’s when you’ll stop involuntarily. Your mind and body will leave you with no choice.

It’s called depression.

Depression is a serious risk for international students, especially since they are already plucked far away from family, friends, and all semblance of familiarity. If you hate your job and school on top of that, your wheels will soon stop rolling.

So, before you even imagine juggling a job and college, make sure you have enough motivation to keep you going in the first place.

Study what inspires you, and work on something that leads you where you want to be.

2. You Own Time, Time Doesn’t Own You

Time management is a skill that many people struggle with. You might get distracted, feel unmotivated, or you would rather sleep than do your homework.

However, a lot of tasks can be accomplished in just an hour. Subtracting 12 hours for sleep and other necessary activities, you are still left with 12 hours per day. Multiply that with 7 and you have 84 hours in a week you can devote entirely to work and studies. 

If you utilize even two-thirds of this time, a lot more will get done than you can even imagine right now. Here’s how to do it systematically:

  • Goal-Setting

Set up monthly, quarterly, or yearly study and work goals. Keep these goals small and achievable.

For example, if you have 4 projects to submit by the month-end, you should complete one each week. This way you are not overloaded 5 days before the deadline.

  • To-Do Lists

Jot down everything that needs to get done. Keep adding as more tasks pile up, and strike off the completed ones. This includes everything from reading a book to doing your laundry.

  • Week Planner

Plan each week on the weekends. Include activities that contribute to your long-term goals, as well as necessary daily tasks. Use a week planner application or a diary to note down your plans.

  • Scheduling

Plan out each daily task by the hour. Keep track of how long you’re supposed to take for finishing a job and how long you’re actually taking. Find out what’s eating away your time. Schedule your days before going to bed, or right after waking up.

3. Take Charge of Your Finances

As a student trying to manage work and classes, you have to admit that career advancement and ambition are not the only reasons you are working while studying. Money is a huge factor as well.

You likely depend on your income to keep yourself afloat. However, earning money and retaining it are two separate skills. If you don’t have both, financial ruin is nearby.

Here’s how to manage money to ensure financial stability under all conditions:

  • Emergency Fund

The concept is simple. Save enough money to sustain yourself financially in case you are unable to earn any money for 6 months to 1 year. Just find out how much you spend every month on necessities, and multiply that by the number of months you are planning to save for.

Say you need $1,000 every month. Then you should have between $6,000 and $12,000 saved up as your safety net. This will safeguard you in case you lose your job, get into an accident, get a terminal disease, or something else that might keep you from working.

  • International Student’s Insurance

Medical expenses in the U.S. will wipe out anything you have saved in the bank within a few days. Losing your luggage or suddenly returning to your country due to emergencies can wreak similar financial havoc.

You want to protect your money, not lose it in a split second. This is why you need insurance.

  • Student Aid

College tuition is another factor that can leave you broke long after you have graduated. Student loans should be your last resort. Instead, try to get financial assistance from your school, and apply for scholarships and grants.

This way, you don’t have to compromise on your education by choosing a college based on price, rather than the programs that it offers. Graduate with money in the bank, and a shining future ahead.

  • Budgeting

If you don’t have a home loan, car loan, or kids to pay for, you might be more tempted to be reckless with your money.

Hold off on buying the latest iPhone as soon as it hits the market. You need to budget your monthly expenses first. You can buy whatever fits your budget.

Try the 50-20-30 budget rule.

  • Spend 50% on necessities, 30% on desires, and put away 20% to savings.
  • Next, try to bring down the amount you spend on needs and wants, and increase your savings.

Your future self will thank you for it.

  • Saving For Goals

This one is optional. If you have an expensive goal in mind, start saving up for it today. You will never acquire the money you need for that film camera or that start-up magically. Actualize those dreams through intricate financial planning.

4. An Accommodating Employer Is a Must

Choose flexibility when it comes to your job. You might find it difficult to reschedule exams and projects with your professors, so finding a job that will accommodate your school schedule should be a priority.

When exam season rolls in, you need an accommodating employer who lets you work according to your exam and study schedule. A strict boss who breathes down your neck is undesirable. If you take a job that isn’t suitable for students, you are bound to be unnecessarily stressed.

Here are some things you should look for while accepting a new job:

  • Have an honest conversation with your recruiter regarding your responsibilities as a student. Let them know of all the possible scenarios they can expect.
  • Figure out a schedule that works for both you and your employer.
  • Carefully examine the job responsibilities and consider if you’ll be able to carry them out despite all your commitments. Flexibility is not a substitute for diligence. Your quality of work ought to be excellent to convince your employer that you deserve the leeway you are asking for.
  • Never take a job that allows very few leaves, or has excessive clauses for pay cuts.
  • Find a job in an industry related to what you’re studying. This way you’ll earn both cash and experience, and the job won’t seem so daunting, since you are already studying for it.

5. The Ideal Study/Work Ethic

You need to set some ground rules to regulate your student and work life. Always abide by these rules so that you can minimize strain and maximize productivity.

  • Don’t Alternate Study and Work — Partition Instead

Your brain won’t work as efficiently if you continuously shift your focus from one task to another.


  • Partition your days and weeks by hours.
  • Devote a section each to either working, or studying dedicatedly.

For example:

  • Say your mornings are for studies and classes, and your evenings are for work.
  • Or you study three days of the week and work three days.
  • On Sundays, you arrange which days to do what. 

The more time and concentration you devote to a task, the faster it will get done. Complete one task before moving on to another.

  • Streamline and bundle tasks

Some tasks may be unrelated to your college and job, but crucial to your life. You need to work smarter, not harder.

  • Listen to an audiobook while cooking.
  • Talk on the phone while doing your laundry.
  • Plan the rest of the day while eating your breakfast.
  • Shop for groceries in bulk, instead of going out multiple times over the week.
  • Run all your errands at once while you’re out.

Find innovative ways of getting multiple things done simultaneously.

These tasks consume your time, but they aren’t high cognition enough to be handled individually. You can streamline and designate a time of the day or week to do these tasks. This way you preserve all the time you can.

  • Resolve Conflicts Like a Pro

Despite having a separate work and study schedule, sometimes your schedules will conflict. Maybe they announced a surprise test at college, or your boss wants you to get to an urgent project. Here, you need conflict resolution skills free of any biases.

Keep in mind that neither your education, nor your career is the second priority. You are both a student and an employee. If you let one identity take precedence, you are disrespecting the other.

Always prioritize according to the urgency and importance of the task. Whatever needs your attention foremost is your first priority.

6. Say “No” More Often

Setting healthy boundaries is key to preserving your mental health. Constantly saying yes will only benefit others, not you.

Say “no” as often as you need to, so you say “yes” only to the most important tasks that deserve your time and energy.

Here are some scenarios where this rule applies. Say no to:

  • Outrageous demands from your boss that you won’t be compensated for.
  • Optional college projects and activities.
  • Going out with friends at a place you can’t afford right now.

Above all, say no to all activities when your body and mind are telling you it’s time to stop and rest. Don’t push yourself too hard.

7. Prioritize Health and Invest In Good Relationships

While you manage work and classes, don’t forget the two other essential parts of your life: your health and relationships. If either deteriorates, you won’t be able to function well at either college or work.

Here’s what you can do to maintain your health:

  • Maintain your physical health with your preferred exercise.
  • Meditate and go to therapy if your mental health needs attention.
  • Try to sustain a healthy diet. Stay away from foods that tend to make you sick.
  • Follow a fixed daily routine. Don’t sabotage your sleep by staying up too late.
  • Develop a lifestyle that suits your needs. Partying every other night won’t do.

Remember the following when it comes to your relationships:

  • Spend enough time talking with friends and family back home. Stay connected and rooted.
  • Find other international students whose lives are similar to yours. This will help you feel understood.
  • Create your support group of advisors, mentors, professors, and co-workers. You will want a network of people you can go to with your problems. You are going to need advice when you feel stuck, and these relationships will be most valuable then.

8.  Get a Relaxing Hobby

Don’t confuse this with binge watching Netflix. A hobby is something you actively do to derive mental gratification, free of any monetary gains or pressure of productivity. You would think it’s better to cut out all unnecessary activities to save time for rest. Well, that is incorrect.

You are studying for the degree and you are working for the cash. What are you doing for yourself?

A hobby is something you do just to make yourself happy. These are activities you would do if money and survival were not a factor.

Maybe you would paint all day, or dance your heart out. You might tour the city on your bicycle, or go mountain climbing.

Finding time in the week to tend to your happiness and well-being is crucial. If you are not enjoying life, there is no point in studying and working.

In Conclusion

Check if all the above-mentioned points resonate with your life. If not, you need to make some changes. Soon you’ll be all set to strike a perfect balance between your career and education.

What you think about yourself and your situation makes the biggest difference. You might be grinding hard, but you are not alone.

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