The first word in "Studying Abroad" may be studying but if you ask my friends, I am most definitely the least scholastic of the bunch. Regardless of this fact I still wanted to do well while studying here in Tokyo. While these past few months have been tricky, I think I've discovered a few tips that have helped me tremendously.
The first thing I've learned is to be flexible. The Japanese higher education system is vastly different that the US. Many of my instructors have gone strictly by the lesson plan and rarely gone off course. I could hold a grudge and be really upset about this but that won't help my grade so I've learned to bend and mold accordingly in each class. My Japanese class for example, we have 3 different teachers and one of them is REALLY strict. The other two are pretty laid back and go at their own pace. So now I only bring my textbooks to class on Tuesdays & Fridays. This is an arrangement that has been approved by the other two teachers of course!
Secondly I've learned to be consistent. This has been really tricky because I want to get the most out of my experience here. But with good preparation and proactivity I've learned that I can make it work. If I know I have a busy week coming up, I'll save an extra hour or so to go study at the local library in my neighborhood. The hard part is sticking with this. Having friends from class study with me has been super helpful to keep me on track.
The third thing I've learned is to be optimistic! No matter how stressful things can get with tests and quizzes this too shall pass! My mom always has to remind me to look at the big picture rather than analyze everything on a microscopic level. This skill has been really helpful in Tokyo because surprisingly classes can get pretty stressful here in Tokyo!
The last and most important thing that I've learned is BALANCE. Yes I am here to learn and get better at my Japanese. Yes I'm here to challenge myself academically in a new setting. BUT I am also here to soak in and experience as much of the Japanese culture as I can! If I stayed in my room and studied for 3+ hours every night then that wouldn't leave me with very much time t explore! And inversely, if I went out every night unit last train and never studied I would definitely flunk. Life is all about balance! Studying a little each day has kept me from having to cram last minute. And most days I try to finish all my homework and studying before my friends decide where we want to go for the night.
All in all I would say mastering flexibility, consistency, optimism, and balance have all carried me through this experience. It has not been the easiest thing and I definitely try at it each and everyday.