Study Hard and See the World

Balancing student life with travel is possible - just ask "Nina Near and Far"!


I’ve been fortunate to find many passions in my life. Travelling is one, and science is another. I’m one of those people who spends hours researching everything about a destination, reading blog posts, saving pins, and pouring over photos. I’m also someone who arrives in a new country, notices a genetic condition seems to be prominent in the area and spends the first night of my trip flipping through peer-reviewed scientific journals and historical records to identify the cause.

How do you see the world, when you want to understand the inner workings of the human brain? How do you excel in your studies, when you want to be off having adventures?

I’ve travelled to over 10 countries in the last 2 years. I study Neuroscience full time and work part-time, year-round. Saving money aside, here’s my practical advice on leading a more adventurous life.

girl standing by river and ruins in canada nina near and far sherpa
Carbide Wilson Ruins, 20 minutes from Ottawa.


Travel At Home

Adventures can happen anywhere. If you’re a college or University student, odds are you live in an interesting city. Go see it! I live in Ottawa, Canada, and am constantly exploring the city and surrounding areas.

Find out what events are going on in your area, or Google as if you were about to visit as a tourist. Go to the museum you’ve driven past every day for 22 years, but have never been inside. Get coffee at a family owned, one-of-a-kind café. Walk the trails, the waterfronts, the city streets, and whatever else there is to explore.

We have an incredible advantage as students, too. Take a flyer off one of the campus bulletin boards, and pull your headphones out the next time someone awkwardly approaches you in the main hall with a clipboard, asking you to join their open water Frisbee golf team, or to take their Tuesday night Latin dance class. If you were in Puerto Rico and someone invited you to a salsa dancing night, you would go. So, why wait? There are lots of ways to have unique, interesting experiences without leaving town.

girl and dog standing on cliff side in Ireland sherpa travel visa nina near and far
Making a friend in Ireland.


Study Smarter

I once saw a meme circulating Facebook that read “Somehow failing 11 courses, even though I’m only taking 5.” We’ve all been there. One night you have nothing to do, and the next night you have 3 nearly-late assignments, 2 upcoming midterms, and you accidentally put the milk in the cupboard. I’ve been there, many times. Travelling at home seems like a lovely, whimsical tip next to all your homework. Travelling out of the country sounds even more far-fetched.

It is possible to go outside during final exams, though. Yes, really. It’s possible to maintain a part-time job without hurting your grades, and you’re ultimately going to need an income if you plan to travel anywhere that requires a passport or a visa.

The key is to study and work effectively. Most campus libraries offer workshops on writing papers, studying for finals, and referencing. Go take those workshops. One hour of your time in September will save you 10 hours when final exams roll around.

Here are a few study strategies that I’ve found to be incredibly effective:

  • Hand-write colour coded notes. Dates in one colour, keywords in another, equations in yet another. Force yourself to separate and organize information.
  • Create questions. Whenever I’m done writing out my notes, I then go through and create questions. Quizzing yourself is the best way to improve learning.
  • Pay attention in class. Don’t just go to class. Download your slides, open Word, and turn off Wifi. Focus upfront, and spend less time studying later.
  • Go outside and do things. You can’t study all day. Go outside, have some fun and relax your brain sometimes. Travel in your own city, and you might even get better grades.


Change Your Travel Expectations

One of the reasons that I began travel blogging and writing was to edge my way through the voices of the long-term travellers and say “Hey! You – yes you! It’s okay to go on short trips to super touristy destinations and blast through your bucket list in 5 days.”

I’m not planning to leave my job, degree, or my puppy to travel for 8 months. If you’re studying something that you care about, then you probably aren’t either.

Long, slow, immersive, “off-the-beaten-path” travel is trendy right now, and that’s cool. There is value in that, and I’m sure it’s a lot of fun. It doesn’t really fit for us students, though. Even summer backpacking is out because we’re under pressure to build up our resumes with work experience and volunteer hours. Expectations for students are high. Don’t lower your expectations for travel, but change them a little.

Opt for short, adventure packed trips. Decide where you’re going based on budget, flight duration, and what’s important to you. Change plans if one destination is a better option than another. Pre-plan your itinerary so that you get to see all the things that are important to you.

friends in a waterfall in costa rica nina near and far sherpa travel visa
3 day trip to Costa Rica


I’ll leave you with this…

It’s your life. Make it interesting and exciting in whatever way you want. One type of adventure is no less valuable than another – and that includes academic pursuits.

One day you’ll talk about the time that you and your classmates smuggled 6 pizzas and multiple bags of candy into the library and aced your midterm the next morning despite your food coma, and another day you’ll tell the story about the time you accidentally flushed your car keys down the toilet in a pub while you were on a road trip.

They’re all great stories and fun adventures in their own way. Have as many as you want however works best for you!


The Sherpa Team sends a huge thank you to guest blogger Nina for sharing her tips and advice about balance! You can follow her adventures through her website Nina Near and Far and you connect with her on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter! Do you want to contribute to Sherpa? Have a blog idea we should cover? Check out our Initiatives Page and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!