Smartphone Apps for Studying When Studying Abroad

By Debora Aberastury on February 18, 2019

When students go abroad, they forget an essential part of studying abroad – the studying part. What was once a wonderful GPA can be toppled down by a lack of studying one semester abroad. Don’t let that be you!

Your devices can be a useful tool to make studying more productive, easy, and – dare I say it? – fun. First things first, you will need to ensure that your phone has some sort of Calendar app. When the semester or term begins, start filling out your calendar with the most important due dates that you must remember. Things like homework or reading assignments are subject to change, but you may want to add an event prior to your class to remind you to finish the reading.

Do remember to add alerts for exams and papers – add a few of them: some a few weeks or days before, and some hours before until it is time. It is a little bit of overkill in some ways, and it will lead your phone to ping nearly every day, but when you are abroad, many things will distract you. Let your calendar keep you grounded and focused on the studying part of studying abroad.

Some Calendar apps I would recommend: Google Calendar (free), Apple Calendar (iOS, free), Outlook (part of the Office 365 subscription – check with your school to see if you have access to Office 365 with your student ID, otherwise it is $6.99 a month, or $69.99 a year for all of Office 365), MyStudyLife (free), The Homework App (free), and myHomework (free with ads, $4.99 a year without adds plus ability to attach files and external calendar access).

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Depending on your classes, you may also find a Calculator app useful as well. Although you may already have a physical calculator, having one on your phone is especially useful if, for example, you lose it on a train to Italy. All devices should already have a calculator app automatically on the phone. If you need something fancier, MyScript Calculator (free), Calculator (allows you to graph, $2.99), or Soulver ($1.99).

Notes apps can be useful – such as Google Keep (free), OneNote (free), Notability (free), Microsoft Word (free, more features with an Office 365 subscription), or Evernote (Free/$69.99 a year for premium) – but they can be cumbersome to take notes on especially if you have it on your phone or even tablet. Bluetooth keyboards can help make it easier.

Most apps have some form to export the said notes into PDF format and sent to your email – making it easier to print out and access for those all-nighters. The note apps can also come quite handy the one day that you forget to bring your physical notebook, or when you’re attending a lecture and want to take notes.

Speaking of making notes easier to access – downloading a scanner on your phone is incredibly useful. Some great examples of these are Genius Scan (free, $2.99 a month/$29.99 a year for a premium subscription), Scanner Pro ($3.99), and Scanbot (free). What scanner apps do is take a picture of whatever document or physical page you are trying to save and transforms it into a PDF or JPEG – turning that physical page into digital. It is especially useful when you are packing up to go abroad and you have certain documents or essays that you want to reference in the future. Rather than packing those physical copies in your bag, make a digital copy instead. It is also useful to make digital copies of any notes so you can read it while you are on public transportation, as well as useful to make digital copies of any book pages for an essay.

On that note, it can be a little hard to read either those digital copies of your notes or documents, or even already digital copies on your phone. Consider downloading a PDF reader as well. Now, while reading for your classes while you’re on your way to Paris or London may be a bummer – but think of it this way: you were likely to have just stared out your window or scrolled through Facebook, might as well get some reading done.

Some fantastic PDF reader apps: Dropbox (free, also does have a subscription – you do have to hit the three dots at the right-hand corner and chose ‘make available offline’ so you can read it offline), EBookDroid (free), Adobe Acrobat Reader (free), Google PDF Reader (free), PDF Reader (free), and Kindle (free).

Kindle might seem like an odd choice, but with an Amazon account, you can send PDFs to your Kindle email, which will, in turn, add it onto your Kindle library. It can be a lot of work to do just to read some PDFs on your phone or tablet, but well worth it, especially if you chose to travel a lot while you are abroad or have a long commute.

Another app to take notice of us Pocket. All Pocket essentially does is allow you to save links to articles – articles that are then available to read offline. Professors might send you news or analysis articles to read that are online, so it is especially useful in those cases. It is also useful to have articles saved that you plan to use in an essay, or articles that help you understand certain concepts from your classes. Pocket also has a browser add-on, meaning that Pocket will put a button on the right corner of your browser – so whenever you are on the article page that you want, you just hit the Pocket logo and it downloads it onto your list. Same goes with Twitter – you can add an add-on to make it easier to save articles from Twitter.

Last but not least, a useful app to study – flashcards. There is an array of apps to choose from. My personal favorites: Flashcards+ by Chegg (free), Quizlet Flashcards (free), StudyBlue (free), and Cram (free). Each app allows you to create and access your cards both on the app itself and on a browser. It makes it much easier to type out all of what you have to type out (or even to copy and paste the information) and gives you the ability to access them wherever you go. Suddenly, your studying can go anywhere!

Graduate student in International Relations at Webster Vienna Private University. Research Assistant at Webster Vienna Private University. Assistant Editor at Voy Abroad. Federal Affairs Senior Correspondent at Pasquines.

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