What They Don’t Tell You About Doing a Year Abroad

Everyone who has been on a year abroad has agreed with me when I say that it is a unique experience. From Australia to Japan, to the Netherlands and the USA, everyone comes back with an entirely different, and an (almost) entirely positive review.

When looking at your abroad schemes, facilities wow you with all the possibilities. What they don’t tell you before you leave though, is that getting there is half the battle.

The administrative procedure is a nightmare and you will begin to question whether going to spend a year abroad is even worth it. Due to the need to apply to Leeds University, then to your new uni, then for a visa before you can book a flight; you will find waiting around at each of these stages. This is tedious at best, and nightmarish at worst. It seems that there are never-ending forms and hoops to jump through, with random steps thrown in for fun like having to send money abroad for student insurance, or taking last minute trips to London to have a privately paid doctor feel up your armpit so that your host country knows that you are fit and well to leave England.

Once you’ve got that sorted, you’ll have to find somewhere to live! It sounds so simple, but it’s not when you’re moving to a country where they speak a different language, or don’t have enough space in halls. This was by far the hardest challenge I faced when on my year abroad. Choosing not to live in halls because my uni was an hour out of the city meant finding a house in a big city, with people I didn’t know, and applying to live in areas we had no idea about. This required an average of three house viewings a day across the city, writing many applications with different people, receiving continual rejections; whilst also attempting to sort out an Australian bank account, phone number and register at university. I eventually found a home with someone who, by chance, managed to message a man on Gumtree as soon as he posted about it online. Luckily, we ended up in the city centre (by some miracle) but a top-tip is to email people who have been to the same country already to find out what suburbs are great to live in. Trust me it will help you make a more educated house search.

Another thing people fail to mention is that most of your friends won’t be from your host country. Most likely, your friends will mainly be other international students. Whether it’s the Icelandic girl you meet at the international fair in the first week, or Sophie from Sussex University; these people will be your friends. You will all have lots in common, and find yourselves at all the same events; not to mention want to go travelling around the country and continent with them on weekends. Face it, if someone came to Leeds and visited a different country in Europe every other week, it is unlikely you would be able to spend a lot of time with them.

The first week will feel like a month, the first month will feel like a year, and then the year will feel like a blurry dream you will long for on cold, Leeds winter days.

For me, it was by far the best year of my life. Living in Melbourne, a city of seven million people, with all the bars, restaurants, theatre shows and international film festivals your heart could desire; it was also an amazingly peaceful place. From meeting the cute little ‘fairy penguins’, Kangaroos and Wallabies – to finding giant spiders and mice in our house, I became very well acquainted with a whole new way of living with nature. Not to mention my favourite spot: the beach; the perfect place to go surfing, de-stress after work, picnic with your hot Aussie tinder date or even find a rock to study on (something I did frequently to convince myself I was doing work).

Wherever you go, do your research before you leave and it will be amazing. I 100% recommend anyone going abroad for a year, because whatever happens, you will definitely not regret it.

Annabelle Toon


Image: RACQ Living