If you’ve recently signed up to study or work abroad, chances are you are feeling somewhat overwhelmed, with emotions ranging from excitement to apprehension. Although you’ve most likely been told countless times that ‘you’re in for the time of your life’ (and most likely you are), it’s so important to prepare yourself for the challenges and experiences that you might face during your year abroad. Here are some things you may not have considered about moving a new country to help prepare you for your time away :
Things don’t always go the way you planned:
Although my year abroad was full of fun and excitement, it certainly wasn’t all smooth sailing! During my time in France, there were times that all I wanted to do was quit my job as a language assistant and get the plane straight back home. I didn’t imagine I’d have my electricity cut off for a week because my French was too limited to pay the bill correctly, or that I would get on the wrong bus and travel 10 miles in the wrong direction, all because I couldn’t understand the system. However, it’s all part of the experience! I began to rationalise my problems, come up with solutions and learn from my mistakes.
The world won’t stop without you:
Life at home doesn’t stop whilst you’re away, and things aren’t always how you left them when you return. When things go wrong, such as relationships, bereavements, or just simply a bad day, it’s difficult to be so far from home and your support network. However, there’s so many ways to keep in touch and a skype session never failed to make me feel better. Encouraging friends to come and visit you, or meeting other friends who might also be away is a great link to home whilst you’re abroad.
Its not all work and study
You will have so much free time on your year abroad, meaning plenty of time for amazing new experiences! Make sure you explore your new town or city, taste that local cuisine and put yourself out there to make new friends. Of course you are there to get an education or to work, but another huge part of your year abroad is to venture out of your comfort zone and explore the world!
As a language assistant I had so many school holidays, and I used this time to travel all across Europe and meet friends in different countries. Travel is often so much cheaper than in the UK (I caught a bus from Vienna to Budapest for 3 euros!). I also had a part time job which I would highly recommend, as this boosted my language skills, provided me with money to fund my travels, and my colleagues became my friends for life. Whatever you choose to do with your free time on your year abroad, try and make the most of the opportunities available to you, as it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Culture shock is very real
Due to language barriers or cultural differences, it can certainly take a while to adjust on your year abroad to new cultural norms. I never imagined that simply crossing the English Channel could cause such a culture shock, or that missing Roast dinners, Cadburys and Robinsons squash would become a daily struggle! In France, even introducing myself was an issue, not knowing which cheek to kiss, or how many times, was just one of the daily problems that left me feeling seriously overwhelmed.
Don’t panic! You have a whole year to adjust to your new surroundings, and it is surprising how quickly you adapt to a new culture and pick up a new language. Making a little bit of effort to learn some basic language skills or cultural customs before you leave can go a long way when you’re communicating with locals.
It takes a LOT of organisation
I don’t think anyone can adequately prepare you for the bureaucracy you will face when moving abroad. When you are flooded with application forms, official documents and finding accommodation at once it can all get a bit much, but as long as you stay organised, the boring stuff can be sorted quickly. If you’re going to another country, make sure you have photocopies and back ups of all your documents from home, as you never know when they might come in handy. Looking for accommodation can be quite stressful, but as long as you research thoroughly and ask other previous students for help, it will be a lot easier than you think.
Don’t forget that University are there to help.
It can sometimes feel like you’ve been left stranded after leaving the university campus, but there are lecturers and study abroad teams that are well versed in the subject and will be able to help you out if you find yourself facing a problem.
It will change your life in ways you hadn’t even imagined
The life experiences you will gain on your year abroad will stay with you for the rest of your life. Although it’s cliché, it’s true that you will only regret the chances you didn’t take. Year abroad is great, but sometimes it might not always live up to expectation, and that’s okay. One thing is for sure, your year abroad will shape you as a person and teach you so much about yourself, as well as the world we live in. Living abroad will certainly take you out of your comfort zone and become the best thing you ever did.