This was both hard and easy to write. On the one hand, it helped me process my thoughts. On the other hand, I’m very aware of coming across as ungrateful for the opportunities open to me. I’m not saying that life abroad hasn’t been good but this is describing a feeling that pops up every so often, one that I can’t always ignore. So here we go…
Any time I told someone about my Year Abroad plans, the phrase “It’ll be the best year of your life” was thrown at me.
I hate it.
I hate it because it makes me think that if it isn’t, then somehow I’ve failed. That I’m not doing it right. That I wasn’t good enough to be able to come back with all these incredible stories and friends. That I’ve failed to live up to people’s expectations. It creates pressure. Pressure I put on myself. Thing is, it probably won’t be the best year of my life. I have absolutely no doubt it will be completely different and good in its own way, I just don’t think it will be the best. There’s already things I’m going to miss: I love the general way of life. Food. Having everything on your doorstep (just not on a Sunday). Being able to book spontaneous trips because you live in the centre of Europe. I also feel a lot more independent than I did at uni – all that form filling in German may have made an impact.
But I miss my friends and especially my boyfriend. I’m not homesick but I feel an emptiness from losing my social life structure and what hit me hardest was the realisation that I have to build up my world up again. Everything that made uni great is what I don’t have right now. It took me two years to find that and now I’m back to square one, but in a foreign language.
Being an anxious person hasn’t helped either. I feel cripplingly shy at times. I’ve never been a bubbly or talkative person and in social situations I worry a lot. Sometimes I just get completely tongue-tied and regret the gibberish that came out of my mouth. So yeah, I find it hard to feel comfortable and know what do/say at the best of times. This all gets amplified in German.
Going on a Year Abroad is quite isolating at times and the language barrier can sometimes push you further into a box that you feel like you can’t quite climb out of. This is something I don’t think is talked about enough at uni or amongst the students who go abroad. When you hear the stories from those who spent time abroad and see the photos on social media, it’s almost exclusively the positive side and (to an extent) this exacerbates the pressure.
What helped me was visiting my friends in Sheffield, who are now in their final year. Seeing them nearing the end of their student lives made me realise how I should make the most of this year because I don’t have long before real life hits. I need to shift the focus from living up to expectations that I was mostly forcing upon myself and instead concentrate on just doing what I enjoy and what makes me feel comfortable – doesn’t matter if it won’t make for great stories, as long as I’m content. So I’m not going to try to make it “the best year of my life” but make it one that simply works for me.