Tips for your year abroad

  1. First things first: Ask people who have done their Year Abroad for advice. I’ve pestered a few and they’ve always been super helpful and kind, going above and beyond anything I ever expected. So if anyone wants to ask me for any help, just leave a comment and I’ll try my best to be of use – for reference, I had placement in Berlin.

  1. If there are people from your uni that you don’t really know but know of and they’re in the same city as you, just give them a message. They’re almost certainly going to be experiencing similar emotions to you and together you can enjoy the city.
  1. Join the nearby uni’s Facebook groups. Even if you’re on a placement, you can still go to events organised for international students. There’s often chances to become a tandem partner if you’re interested in ‘swapping’ languages with someone else – it didn’t work for me personally but I think that’s because I didn’t find someone on the same language level as me and I do know people that liked it.
  1. One of my regrets was being too shy. I did push myself out of my comfort zone but I should’ve tried harder because I watched opportunities pass me by. I took it in small steps though so as the year went on, I became more confident and made more friends. I think what I’m trying to say is, don’t trap yourself in a box. Yeah, there’ll be times when you just can’t face doing a certain thing because social situations are daunting but try and make sure you put yourself out there at least some of those times.
  1. Making a point to do or see something, however small, each week makes you feel like you’ve actually done something with your time and you can look back on your time abroad and have a few memories or photos. I even made a little checklist of places I definitely wanted to see before I left.
  1. Don’t assume you’re going to return fluent. Despite living in a German speaking flat, I found it difficult to improve my level of spoken German and make German speaking friends, partly because my placement was with mainly older people. So as obvious as it sounds, you still need to put the legwork in. Even if all your friends speak English, just listening to the radio or reading the news a few times a week helps exercise your language.
  1. If you’re missing someone, try and book a trip so it’s certain and you have something to look forward to. Even if it’s months away, it doesn’t seem as endless if something is set in stone. On that note, if you’re still deciding where you want to go on your Year Abroad and you know you’ll be quite homesick or miss someone a lot, I’d advise checking how much flight prices are to the places you’re considering. If somewhere is cheaper, that obviously makes visiting more feasible if you do hit a particularly difficult time.
  1. If you’re in a long distance relationship, it probably won’t be nearly as bad as it initially seems. Make the time to Skype and call a few times a week, hearing their voice makes you feel much more closer to them than messages because let’s face it, we all read in our own voice. I’ll be honest, I was having multiple breakdowns prior to my Year Abroad when I thought about the prospect of being away from my boyfriend for so long but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I anticipated and despite my flat not having WiFi for over 3 months, we got through it. Sure, there are times you miss them and nothing can pull you out of that mood but it passes (I found walks a good way to deal with that).

Now, just general thoughts about when you’re on a Year Abroad (more on that here). Something I wish I’d heard more in the build up to moving abroad is that you shouldn’t expect a radically different life. Sure, there may be multiple different opportunities open to you but you are still you so just do what makes you happy and don’t put pressure on yourself. I must admit I have felt guilty for just having a weekend of Netflix as I felt I wasn’t “making the most of it.” Then I realised that making the most of your Year Abroad is actually about keeping yourself happy whilst dealing with the challenges that come when functioning in a foreign language. So remember to put yourself first and not other people’s expectations.

Good luck!

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