Travel, University Life

A Year Abroad – Is It For You?

Written by Eleanor Holford

One of the most incredible opportunities offered to students is the chance to Study Abroad. It is an incomparable experience, full of highs as well as lows. Overall, and this may be a biased opinion, but it is an unmissable chance and definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The University (uni) offers a lot of variations of years abroad, of course if you study a language, a year abroad will be compulsory and count towards your degree. For the rest, a year abroad is simply the chance to embrace a new culture, meet new people and have an incredible time. Depending on your course and what the uni offers, a year abroad can also take the form of studying or working.

Realistically it’s not going to be easy and you’re going to face many troubles, but hopefully, you will be able to find solutions and be proud of yourself for overcoming these challenges.

Here are a few of the challenges you might face

Homesickness

No matter how comfortable you are away from home whilst at uni, being in a different country, alone is a whole other ball game. Definitely remember to take plenty of your belongings with you, especially if you’re not going to be able to visit home when you feel down. If you have a favourite pair of shoes, take them. Favourite duvet cover? Take it. Love photos? Take them (and some blu-tack!)  This may cost you a bit more to transport, but it will be worth it in the long run. Also, make sure to make your accommodation home-y once you arrive. Whether you are in private or student accommodation, find the local Ikea (or equivalent), and deck it out with candles, pillows, plants etc.  Things that are going to make the space feel like your own.

Most importantly, a good bunch of people to hang out with when you’re feeling down will make a world of difference!

Making Friends

Something most of us have been doing our whole lives suddenly seems so much harder when you know you NEED to make new friends, and you know no one. The best thing you can do is be yourself and make sure you put yourself out there. There will be events run by your uni to meet people and Facebook groups for those studying/working abroad in your area. It’s important to go to the events, join the groups, even if it’s just whilst you’re making connections. There’ll be lots of people feeling the same way you do, in exactly the same position; you’ve just got to find them.

Adapting

Now, this is everything from knowing your way around to cooking food and even having a new schedule. Life isn’t going to be COMPLETELY different from that back home, but there will probably be noticeable differences, and the easiest way to combat these is to make sure you feel comfortable and go with the flow. Go on walks, get to know your local area, find the local shop, pharmacy etc. Familiarise yourself with local processes like public transportation, what to do if you need to go the doctors and whether you need to open a local bank account. It might sound like a lot, but peace of mind goes a long way and once you’ve sorted the boring stuff, you’ll be able to relax for the rest of the year and just enjoy your time abroad.

If something isn’t quite like it is at home just go with it, you might end up preferring it!

Now for the Best Bits

Every year abroad is going to be different, so don’t compare yours to others and enjoy everything that your experience has to offer you!

Travelling

You’re in a different country, close to so many new towns and potentially countries you can visit. Often your host uni will offer trips to the various local hotspots but if not, just have a google and do it on your own! You’ve already got this far!

Don’t forget to also explore your host city/town! Find the hidden gems, find your new favourite coffee shop and secret bookstores! Take the time to appreciate the location and how lucky you are to get to be there.

Friends

This was highlighted as something that might seem daunting but once you’ve found your people, it will be the best! You can travel together, experience the city together and most importantly, help each other with any problems. The friends you make abroad will, at times, be your lifeline, and I’m pretty sure you’ll make friends for life.

Culture

The chance to experience a new and different way of life, as mentioned, is one you might not be offered again. There is something incredible at being able to live someone else’s life for a year. It’s so enriching to be able to try new foods, watch different films, attend different cultural festivals, and that is just the minimum of what a year abroad offers. Go and find your new favourite sports team, a new favourite local band, check out the local nightlife! There are a lot of unique cultural experiences to be had when moving to a new place, and the best thing to do is just completely immerse yourself.

Of course, it’s up to you what you do, but I would ALWAYS say go for it! If you’re even considering taking a year abroad, do it! If you’re not considering taking a year abroad, why not? There are many factors to consider, for sure, but I don’t think there is anything quite like living in another country, and through uni is probably the easiest and cheapest way to do it!

Any questions just drop me a message on Instagram @ellie_holford6 and I would be happy to help in any way that I can.


Ellie Holford is a final year studying History of Art and French with a love for travelling. She also likes to jump on walls in her free time. Instagram: @Ellie_holford6

All credits for the feature image go to Eleanor K. Holford