Are you gearing up for a Year Abroad next year? Uncertain of what the future might hold? Never fear – Year Abroad veteran Harriet is here to let you in on all the tricks of the trade to make sure you can make all your friends jealous with tales of your Year Abroad for years to come.
The Year Abroad experience being ‘one of the best of your life’ is a claim I will stand by steadfastly. You are exposing yourself to a new culture, a new language, new independence, and enriching your life in a whole new way.
It is undoubtedly an exciting time, and one you’ll never stop talking about for the rest of your life, but even so it can also be quite scary. All sorts of questions are swirling around in your head: How do I prepare for such an experience? What do I pack? How will I make friends? What if I get homesick? Do I need to learn a new language?
Allow me to ease your mind by sharing some of my top tips for getting ready for your Year Abroad.
1. Read up on your destination
Everyone Googles the country they are visiting to learn about the different customs, but these can differ from one village to the next. My number one tip is doing some in depth research on the area or city you will be living in to really get some insight into what to expect.
Look into tourist attractions, local experiences, restaurants, bars, cafes… whatever takes your fancy! If you really like spending your weekends visiting art galleries, look into what cultural exhibitions are available where you are going. If you’re a big party-animal, check out the nightlife situation. If there’s an experience you can’t imagine your daily life without, why wouldn’t you make sure you could do the same thing in the city you’re travelling to?
In the lead up to my Year Abroad I spent a lot of my spare time reading up on Valencia – the city’s transport links, the best cultural experiences and the most popular spots for both tourists and locals. Assimilating to a new country is so much easier when you’ve done a little leg work before you get there.
BONUS TIP: While most students who go on a Year Abroad study a foreign language, many do not. If this is the case; please, don’t panic. You don’t need to be fluent in the language to get the most out of your Year Abroad, but it can be useful to learn a few basic phrases or purchase a phrasebook. This isn’t a must, but it can certainly help to ease communication anxiety.
The thought of being away from your home comforts can be alarming
2. Be ruthless with your suitcase
The downfall of all travellers…the maximum suitcase weight. If travelling by air, you will most likely be limited to around 20kg of luggage, which for a three week holiday sounds plenty! For a whole year away from home? It sounds like nothing. When I moved to Valencia in September 2020, I was so concerned about not having everything I needed, I stuffed my suitcase to the brim; I had clothes and shoes for every occasion, books from my TBR pile, notebooks and stationary, my favourite scented candle…all packed “just in case”. I’m sure no one is surprised to hear that I definitely over packed.
The thought of being away from your home comforts can be alarming, especially if you’re moving halfway across the globe, but it’s important to remember that a Year Abroad is a temporary experience. In all likelihood you’ll end up buying stuff out there anyway, so when you’re packing your suitcase, be selective.
3. Online groups
Sometimes universities set up specific chat rooms or Facebook groups for international students as a platform to meet new people. These can be really useful in making friends, especially if you have decided to take a Year Abroad independently of your home friendship group.
In Valencia I joined an Erasmus Facebook group for international and exchange students. Even though I was working instead of studying, these platforms allowed me to make friends and hear about excursions and trips that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about. Although I was perfectly happy spending time alone, and exploring the city at my own pace, having the opportunity to socialise was imperative to my Year Abroad experience.
It’s important to ensure that any Facebook group or online chat room you join is verified by the institution you are visiting or the exchange programme you are taking part in. Whilst making friends and meeting new people is important, so is your safety. If something feels wrong, report it.
Remember, your Year Abroad is supposed to be a fun and fulfilling experience,
4. Keep a record of your experiences
During my Year Abroad I kept both a personal journal and set up a second Instagram page to document my most notable experiences. This allowed me to update my friends and family on what I was doing without constantly messaging home. This is a really effective way to keep the homesickness at bay as it provides you with both a healthy outlet for processing your emotions and ensures you have physical memories to look back on when the year is over.
There we have it: my top 4 (and a half) tips for your Year Abroad! Hopefully this has soothed any worries you had about preparing for this experience, and that you feel much more confident about your decision to jet-set across the globe.
Remember, your Year Abroad is supposed to be a fun and fulfilling experience, and it does not make or break your Uni experience. If you find yourself feeling overly anxious or concerned in any way, please reach out to your tutors – they are there to help you.
For more content including uni news, reviews, entertainment, lifestyle, features and so much more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like our Facebook page for more articles and information on how to get involved.