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Life Lessons From A Year Abroad

21 Jun 2015

I didn't take a gap year. I went straight into university because I didn't see much point in taking a year out and because I convinced myself that I already knew what I wanted to do. To me and my unenlightened 18-year-old self, gap years were for people who didn't get the grades they wanted, or who didn't want to go to university at all. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and I knew exactly what I wanted to study. I thought that going to university would be the only life experience anyone could need... 

I'm not going to say that I regret that decision, because there will be other opportunities to travel, but living in another country this year has really made me realise how much more I need to learn. For that reason, I am so glad that I study French as part of my degree, meaning I had a compulsory year out, and I would encourage anyone and everyone who is studying to do the same if they have the option.

So, what exactly did I learn? What are these great life lessons that I've been going on about above?

1. Talking on the phone isn't actually that bad.
To think I actually freaked out at the thought of phoning my landlord in England. Well, that fear was immediately squashed when I had to phone my French landlady about various problems every single week for the first few months. Bye bye having to write a script whenever I had to phone up customer service/book anything in England!

2. Challenging yourself is good, even when it goes wrong.
Which was certainly the case with a lot of things in France. The whole year was a challenge because I was completely out of my comfort zones in both social situations and academic ones. As someone who gets embarrassed incredibly easily, there were moments when I just refused to do something because I was scared of it going wrong. Over time, however, I started forcing myself to get on with things and to get over any negative consequences quickly.

3. Other cultures may not be for you, but it's still important to learn about them.
I learnt some great lessons in adaptability while I was abroad, because when you have no other choice, you have to learn to make the most of it. You have to put aside negativity towards the bits you don't like and focus on enjoying the bits you do.

4. You need to push yourself in order to find your limits.
This point is very similar to number two. I used to have a bad habit of not pushing myself to my limit because I was scared about getting too stressed. When you have this mentality, you soon realise that playing it safe all the time is not beneficial in the long term, and finding your limits is easier than you think.

5. It's okay to feel like you don't know where you're going in life.
I feel like I've had some kind of a quarter life crisis this year, and after speaking to other friends finishing uni it seems like we're all in the same boat. Some people have a set career path and that's okay. Some people have absolutely no fricking clue, and that's also okay.

6. Friends will come and go.
My first semester was a struggle at times, and I definitely had the full support of some people, but not of others. Some friends are just better at keeping in touch than others, and some are those annoying people who only reply when they're actually in close proximity to you. I used to take this incredibly personally and be (embarrassingly) needy about it until I accepted that most people genuinely just forget. Likewise, I met a tonne of people in France, and a lot of whom I probably won't speak to again. This kind of upset me at first, but at the end of the day those who you've really formed close bonds with will stay a part of your life.

7. Don't waste time wishing you were elsewhere.
I spent the first few weeks back in England just longing to be in France again. I couldn't embrace the positives of being back home, and I'd forgotten everything negative about France. The thing is, it's better to have the experience and the memories to look back on, than to not have been there at all. I'm learning to be content with the memories and move onto the next part of my life.

If any of you have taken a year out or are intending on having a year out, then please let me know about your experience/what you're looking forward to/not looking forward to!
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3 comments on "Life Lessons From A Year Abroad"
  1. Love this! It can be so so easy in life to take easy options and play it safe, your experience in France just shows how important it is to push ourselves to take risks, be brave and do something a little different. I'm the world's biggest scardey cat and I honestly can't imagine myself ever being brave enough to live abroad so hats off to you, and maybe next time something comes along for me that requires me to take a risk, hopefully I'll think of your experience and grab it with both hands. Thanks for sharing your journey with us :) x

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  2. Yes! Challenging yourself is so important I think! Best way to move forward! X

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  3. Exactly, I still have a habit of not pushing myself but this year has encouraged me to do more and proved that it's worth it! I think it was helpful that I had a compulsory year abroad because I didn't have the choice of being too scared and staying in England! Thank you for being there on the journey!! xx

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