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Making The Most Of Your Year Abroad: My Top Tips

31 Aug 2015


Around this time last year, I moved to France to begin my year abroad. This year abroad just so happened to be the best year of my life, but although it was fantastic, there are a few things that I wish I'd done and a few attitudes that I wish I'd made an effort to change whilst being abroad. It's so important to find a balance between having fun and learning, but it's also so easy to get lost in the excitement of your new country. So, I've thought of a few things that I wish someone had told me before I embarked on my adventure and have listed them down below.



1. The first few weeks might be demoralising 

- You will probably forget how to say 'My Name Is' and asking a question will be completely off the cards area. Power on through the first few weeks and embrace the weird, the stressful and the exciting. You will miss home, you will be overwhelmed, but you will get through it and soon enough be settled in. Trust me, I remember my first day and I was so, so upset and I just wanted to book a flight back home instantly. The thing that got me through it in the first few weeks was the people I met. Get on those Erasmus Facebook groups, go to the cheesy events and try as many things as you can. They will distract you until you've adjusted to life in your new country!


2. Throw yourself into the deep end 

- This is something which I didn't do enough. I found my group of friends and I stuck to them which did mean that I always felt comfortable and at ease, but it also meant that my year abroad wasn't as beneficial to my language development as it could've been.


3. Embrace everything about your new lifestyle

- Boy did the French university system wind me up. As did their need for constant paperwork (and their amazing ability to lose it, all the time). Oh, and their ridiculous need to close shops on a Sunday and a Monday. I soon learnt to laugh at these little annoyances and focus instead on the many, many positives of my new French lifestyle.


4. Fake confidence

- Pretend you speak really good French, Spanish, whatever it is you're learning. If you fake it enough, you will eventually become what you're faking. Fake it till you make it. Do NOT get yourself into a mindset of 'I can only express myself in English so I'll avoid all other contact'.

5. Remember: It's NOT forever

- Some people are lucky with their year abroad destinations, others are unlucky. If you're stuck with somewhere you really don't like, then try to make the most of it for the time being and remember that it's only for the year. It's not forever.

6. Find friends from your home country so you can vent to them

- Although it's not a good idea to stick solely to friends of the same nationality as you, it is ultra useful having friends who get your humour (or pretend to) and who will make you feel like you're back at home when you need it.

7. Don't expect to become fluent

- I don't think I know anyone who would now consider themselves to be fluent in the language of their host country. Whilst I'm sure there are some ridiculously hard workers, or some who were bilingual anyway, the majority of you will improve and develop your language, not become fluent.


8. Be a big spender

If you're an Erasmus student then you can afford to spend quite a lot, trust me. Don't let money hold you back from travelling around, checking out that new suave French restaurant, or spending the weekend in Disneyland. Whatever floats your boat, now is your chance to do it.

9. Prioritise social life when possible

My teachers would probably disagree, but the way I see it is like this: you're not going to remember that lecture you missed, or that particularly misbehaving class you taught, or that stressful day at work, but you will remember the hilarious memories, the nights you stayed up and the friends you made.

10. Use resources like thirdyearabroad.com

It has a great selection of articles and blog posts regarding your year abroad and can be particularly helpful when it comes to accommodation advice or paperwork advice.

I hope these tips will help some of you out there who are starting your year abroad, and if anyone has any questions or you need some reassurance from someone who's been through the whole experience recently, then please drop me an email or comment below!

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Please feel free to leave a comment, it really makes my day! Imogen x