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Surviving Your Year Abroad

If you’re worrying about what could go wrong on your year or semester abroad, it’s probably happened to me and it’s never as bad as you think:

Tip #1
Don’t let the organisation get you down. It’s important to make the most of your year at home because the last month or two before moving abroad is incredibly hectic. Obviously you have to go to many meetings and do what’s required, but there is no need to let all the things you have to do stress you out. It is extremely rare for students to get deported for not filling out a form correctly. Find out who is organised, buy them a drink and get them to help you!

Tip #2
Unplug yourself from the social-network (at least during your first week abroad)! It’s inevitably going to be unsettling when moving to another country and meticulously clicking through pictures of your friends pre-lashing for Ocean to see if they are having more fun without you is not going to help. Give your parents/boyfriend/girlfriend/Gran a text to let them know you’re safe, but don’t Skype them for 3 hours on the second night. There will be plenty of time for catching up later, and while life on your year abroad may change a lot in a week, it is more likely that not much will have happened at home.

Tip #3
Don’t compare everything to England. Yes, Europe is a bit too keen on techno; no, Karni doesn’t exist in German Universities; and it is hard to pull in Paris, but it’s not meant to be the same. It took me a while to get over the fact that a new series of Downton Abbey was coming on just as I was leaving the country. I miss Marmite, normal milk in my cereal and cheesy chips after a night out. However, in exchange for those things I get to live by the sea, wear T-shirts and shorts in December, and although I don’t go out six nights a week, when I do, it’s to clubs I’ve never been to before and it’s been a breath of fresh air from Crisis (literally!). It’s a great opportunity to try other things; I’ve had dinner at my French friend’s house on a vineyard, taken trips to visit other cities and they have all been amazing evenings, despite not involving the Baywatch theme tune at the end of the night.

Tip #4
Don’t try to plan every detail before you get there. I found that it was all too easy to go online to try to suss out potential new mates, loving the look of some whilst writing others off as complete weirdos. But you have to be open-minded and meeting them in the flesh is the only true way to tell. I was initially living with three other people who got in touch with me on Facebook but when I arrived and met them face-to-face we realized that it wasn’t going to work and now I live with two of them that I’m closest with. Housing is probably going to be the most stressful thing you have to organize for your year. If you are going to somewhere very oversubscribed like a capital city, I would advise getting it sorted before you start work/studying. But don’t feel like it all has to be set in stone before you leave. My school encouraged me to take a cheap flat in a house , which, as I discovered on arrival, was in the middle of nowhere. So I decided to look through estate agents and now I live in a villa with a pool that we found when we got here. Sometimes you can find the perfect place on the Internet before you leave, but if you don’t it’s not the end of the world. You will not be homeless for a year!

Tip #5
Be prepared for anything. So far on my year abroad I have been confined to the house due to a Mediterranean hurricane, crashed my car in an empty car park, and stood up in front of an entire restaurant of French people asking loudly for a sanitary towel instead of a napkin to clear up a spilt drink . There will be days when you wonder why on earth you left England. There is no point getting upset because you lose your keys or you accidentally buy the wrong kind of milk. My car is dented but it still works, and I’m (hopefully) never going to see anyone from that restaurant again. Sometimes you just have to let stuff go, because you have enough to be getting on with.

Tip #6
Don’t worry about having the best year of your life straight away. Going abroad is kind of like New Year’s Eve. Everyone talks about how it’s the best time of your life and you’re going to have the most amazing experiences. Your first week is not going to be all you expect, but there’s no short cut – for some people it takes a month to settle in, for others it takes a week. I settled in almost straight away once I found the people I was going to live with and we got a house together. But my flat mate found it much harder, and thought about leaving in the first two weeks. Now she has a French boyfriend and didn’t even want to go home for Christmas. Either way, we are both still here, and we are both having an amazing time.

Jessica Holmes

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