Your Year Abroad: What to Expect

The build-up to your semester or year abroad can feel like a lifetime. Particularly when you have chosen to study a language, your year abroad is constantly in your sights from up to three years before it finally begins. After hearing the experiences of others and seeing people on social media travelling, it naturally follows that you will have a set of expectations for your time abroad. Whilst every year abroad is different, we’ve compiled a general guide of things to expect, or not expect, from your time abroad!

Do not expect to be perfectly fluent in your target language before living abroad:

In mentally preparing for your year abroad, do not expect to be fluent and at a native level at the end of your two years at university. When language learning, you may reach a certain point where you feel that you plateau, and that the only thing which can help you improve is spending time in a country that speaks your chosen language. Your year abroad is the chance to do just that, but it is important to be mindful that language learning is not a linear experience and you will encounter different uses of grammar and slang that you may not initially be familiar with.

“Accept that mistakes are not the end of the world”

Expect to make mistakes which you will learn from:

You will likely have the occasional interaction abroad that will make you look back and cringe, where you perhaps misheard someone or recognised a fault in pronunciation just as it escaped your mouth! In preparation for your year abroad try to accept that mistakes are not the end of the world, rather they are part of the process of mastering a language. Even native speakers make mistakes, and they are understanding and appreciative that you are making an effort to speak a different language!

“Be mindful that you could face obstacles”

Expect life to throw the occasional challenge at you as it usually does:

Just as the linguistic journey will have its ups and downs, your year abroad more generally will too. In the age of social media and a heightened pressure to constantly appear to be having the time of your life, it is easy to expect a perfect, holiday-like time abroad. Despite also having some of the best experiences of your life so far, be mindful that you could face obstacles like lengthy administrative processes and feelings of homesickness. Although these points can be stressful in the moment, they are all part of learning to be independent and the year abroad high will resume! As long as you are mindful that emotional tides will come and go, you can manage them accordingly by calling friends or family, keeping busy with new friends you have made and visiting home if you need to.

So, it is better to be open-minded when embarking on your journey abroad, too many high expectations of a seamless experience can lead to disappointments. Future you will look back nostalgically at both the good and challenging times and appreciate how they shaped you into a better, stronger person!

Anya Mcloughlin

Image credit: paramita via Flickr.Image use licence here.

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