Saturday, 16 July 2016

Year Abroad Series: 6 Lessons I Learnt on my Year Abroad


This post comes to you on the day that I am leaving Germany. That’s it. My Year Abroad is over. Time to pack up and move my life so that it occupies just the one country. I thought today would be an apt chance to tell you all about the things I have learnt since October 2015, which seems simultaneously like yesterday and like years ago.

  1. Clichés are real

Year Abroads and travel in general change you, man! Living abroad, you have to cope with so many new, weird situations and as a general rule you become much more adaptable. Also, being in a country that doesn’t speak your native language leads some to pretty interesting scenarios - I know a girl who worked in a French school and one day ended up interpreting for a Saudi Arabian prince. All of this leads to you being quite a different person with some kickass stories that your friends will soon bore of hearing.

  1. Know your limits

When I was going through a bit of a rough patch on my Year Abroad, I didn’t want to be spending any more time in the city I lived in than I had to. My solution was to spend every weekend away: I went to Vienna to visit a friend, I took myself to Brussels, I went with my boyfriend exploring around Thüringen when he came to stay, and then I took my mum to Berlin. During the week, I would study and attend lectures and seminars, and at the weekend I would travel. As soon as stopped, i.e. when semester finished and I flew back home with my mum, I got ill. I had the most horrendous cold ever, and I had to stay in bed for almost a week sleeping. Don’t expect yourself to be able to give it 200% all of the time. Take breaks, spend the weekend in bed reading, binge watch that series you’ve always wanted to watch.

  1. Credit where credit’s due

One revelation that I’ve had in the last year is that I’m really quite introverted (in fact, I’m INFJ). This is something that had never come up because either the people that I was around were my best friends who I didn’t mind spending hours at a time with, or I would just never be with anyone for hours at a time. On my Year Abroad however, I found it really hard to find anyone I can comfortably spend more than an hour or so with, who I could easily have a conversation with, who I could be around without getting weary. After most interactions with my very nice flatmate’s friends (who I didn’t like so much), I would always come home and complain to my boyfriend about how excluded they made me feel and how I didn’t like going out with them. In the end when I was invited places, I would tell myself I would just go for bit and then I could come home. At the end of the day, I could be pleased with myself that I tried, and that I had managed to not spend the entire time inside.

  1. Do what you want to do, not what you think you should

I’ve mentioned before how obsessed everyone is with the whole concept of a year abroad because when everyone speaks about their year abroad, they talk - like I have done - about where they travelled to, who they met, the incredible things they did. As a result, when you’re just sat in your room binge watching Daredevil, it’s easy to feel like a failure at being the classic Year Abroad student.

It took me a while, but I eventually came to stop thinking like this and treat my Year Abroad as a year to myself. I’m a hardworking student, so after 2 years of university in the UK, I really needed a break. So that’s exactly how I started treating my year abroad: as a break. I stopped doing any extra work that would help my German, I started a blog, read 10x more than I had done in years, and caught up on a load of TV I’d missed in favour of working myself into the ground.

  1. There’s a reason I haven’t met those “friends of a lifetime” at university, or abroad

University in general is another one of those experiences that people tell you will be the best time of your life and the people you meet there are the people you will call friends forever. This hasn’t, so far, been the case for me and it wasn’t until my Year Abroad when I was miles away from my friends from school that I realised why. My friends from school are my best friends and school was the best time of my life (so far). They are all such intelligent, funny, crazy, wonderful, creative, and all round excellent people and when I am with them I am at my happiest.

  1. Social media is a blessing and a curse

Social media has been a great way of keeping up with the aforementioned best friends in the past year, and it’s also been good for keeping up with everyone else’s year abroad shenanigans. On the friends front though, it sometimes made me miss them even more because they would meet up and obviously I wouldn’t be able to go, and I missed so many 21st celebrations because I just couldn’t afford the flights back. With the other year abroad students front, it can be difficult to realise that you’re seeing their year abroad at it’s Instagram-worthy best. The things people publish on their blogs and Instagram and Facebook are cherry-picked from a much more diverse bunch of moments. Whilst it may look like all someone is doing is eating croissants in Paris and then going on a spontaneous trip to Venice, what they forget to mention is all the times they are also binge-watching Daredevil or spending hours on lesson plans/essays or just milling around on social media looking at other people’s year abroads.

If you’ve been on a Year Abroad, I’d love to hear what you learnt whilst away! If you’re yet to go on your Year Abroad, please also let me know in the comments, and of course if you have any questions I will try to be as much help as possible!

Previous Posts in the Year Abroad Series

Love to you all,