Sunday, September 8, 2013

A letter to year abroaders

Dear Year Abroader,

The time has finally come. This is the year you have heard about god knows how many times, attended a ridiculous amount of meetings in preparation, teared your hair out whilst organising it. I know the feeling you're probably experiencing right now: the mixture of nervous energy and excitement combined with fear and doubt. Believe me, the anticipation just before the beginning is the worst part. This is also the year that many will have bigged up to be the best year of your life. I can't promise you that but what I can say is that it will probably be the most exciting, challenging, tiring yet rewarding year as of yet.

suitcases at the Brooklyn Flea
Image via kthread(Flickr)

Now having had time to reflect on my year abroad, I feel it is high time I passed my (little) wisdom on to those about to embark on theirs. So, without further ado, here are a few tips to survive your year out:

1. Explore all avenues for events and goings-on especially if you are in a place that is notoriously hard to meet people. Both Meetup and CouchSurfing were my best friends when I first arrived in Paris, being great resources to find out about meetups. Additionally, search on Facebook and Twitter for relevant groups and use any contacts to your advantage!

2. Accept that the first stages of settling in may be difficult. It is likely that you will constantly feel knackered, flustered and at times, you will be running around like a headless chicken. The initial stages will be a constant whirlwind but once you have weathered the storm, you will wonder what all the fuss was all about.

3. After the intial settling-in stage comes the honeymoon stage. However, as we all know, the honeymoon can't last forever. This is when the frustrations, annoyances and other usual troubles will start to creep in. Don't let paperwork, language troubles or bureaucratic administrative staff get you down. Whilst the initial temptation may be to tell the rude bus driver what's what, venting your frustrations in such a fashion will get you nowhere. Instead, use your fellow year abroad friends to rant about annoyances out of your control.

4. However, if you are unhappy about your situation, don't stick your head in the sand. Consult your Year Abroad officer, year abroad peers, contacts to try to resolve the situation. 9 times out of 10, the problem, whether it be problems at your internship, a nightmare homestay or financial issues, is usually easy to solve so reach out to all sources possible to make sure your year abroad is back on track ASAP.

5. Prepare to embarass yourself. Regularly. Frequently. Or if you're like me, on a daily basis. By the end of your year abroad, it is likely you will have no shame. Once you have accepted this, you will easily laugh it off. Additionally, such embarassing mishaps make for great stories so at least you won't be short of conversation material!

6. Embrace what I like to call The Year Abroad 15 (basically the same principle as the Fresher 15 when you put on weight after first year) This is your opportunity to stuff your face with freshly baked croissants or straight out-of-the-oven pizza and indulge in decent three euro wine instead of your usual Lambrini. It will be slim pickings to have access to such delights when you are back studying in Blighty so make the most of the local delicacies! If you are concerned about the potential weight gain, you could always adopt the bougez, mangez (move, eat) philosophy of the French to keep the unwanted pounds at bay.

7. Be a Yes person. The concept of the year abroad is to venture outside of your comfort zone therefore, try out a new class, visit that weird art exhibition and try the local dish which sounds awful to British tastebuds. Besides, even if it was a complete disaster, at least you can say you gave it your best shot!

Useful posts for Year Abroad Students

Paris/France
Interning in Paris
The Joys of CAF
Parlez-vous Franglais? Language exchanges in Paris

Medellin/Colombia
Finding Long Term Accommodation in Medellin
Why I love Medellin 
If you are considering studying/living in Medellin, I recommend that you stay here: REM

If you are about to go on a year abroad, how are you feeling about it now? If you have just finished a year abroad, what would be your advice?

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