Friday, August 8, 2014

How to...Make the Most of Your Year Abroad

Yes, the first two years of university have flown by. It's the biggie.

The year  abroad.

You've anticipated it, worried and stressed about it.  And now you are about to finally on a crazy, unique journey (might as well slot that cliché in) that is unlike any other.

It's a big deal and understandably you want to make the most of it (if you don't, then get outta here). Of course, regardless of my advice,  I'm sure you will take advantage of the huge opportunity that has effectively been offered on a silver platter but if you want a few pointers as to how you can use your year abroad experience to the very fullest, look no further:

Boost your CV
I thought I'd get the sensible, maybe even boring but bloody useful bit of advice out of the way first: get professional experience. A study abroad placement is a great addition to a CV in its own right but show your prospective employer you took initiative by finding some of that elusive professional experience in an international environment.  Whether that be in form of a job, work experience on the weekends or tutoring English in your spare time, it can be a massive game changer at the end of your time at university when you're on the job hunt.

Leave the international student bubble
It's hard because it is so easy but leaving the comfort of the international student circle and getting out and about, meeting other people whether it be expats, home students or even just locals will just enhance your year abroad. They may be useful contacts to have if you decide you've fallen hook, line and sinker in love with the place and want to move back after graduating (and obviously great friends too)!

But don't completely reject it either
Which is essentially what I did in Paris. The result? I didn't have a huge social circle and needless to say, international students in Paris are everywhere. The huge benefit of being part of the international student community is that you have an instant support network: everyone understands what you're going through, why you're frustrated by the latest administration hoop to jump through (France, why do you do this to me) and on the other hand, you appreciate the little things that those who lived there for a long time may not. There's a high possibility they will want to travel and explore a bit too so you have found some company for your adventures too!

Be selfish (to a certain extent)
Once you've settled in, you will start establishing your social circle and then the big, huge dilemmas arise such as "Let's go out tonight." "Let's go to X,Y and Z." I could go on. If you want to go out and go to X,Y and Z, go, but if you don't or are not feeling it, don't feel peer-pressured to go. This is your year abroad so don't do it accordingly by someone else's agenda. Make your own adventures.

Don't like something?  Do something about it
Don't wallow in a deep pit of doom when something isn't going to plan. On your year abroad, you will learn you are indeed the master of your fate. If you don't like your accommodation (like I didn't) find somewhere else. If things aren't going well at work, tackle it (diplomatically and professionally) head-on. It may be hard to take the plunge but you will glad you did in the long-run.

And the obvious one...Travel, travel, travel to your heart's content
This doesn't mean you have to go on a huge backpacking adventure that will no doubt cost your whole overdraft and then some. This could be as simple as taking time during the weekend to explore where you're living or taking a day trip out. Of course if you can, a huge last hurrah backpacking adventure is amazing too but make sure to see a different side of the place you're living in. Get out, explore and make your friends so jealous they will get a case of FOMO.

Other than that, good luck, stay safe and have fun!

How did you make the most of your study abroad experience? What are your top tips?

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