Why doing a Year Abroad is always a great idea
Nothing is more daunting than your first hour of being alone in a foreign country; you haven’t yet met your flatmates let alone made any friends, you may not be familiar with the language, you don’t know anything about the culture nor the rhythm of life (aside from what you were taught at university!). You have already lost your way five times on the metro and still can’t figure out the complicated transport card system. Suddenly it hits you that this strange new land will be your home for the next nine months… But little do you know about all the exciting adventures and life experiences that will soon take you by storm, all the people you will meet, places you will go (Hello Dr. Seus!), and delicious food you will eat! And sure enough, fast-forward nine months, you are crying at the airport wishing it didn’t have to come to an end but feeling very grateful that it happened.
Doing a year abroad is easily one of, if not the most transformative and enjoyable experience of your university life, and here are my reasons why….
1.It challenges you and pushes you out of your comfort zone! Moving to another country in itself can be a huge step out of your comfort zone, but ultimately will allow you to grow as an independent individual as you face a new set of challenges.
2. You will experience a new culture! This varies from place to place, but there are bound to be cultural differences in each of them. In Spain, I found that Spanish people greet with kisses on both cheeks rather than one, their eating times are a lot later than in the UK, they have a more laid-back lifestyle, and there is a huge coffee (café con leche) culture!
3. You will visit some of the most beautiful places on Earth! It’s worth travelling to neighbouring cities or even countries while you are abroad and explore as much as you can (you will never have this much free time again!).
4. Your language skills will improve! But only if you are constantly pushing yourself to speak in the target language, read the local newspapers and watch local television. I found it was all too easy to slip back into talking English at work, with friends etc. who all spoke amazing English!
5. You will meet people from diverse backgrounds and hopefully make life-long friendships! Again, pushing yourself to meet new people will result in months of memories that you will always treasure.
6. You can partake in fun cultural traditions! One of my favourite traditions, “Las Doce Uvas de la Suerte” (12 grapes of luck), takes place on New Year’s Eve, where you eat one grape at every stroke of the bell at midnight to ring in the new year.
7. You will discover all kinds of new and delicious authentic foods… and maybe even learn how to make them.
8. Your self-awareness will develop! Living by yourself in a new country and context can force you to tune in more to your own thoughts and feelings and recognise your strengths and weaknesses.
9. It’s an amazing experience to add to your CV! Employers love to see that you have experience dealing with people from different cultures and that you are an adaptable person.
10. You may experience a shift in perspective… learning about the local art, history and culture can change the way you view the world.
I was looking forward to my placement abroad ever since I started my first year of university, and it definitely exceeded all expectations. I found that I had gained more confidence, become more independent and found a new motivation to tackle final year! The University provides many opportunities and support to those who want to go on a placement abroad or study abroad; some degrees also have the year abroad already embedded in the programme. The Residence Abroad and Placements Office provides support and guidance, and you can also find out more information about becoming an English Language Assistant Abroad here.
Post written by Hanan Elnazarova