Why you should do a year abroad, regardless of your university course.

Dear all,

I’m sorry I’ve been AWOL recently! I returned back to England a month ago  and I’ve been getting my teeth stuck into my fourth and final year of my degree, which I can already say is the hardest and most stressful academically. Compared to my year abroad I have a lot less time and even when I do have free time I feel as if I am wasting it or I should be doing something else. If you’d like to know more about my year abroad please refer to the last two posts on my Year Abroad blog: The good, the bad, and the “Sia”, and SiaSoon in Statistics.

Now there are negatives of a Year Abroad, and certainly I do believe it is overhyped, a subject I will be speaking of in the coming weeks. Irregardless, I do believe it’s an aspect of university that should be offered and promoted with every university course. In this blog entry I will be explaining why, whether you do languages, chemistry, engineering, medicine, law or any subject under the sun, if your course has a year abroad option, you should do it. Here I’ll give you the reasons why!

Petite France in Strasbourg at Christmas.  This whole area is a UNESCO world heritage sight - the first part of a town which was given this honour.
I spent four months of my year abroad studying at the University of Strasbourg in eastern France

1) You will become more mature and responsible

This one is a bit preaching to the masses, but it is true. When you’re surrounded by another country and culture who do things differently to how you expect them, you mould, you grow and you adapt. It’s a good bridge to entering adulthood without having to feel like you’re over the hill.

2) You experience another culture

Ok, ok, this is also preaching to the masses a bit. But there’s always going to be things you like and dislike about your country and the one you go to, but you’ll never know unless you experience it first hand. Even if it means you like the UK more, you’re experiencing something new which you can tell your children or your great grandchildren.

3) You have this opportunity to do travelling more than perhaps any other time of your life

No matter where you’re based, from the Argentinian countryside, an Australian city or an Austrian ski resort, you can try and explore the region and beyond. Europe is especially useful for this if you want to see many different countries in close proximity, but if you choose a country such as America or China there are so many places you could go to it is limitless.

4) If you stay in Europe you can benefit from the ERASMUS grant

I spent the second half of my year abroad studying at the University of Vienna in Austria
I spent the second half of my year abroad studying at the University of Vienna in Austria

Extra pocket money to do whatever you like with, and not have to pay it back?! The ERASMUS grant may give you a few thousand pounds with only a few form-filling exercises.  Take advantage before UKIP takes over and we can’t be in the EU anymore! (I do hope that’s not a prophetic statement…).

5) You’ll get more support than if you take a gap year

I took both a gap year and a year abroad and I do have to say I was a lot more in charge of my gap year, having full reign of what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. A year abroad through your university is therefore a great idea if you know you want to do something, but not sure what. Your university will always be on the other line if problems occur and will help you find a school to teach in/university to study at/help in finding a work placement. If you wanted to take a gap year but backed out, this may be a great oppurtunity.

6) You can pick up another language

If you learn Slovene you could live here!
If you learn Slovene you could live here!

If you’re worried about going to another country which doesn’t speak English, never fret! Many courses are taught in English, and you could always choose places like Ireland, Malta, Australia, New Zealand, the US… You could even go to Scandinavia,  where a lot of day-to-day office life and university education is held in English, while still attempting to improve your Danish, Swedish, Norwegian or Icelandic. If you’ve never really got to grips with languages this may be your chance! Learn French, German, Spanish, or what about a niche language?

7) It gives you an extra year of being a young adult

The greatest disadvantage I think of going straight from school to university to work is that you start work very young. Yes, money can be very tempting, but you have your whole entire life to do these adult things. Taking a year out at an opportunity when you can probably will never be as easy after university, when REAL LIFE can stamp on your dreams.

8) Worried about homesickness?

This is completely normal and it should not put you off going. Yes, it is scary and yes, it is hard, but now more than ever are so many more transport links home. Do not see it as a sign of weakness nor let it rule your life.  As I tried to reiterate in an earlier blog entry: Homesickness is not wrong!

9) You’ll meet a lot of new people

If you make a lot of friends, then you may end up having to buy a lot of rounds of drinks.
If you make a lot of friends, then you may end up having to buy a lot of rounds of drinks.

If you’re like me you’ll meet some people who will be friends for life, some people who you’d love to visit when you’re back in England and some people who you just. do. not. like.  With each of these experiences you’re becoming a more social person, and you can take it at your own pace, which can really help if you do suffer from anxiety. Widening your circle of friends is a brilliant way of networking and future travelling. In the next few years I am hoping to visit friends in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and meet friends I made in Strasbourg and Vienna.

Even when you don’t make any friends at all – which I didn’t when I lived in Antibes, France, in my gap year, I was hardened as a person. It meant I could deal with a lot more, and when I moved to Vienna to study (in 2011, my Gap Year), I was much more open to make friends and do things because I’d had that experience in Antibes. Not every experience will be amazing and not every person you meet will be your best friend, but by expanding your acquaintance network will never be a bad thing!

AND

9) You may fall in love!

According to the Independent, the ERASMUS scheme has been responsible for over one million babies! If you’re single and ready to mingle, why not find a sexy Spanish senorita or a ravishing Russian? (I apologies there, I’m wading in ten layers of cheese, clearly). Bring up a bountiful baby who can speak many languages, or just enjoy spending time with a new partner. Because who doesn’t want to fall in love, really? If my mum had not moved to England for a year, I wouldn’t exist!

So what do you think? Are you tempted to do a year abroad? Do you feel you’ve been given enough information about it from your university?

All comments appreciated!

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