Thursday 26 April 2018

How not to panic about your year abroad

Beth shares her tips on being prepared so that you can enjoy your time abroad rather than being worried about the uncertainties.
- Beth

Every time you mention your year abroad to your friends or family, the chances are you are given an abundance of advice on what to do when you get there. But what about what to do in the run-up to the big event? If you’re anything like me, the thought of your year abroad both excites and terrifies you. You can’t wait but you also don’t want it to come so soon. So, what’s the best way to prepare for it without letting nerves suck the fun out of it?

1. Give yourself the time and space to think about it

There’s no doubt that there are plenty of things to think about before you leave, such as money and accommodation, but it’s important to not let it swallow you whole. Keep it ticking away in the back of your mind but don’t allow yourself to dwell on it if you are feeling particularly stressed or worked up. Wait until you feel calmer. Chipping away at it over the span of several months will lessen the load when it actually comes to getting on the plane. 

On the other hand, it’s also extremely important to not let it intimidate you so much that you put off thinking about it until the very last minute! Get cracking as soon as possible.

2. Talk to people

People who have been in the same situation as you are your best resource. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from anyone and everyone who could be even remotely useful to you. Friends, family and coursemates who have been abroad for a significant length of time will happily chat to you about it – everyone loves talking about themselves and their ‘gap yah’! Another great resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth’s website as well, particularly specific advice that applies to the country you are going to.

3. Visualise it

It can be easy to worry about your year abroad to the point of not being excited anymore but fight this feeling as much as you can! A great way to keep your morale up is to print off your favourite picture of the place you’re going to and stick it on your wall so that you’re always reminded of why you’re going. If you want to take this idea further, take some sticky notes and write all the reasons you chose to go and stick them next to the picture. When you get stressed or anxious, you can just look up at the picture and calm yourself down.

4. Research, research, research

There is no avoiding the stress that comes with having to find accommodation for a whole year in a short amount of time, but there are definitely ways to minimise it! If you know exactly where you’ll be based, such as the office or school you’ll be working in, then research all the different accommodation options that country has to offer you. As well as finding out how much a typical rent is, it is also worth researching whether that country has a specific student house sharing system in place. If you’re not sure, get in contact with your year abroad advisor at your university and ask them.

Furthermore, don’t just stop at researching accommodation. As soon as you find out your position, whether it be student, employee or language assistant, make sure you know the ins and outs of what will be expected of you so that you’re as prepared as possible.

5. Sort out the important stuff

Although it is not exactly exhilarating, nothing is more important than sorting out insurance for your year abroad. Once it is out of the way, you can forget about it and start thinking about the more exciting parts. A great help is that if you’re staying within the EU and Switzerland, you can get a free European Health Insurance Card. It can also be easy to forget to check the validity on your passport, so make sure you tick that off your checklist!

6. Start shopping!

As well as using retail therapy to de-stress, it may be necessary to shop for practical purposes (or at least that’s what you’ll tell your mum). If you’re going somewhere colder than home, go on a shopping spree. If you’re going somewhere warmer than home, go on a shopping spree. Either way, treat yo self!

7. Plan your visits home

Even if you don’t want to admit it, there will come a time when you will get homesick. If you already know this is likely to be you then start planning your visits home and how you will stay in touch. A great way to beat homesickness is to countdown the days until you can next see or talk to your family. Start off with Christmas, then Easter and then the summer holidays. That way you know you won’t be away from home for too long at a time and can focus on having the time of your life while you’re away.

I'm Beth and I am a second-year Comparative Literature and French student at the University of Kent. I'm about to embark on my year abroad in September and want to share some tips on how I'm preparing for it.

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