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4 Tips for Making the Most of Your Year Abroad

A beautiful, desolate beach in Marie-Galante. Emily Wright

After a year abroad, I'm ready to share my advice for working and studying overseas.

If you study languages (or any other course which either requires or allows for placements abroad) you have a wonderful opportunity to become a full-blown "gap yah" freak for a whole year. And it counts towards your degree!

For anyone about to embark on their year abroad, here are some fresh-off-the-plane tips for really making the most of your holida—er, sorry, valuable educational experience. 

1. Don’t pack the kitchen sink

A golden piece of advice I should have listened to myself. I’m a textbook stress-packer, and I realized this as I rocked up to Gatwick Airport with 32kgs of luggage squeezed in to one suitcase. Somewhere along the way I seemed to forget that there are shops in France as well. 

My point is, don’t overpack! In fact, aim to under-pack. You’re guaranteed to buy some things while you’re out there (no one can go a whole year without a cheeky shopping spree), so just pack the essentials and know that you’ll find whatever you’re missing once you arrive. 

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself buying a whole secondary suitcase to transport home everything you’ve accumulated over the year, and this is very expensive. I would not recommend. 

2. Homesickness will happen

It happened to me for the first time in my life on the day I arrived in France. Sitting by the river in Bordeaux, I stared up at airplanes in the sky, wishing I was on one of them. 

The thing to remember is, homesickness is temporary. It’s a natural reaction to being in a new and foreign environment. 

The cure is to adapt to these new surroundings. To make yourself happy in a place you’re not used to. Phone home, go for a walk, make a new friend, buy yourself something nice. Just do whatever you need to do to make this new place feel like home, or at least feel normal.

3. Spend money

Wherever you go, whatever you do, things will cost money. The important thing to remember is: Spend it! With any luck, you’re getting some kind of funding for this year. (If not, listen up anyway.) It’s so much better to be broke but having fun, than saving money but missing out on all the awesome experiences. 

A year abroad is for living, so live that life—and splash the cash if you need to!

Be reasonable, of course, but it’s important to live a little when you’re abroad, because these opportunities aren’t always there back home. So, go for drinks with your new friends, or that fun day out they planned, visit museums and concerts and cinemas. Experiences should never go amiss because of the price tag. 

A year abroad is for living, so live that life—and splash the cash if you need to!

4. It’s impossible not to make friends

It’s important to remember that there will more than likely be someone in the same shoes as you, or if not, someone who has once worn your shoes.

Living in Guadeloupe, I came face-to-face with the prospect of being the only English native on my side of the island. As daunting as that sounds, I loved it. Even with a (rather severe) language barrier, I still managed to develop a lovely group of friends. With most of them being French natives, this was even more rewarding for me, and being the exotic English girl in the group certainly had its perks!

My point is, don’t stress about the social side of moving abroad. Just get out there as much as you can, get stuck in and talk to people! It’s incredible what you can learn from speaking to people from around the world, hearing their stories and sharing experiences together. What’s more, having friends from different countries is an absolute gift. 

My year abroad has sadly come to an end now, but I’m clinging on to every last bit by writing and advising folks who are just setting off. It’s been one heck of an adventure, that’s for sure.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Emily Wright

Emily Wright is a French student at Newcastle University. From February until June 2019 she will working at a scuba diving centre in Guadeloupe, a French territory in the Caribbean, as part of her year abroad.

Website: www.emtravels.org

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