Improving your language skills
This one is mostly specific to language students, due to the nature of our degree titles. A year abroad is compulsory for us. Being thrust into an environment in which you must utilise your language skills constantly in order to navigate through day-to-day life can be stressful, however you’ll notice the difference immediately. Answers to questions will come to mind far quicker and naturally, confidence in using your chosen languages will soar, and you’ll feel much more at ease talking with native speakers the longer you are in the country.
Learning to live independently
For some, this is a tough one, but is great for post-university life. Embarking on a year abroad can be hard, especially when living with new people or even living on your own. You gain a greater understanding of how you cope on your own and in certain situations, but also learn how to be more organised with your time and money - you won’t have your parents around to help you out, so it can be quite the learning curve! This also applies to travelling, making sure you manage your money efficiently in order to go from place to place, as a year abroad is a great opportunity to catch buses, trains and planes to far more places for far cheaper than we can in the UK. It’s definitely one of the biggest ‘growing up’ processes a year abroad can offer you.
Experiencing new cultures and meeting new people
Experiencing a country’s culture will highlight the differences in living across borders. It allows us to meet new people, with different views and ways of life, that can help to shape our experiences and perhaps change our perceptions of things. I came back from my year abroad in Spain having more respect and understanding for the people living there, along with lots of Spanish friends, who not only help me with my language skills, but also give me a new perspective on a lot of things.
Regardless of where you are in the world, you’re bound to feel homesick at some point. Being somewhere new and feeling alone, especially at the beginning of your time there, can exacerbate anxieties and worries you may have felt prior to your year out, and missing your family is all too easy when you’re stressed with work or an essay. For some, homesickness can be hard to overcome, so it’s important to get yourself into a routine, not to be so focused on social media and messaging apps, and embrace everything your new home has to offer - distraction is the greatest tool.
Currency and budgeting in an unstable climate
The world is quite an unstable place right now and therefore there has been a great effect on global currencies. Even if you’re lucky enough to receive an Erasmus+ grant, or have a student loan to keep you going, chances are you’re going to struggle to budget 100% effectively due to the constant shifts in exchange rates. The Euro and US Dollar are constantly fluctuating, and currencies such as the Argentinian peso which are already unstable enough as it is. You’ll probably need to be as savvy as possible to avoid any financial issues but don’t let this stop you from exploring and travelling as much as possible! There are always cheap alternatives, especially in Europe.
If you’re undertaking a year abroad in a country which doesn’t have English as its first language and you’re not a language student, you may struggle with some language barriers. A lot of people forget that you don’t have to study a language to embark on a year abroad, and without the language skill it may be tricky to deal with the bureaucracy of your chosen country. However, don’t let this deter you - it’s a great excuse to learn some new phrases, or perhaps you may even have the chance to sign up for language classes. All in all, you can come back from your year abroad with a new skill that is good not only for your CV, but also for your own cultural knowledge and understanding.