So, you’re studying abroad. Firstly, I’m so jealous, can I please come with you? Secondly… I imagine you are vomiting at the very thought of it!
Let’s face it, moving abroad is terrifying. Everything is this weird, chaotic mess of alien food, language and people. Honestly, I have never been so afraid in my life. But I am here to tell you that if this overgrown baby of a woman can do it- not only do it, but also enjoy it- then literally anyone can. I’m also here to tell you that, as clichéd and as gross as this sounds, believe me I’m cringing as I write this: you are about to have the best year of your life.
Here are the four pieces of advice I wish I’d had before jetting off…
Number 1: Don’t Get Caught Up in ‘Making the Most of’ Your Time Abroad
When you study abroad there is so much pressure to be having the best time, one hundred percent of the time. There is this feeling that you should be going out every night, and that when you’re not hungover (or even when you are) you should be travelling around and uploading amazing #StudyAbroad pictures to Instagram. At first I was really critical of myself, spending hours comparing myself to others who were doing more travelling than me, spoke better Spanish than me, and generally just seemed to be having a better time than me. It took a while, but I realized that all I could possibly do was my best. Don’t worry about making the most of your time in the eyes of others, and instead worry about making the most of your time for yourself. Whether that be by climbing a mountain, or binge-watching Netflix. You do you.
Number 2: Dump Him (or Her)
It goes without saying that being in a relationship while you’re studying abroad makes a huge impact on your overall experience. For me, dating someone back in the UK meant that I wasn’t able to be truly present in the country I was studying in. It left me more homesick, and as amazing and as lovely as he was, it just didn’t work for me. If there’s one thing I learned from this past year, it’s that it is so important to always put yourself first- especially during such a huge transitional period. Call it off in a calm and gentle way before you leave. If both your feelings are still there when you get back, you’ll be able to give it another go. But, in the meantime you can still get a sangria fuelled snog from lovely, hunky José.
Number 3: University Abroad is going to be Total Mess- Go with it
I can obviously only speak from my own experience, but going to university in Spain was at times an absolute nightmare. From picking modules, to finding the classroom, to actually knowing what time your exam is at… Everything is this complex maze of bureaucracy and disorganization. Most people I’ve spoken to have had similar stresses, and none of us fully realised it beforehand. I wish someone had told me; it’s going to be stressful and weird and ridiculously unorganized but at the end of the day everything is going to be okay. Nothing is unfixable and people are kind no matter what country you find yourself in. Remember it’s going to be messy, and scary but it’s going to be okay.
Number 4: You Will Be Alone a Lot, and That’s Okay
What I really didn’t expect from studying abroad is the amount of time I would spend by myself. It’s safe to say that before moving to Spain I had a rather large fear of me time. Much to the pain of my long suffering flatmates I was, to put it lightly… needy. However, after living abroad, with a much smaller circle of friends than I was used to in London, and with my family much further away, I learned to love being alone. Self dates have become a major part of my life and now I actually prefer doing a lot of things on my own. Studying abroad makes you fall in love with your own company and with yourself. And let’s face it, that’s the greatest love of all.