Before I went on my Year Abroad, I had about 3 sessions (that I can remember) to do with YA prep, what to do, how to plan and all the thousands of things you should worry about. I even remember a Powerpoint presentation where there was even a slide reminding you to take your passport. I mean…😳
So in the hope of elevating some time wasting for any prospective YA students i’ve compiled a list of things that I don’t think my uni department told me or prepared me for. I’m writing this in the hope that someone’s preporation can be more informed than mine was. I’ve had an amazing 4 months so far but it’s not always the smoothest sailing so I hope this helps as an honest list of things I wish i’d known before I got on that plane!
You’re not going to struggle that much.
First things first, let’s get the melodramatic talk out of the way. YOU WILL BE FINE. I know from one YA session in particular I came out more worried and stressed than when I went in. PLEASE, just know whatever you hear or think you’re YA will be a great experience. You will blossom into a well-rounded, cultured being. Hopefully 😉. I’m a natural worrier so as you imagine I was shitting it before I took the plunge but 9 days out of 10 i’m completely at home and loving life.
So please, take some comfort in the fact i’m telling you that you’re going to be okay. No scratch that, you’re going to be amazing.
It’s not just homesickness.
I’ve been really lucky in a sense that i’ve had no homesickness since I got here but that doesn’t mean it’s been completely easy. I actually struggled the most in the lead up to my trip and it really scared me because i’d never heard of anyone experiencing that before. Furthermore, when I told uni I wasn’t feeling too peachy, their first reaction was telling me homesickness was normal, but this wasn’t what I was feeling.
The thing that I think we all forget a lot, is that life continues here too. So if you were feeling shitty about that friend or that your jeans don’t fit how you want them to in your home country, those things can still make you feel rubbish here. It sounds obvious but life happens and sometimes I think it’s important to let yourself feel those things and to know that you’re only human.
Every YA is different.
I’m soooo lucky that I have a great crowd of friends from Sheffield that are also on their year abroad, this means that we’re all there to rally round when someone has been given a fine on a train or has still not managed to get their TV license (asking for a friend…🤷♀️) But all joking aside, it is really easy to go on Instagram and see everyone traveling around the Iberian penninsular with a tan and a new tattoo which was inspired by a dinner at the local poetry convention. When i’m sat in my office or shattered at the end of the week with no energy to run round scrapbooking Scandinavia sometimes I feel like i’m not making the most of my opportunity or situation. But I have just come to the conclusion that every year abroad experience is different. Some people’s is going to be all about travel, others their Hamburg nights out and for me, learning about work, building this (not so little anymore) website and gaining as many skills as possible from my internship.
I may not be on a beach with a book or traveling all the places on my bucket list but i’m content in what i’m doing you just have to learn what your YA is about.
You don’t need to plan to perfection.
This is said by the girl with so much matching stationary and lists and pretty pens but please stop trying to micromanage your YA. ‘What will be will be’. I’ve always hated that saying. Why can’t we just grab it, take control and know whats going to happen?! But since coming on my YA i’ve learnt, (it only took leaving the country for a year🙄) to be less of a control freak and see what happens.
This has been helped by endlessly searching for accommodation, stressing with public transport and playing the long waiting game for somewhere to eventually hire you. None of these situations feel the best at the time but I can honestly say these are the situations I’ve learnt the most from and they’re part and parcel of living in a new place alone. Therefore, I would implore anyone going on their YA to try to chill out and trust whatever situation you’re in. (But don’t be a lazy shit…still get your Erasmus forms in on time.)😘
They won’t check up on you!
No shade SLC (School of Languages and Cultures) but come on…pull your socks up. A few weeks ago I was left asking ‘where is that 5* pastoral care when you need it?’ With or without SLC helping you, you will not only survive but will flourish.
But still, I think it would be a good idea to keep in close contact with your personal tutor before you leave the country and explain that you’d like to have regular check ups and drop-ins.
Even after I had been abroad 3 months, some members of staff thought i’d been in Berlin only 2 weeks. This didn’t fill me with confidence. I’m sure SLC are busy people and I fully understand they’ve got a lot of us to check up on, but still. I heard from people in the year above that they received minimal contact whilst away but this is something the department themselves said they would improve. I personally have only been contacted first by 1 member of staff, who I was lucky enough to be close to and so wanted to hear what I was up to, but apart from that i’ve been left to my own devices. I think there really could be some improvements here, so lets look at this last point from the two stars and a wish perspective.😂
This shouldn’t be taken as a really pessimistic view on a year abroad but it is important for me to be as open and honest as I can be to anyone about to go on their year abroad. This is just to help you know you’re going to have the most amazing time but the things you feel are valid and are completely normal believe me.🌸 Go and have the best time.