In our increasingly globalised world, more and more courses are offering the chance for year abroad or semester abroad placements, and you might be wondering if you should do it or not. Take it from someone who spent a year studying in Beijing: you should.
There’s no doubt about it, going on a year abroad will light up your Instagram like nothing else. You’re not even going to need a filter for the smoggy burnt-red Beijing sunset or that espresso on a wooden surface in a cobbled Spanish piazza. Jokes aside, you get the chance to experience things which you normally only get to see through the blogs of travel writers and pictures in The Lonely Planet.
Learning the lingo
Even if you don’t study a language fulltime at university, learning the lingo is one of the most rewarding things about year abroad. When you arrive you’ll get mugged off in the cab from the airport because you don’t actually speak enough Italian to order ice cream. By the end you’ll be cussing like a local, and when you get back you realise it’s kind of boring that everyone here speaks English and sounds so plain.
You know how international students tend to stick together? Well there’s a reason for that. When you live in a foreign country you become a foreigner, and you look and sound all foreign, and it’s nice to be with people who also look and sound foreign. Working or studying abroad will bond you with other foreigners like nothing else, and at the end of it all you’ll have friends you can stay with scattered across the whole world.
It’s basically a holiday
You’re supposed to be there to study or work or look after someone else’s kids or something, but don’t lie to yourself: it’s a holiday. You’re part way through your degree, you only have to turn up to your job or to class and earn the necessary credits, you don’t have any attachments, and you don’t have to seek employment as soon as you come home. When else are you going to get that opportunity? You get a student loan while you’re in a foreign country, for heaven’s sake.
Delays the end of your degree
Maybe you’ve realised that three years isn’t that long. A year abroad is a helpful little boost, an extra life, that will prolong your academic career, and more importantly delay the onset of “real life”, whatever that is. Think of it like that mushroom on Mario Bros that makes you grow and survive next time you run into a tortoise. (Final year in the tortoise).
Homesickness is good for you
There are plenty of moments you won’t want to Instagram or blog about. Like the moment you arrive in your new dorm, realise you’ve signed up to this shit for ten months, and cry your eyes out into a confounding tourist map you were just given.
They won’t warn you before, but some of the year abroad is pretty hard. Homesickness, actual sickness, cultural differences, isolation, even boredom. Even though that’s not a great advert, it will certainly build your character. People will joke about you “finding yourself”, but it really does change you.
Kindle an exotic romance
You never know where your year abroad might lead. Foreigners forced together in a tight-knit community, a language exchange which becomes a bit steamy, a local who catches your eye in the fruit market. Many an exchange student has been known to embroil themselves in an international relationship, or at least some kind of cross-border fling.
Who knows how long we’ll be able to get to Europe so easily. Jump on the literal bandwagon and get across the Channel or further. If you’re one of the people who said they’d jump ship after Brexit, this is your opportunity to test the waters and see if living abroad is really for you.
Your CV loves it
Apart from my A levels, my year 10 work experience, and the odd bit of freelance writing, my CV doesn’t have a lot on it. Well, now it’s full of studying in China and Germany and things like that, and how resilient I am and how I overcame the language barrier to order some dumplings and my inter-cultural understanding.
Being foreign is a lot of fun
A lot of people travel through counties, but few people live there. When you’re committed to a place for a semester or longer, you learn to love and hate it in ways that only a local can. After a semester or a year in a foreign city you’ll know it like the back of your hand, riding the tube to your favourite dive bars and bantering with the owners of the restaurant you always go back to.
Just do it
It’s only a year. You’ll kick yourself if you don’t.