* DISCLAIMER: Please note that this blog post was written before the COVID-19 outbreak and travel regulations. Please check with individual institutions in regards to their study abroad programmes going forward *
If somebody had approached me during my school years, and told me that I’d live abroad for a year during my third year at university, I’d have told them they’d got the wrong girl. I’ve always been curious, but cautious too – and that meant the idea of living in two separate countries, within the space of a year, seemed like a big step into the realms of the unknown. Plus, neither of my parents had ever been to university, let alone lived abroad. Nonetheless, having decided studying languages was the route for me, I submitted my UCAS form simply accepting that if I wanted to study languages, living abroad was just part of the package, and something that I’d have to do.
It’s important to mention here that studying abroad isn’t just for those who study languages. Fancy spending the second year of your History degree studying in Canada? Or maybe spending two weeks of your summer at a study centre in South Africa? Europe is just one possibility. Most degrees and universities offer some sort of study abroad opportunity, with many opportunities available in English, so it’s definitely something to consider.
As a student studying German and Spanish, I was able to spend six months in two different countries, tailoring each experience to my interests. In Austria, I lived in the mountains and taught as an English Language Assistant in two secondary schools, whilst in Spain, I worked as a translator in the international department of a university in Valencia. As well as plenty of visits and travelling with family and friends, some of the things I got up to included sledging at the weekend, attending a Viennese ball, experiencing an annual Spanish festival called Las Fallas, and going to yoga classes at the beach – little did I know what awaited when I boarded the plane that September.
Another question which is often floated around is about money. Isn’t it really expensive to study abroad? Well, with the Student Finance England loan, which everyone is entitled to, an Erasmus grant (which you don’t have to pay back), and money you earn from working, it might not be as unaffordable as you might think. With just the sources of money listed above, I was able to pay my rent, cover my living costs and travel most weekends, visiting 8 different European countries by the end of the year. For the girl that used to find the idea of adventure somewhat daunting, the travel bug well and truly bit.
Yes, living abroad can be a daunting prospect, but that’s what makes it so rewarding when things do go well. Life has its twists and turns, just as it would back in the UK, but in a different place, one with an initially unfamiliar culture and one which gives you the opportunity to view life through another lens – something I’m so grateful to have been able to experience. What’s more, I met some great people along the way too, many of whom I’m still in touch with. It helped me to realise that the world isn’t always quite as scary as it is sometimes portrayed to be.
And now having graduated, I’d quite happily live abroad if that’s the direction life took me in. Who’d have thought, eh?