‘This year will be the best year of your life’- if I had a penny for every time I heard that during my second year in Durham or read it online I could afford to be hypnotised into actually believing it. What about the folk who dread it? Who love their life at home so much that the thought of being squashed into the window seat on a Ryanair plane makes them want to drop out of uni? If hearing about other people’s year in Bolivia just makes us even more nervous instead of excited?
Let’s get one thing straight. It really could be the best year of your life. I’m not here to depress you or scare you. In fact, I know of many people who have had the time of their life abroad. Whether it be falling in love with a culture, language, German pastries, or person, there are many who can’t get enough of it.
But I want to give a voice to the others who dread their year abroad, and reassure them that they aren’t alone. What about my heart, Gail? (Corrie reference) Why didn’t anyone ever tell me about the reality of the year abroad? Homesickness? Culture shock? Isolation? About leaving my boyfriend, friends and life behind for 18 months when I had ‘keine Lust drauf/ningunas ganas: could not be arsed’
I went through a mix of these emotions. I never thought I would now be sat here now in May nearly at the end of my year abroad.
In June 2018 I had never been so excited to finish second year. I was ready to say ‘ciao, adios, I’m done’ to the constant cycle of work, revision and exams (with a few trips to Osbournes inbetween).
My first placement was just a month, easy I thought. Plot twist. The first week was probably the worst week of my life. I went to Dresden- a beautiful city centre with awful outskirts (the opposite of Burnley). The first night I didn’t stop crying. I went from celebrating the end of exams surrounded my friends to just me and my teddy in bed, living in a country whose language I could barely understand.
I ended up having to cut it short and come home. My mental health was a state and I didn’t understand how I was going to cope with the 15 months ahead of me. All I wanted was my boyfriend, my family and some mash from Nando’s. I was so close to quitting. My boyfriend even suggested changing courses to avoid this dreaded year abroad.
One day something just clicked in me: I just didn’t know how to be alone. I thought I was ready for time alone abroad, seen as I went to Italy with history club in year 8 for 3 days so of course I could easily conquer time without my family. However, here I was 3 days in crying to my mum down the phone so often that I even missed my eyebrow appointment.
However, fear not! If you are/were dreading your year abroad like me, you’ll be pleased to know things changed for the better. I went to Germany for 6 months and although at first I fell into the Gemma Collins on Big Brother stage (I’m tired of playing f**** games Darren)- I mean I was assigned a flat with no oven, hob, wifi or even a letter box (the shame), I quickly started to enjoy it once I made friends. I’ve become best friends with people I know of at Durham before this year and they have really made it amazing.
Quick tips- get tandem, go to language exchanges, make friends at work/university, put yourself out there and do English tutoring for extra money, do anything that will ensure you don’t stay in bed binge watching All Stars on Dailymotion (although, this is of course acceptable a few times a week, right?)
The year abroad is a rollercoaster of emotions. You’ll feel it all. The moral of the story is time goes by so quickly and you aren’t trapped- you can call home whenever and if you’re lucky enough to be on a paid internship (aka not in Spain) you can probably head home for a weekend.
Stop being hard on yourself if you aren’t always feeling on top of the world or having the best time, particularly at the beginning. It really doesn’t have to be the best year of your life, and you should know that you aren’t alone feeling this.
If you are loving it, cherish it and make the most of that feeling. But in the harder times remember that time will pass quickly, and you’ll soon be back in Durham again, in another grammar class learning more about what can be put in a fruit shoot than actual grammar. Salud to that!