“I wish I had known to pack lightly”
I set off for France with a suitcase bursting at the seams, having sensibly supposed: seven months is a long time - I’ll need a lot of things to be prepared. But little had I known, lugging my heavy suitcases around on trains and planes would be a nightmare at the end of my stay. I would recommend Sendmybad, a website I luckily found, which allows you to send suitcases to different countries with relative ease.
“I wish I had truly known how to enjoy my own company”
In Durham, you are constantly surrounded by people you know. The loss of this comfort was one of my greatest challenges in the huge metropolis of Paris. Many year abroaders suddenly find themselves with a lot of free time on their hands, and without friends living five minutes away at your beck and call, you have to learn to amuse yourself. Visit a museum, read in a park, or treat yourself to a nice lunch… Do it out of genuine interest – not just for your Instagram account. Learning how to be happy in your own company takes time, but it is worth it.
“I wish I had made better use of the summer periods either side of the academic year”
How much of the target language you speak, how much travelling you do, what work experience you come away with, and whether you go into it with a positive or a negative attitude - it’s all down to you! You could spend a total of fifteen months abroad, so use the summers either side of the academic year to your advantage. You could, for example, participate in a summer school!
“I wish I had reached out when things went wrong”
Life is full of challenges to overcome, and these can be considerably more difficult when everything is unfamiliar and in a different language. However, no one ends up stranded on the streets not having managed to do anything! Reach out to ask for advice, ask friends who are currently on their Year Abroad or who have just come back, and email Durham - they can't do things for you, but they are there to help you when you need it.