As the wise old sage that I am (read: a fourth-year student hurtling into her twenties without the slightest idea how to be an adult) I have been asked by many other students about the details of my year abroad. Some of these included fresh faced young second-years about to undertake the same great adventure, with a mixture of trepidation and excitement about the possibilities available to them.
When it comes to knowing what to take with you, I am sure you have got the basics covered: passport, suncream, several layers of thick woollen clothing for those hardcore Russian students. However, perhaps you would like to consider taking some of these excellent recommendations with you as well...
Have an open mind
I feel like this should hardly need mentioning, as the fact you are even considering a year abroad would suggest that you are willing to absorb yourself in a new culture. But you should still bear in mind that wherever you are you will need to adjust to a different way of life, which of course in many ways is a huge positive. We all love the cosy little bubble that is living in Durham, but sometimes it is nice to venture out to a place where you don’t require 235784 layers just to leave the house and the nightlife actually exists beyond 2am.
Don’t be afraid to jump in
This vaguely follows on from my previous point: there will be SO MANY opportunities to try things you’ve never done before, and I would highly recommend making the most of this. Whether it’s going sea kayaking or even just joining a local social club, it may seem scary but you will reap the rewards several times over. It may even inspire you as to what you want to do in the future. For instance, I had never travelled alone or even stayed in a hostel before I went on my year abroad, but for me it was probably the best part of my entire experience, and now I’m desperate to do as much travelling as humanly possible on my tragically limited student budget. It will give both your confidence and your independence an amazing boost, trust me.
It’s OK to speak English sometimes
Yes, of course you should be practicing your target language, and you definitely will get to do that, but occasionally you just need to be with people you know will understand you. Having English speaking friends is not detrimental to your experience- we all appreciate having our home comforts now and again.
And finally, make this the year of you...
I know, this is the cheesy bit, but you will spend three out of four years of your degree stressing over summatives and trying to keep up with deadlines- this is your chance to actually take some time to do what you want. That is not to say you should sack off work completely, but you will be able to take some time for yourself and actually start to grow as a person. Sure, my year abroad was an obligatory part of my degree, but when I look back I see something that I did for myself, and above all else something that will always be just for me.