A third year abroad is an excellent opportunity to learn new skills, to meet new people and to travel and experience new places. Yet it also means living away from home and a university environment that you have become familiar with. Homesickness, loneliness and lack of confidence in the local language can leave students feeling isolated during their third year abroad, which means they may not make the most of the experience. Try not to let that happen to you. Have a look at Send My Bag's top tips for a third year abroad to help you maximise on your experience from the outset.
- Do not spend your whole year abroad with fellow English speakers. Fellow English speakers will probably be the first people you meet on your year abroad – on a Language Assistantship induction course, for example. While it will be great to hang out with other English speakers now and again to have a good natter in your native language and to moan about missing home, these should not be the only people you hang out with during your year abroad. If your language skills are to improve, you must try to speak to local people at every opportunity. If you are struggling to meet locals, you should force your English speaking friends to talk only in the local language. This might seem unnatural, but there is little benefit to speaking only in English.
- If you do not naturally make friends with local people, advertise! Put up an advert at the local university asking for a conversation partner. You and your partner can take turns to speak in each of your languages – that way you both benefit from your meetings.
- Try to make friends with language assistants or Erasmus students who do not come from your country and whose language you do not speak. This way you will be forced to speak in your only common language – the language of your host country. If doing an assistantship or Erasmus course, there should be a list of contacts for fellow assistants/ students. Try to make contact with the ones in your area and ask if they want to meet up – chances are they will be eager to make new contacts, too.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. If it seems like your attempts to speak in the foreign language are constantly met with looks of confusion or people talking back to you in your native tongue, don’t despair! Things will definitely get better, so don’t let this put you off. Be stubborn and insist on speaking the foreign language. And remember, you can’t possibly know all the words or grammatical constructions - so don’t beat yourself up and just learn from your mistakes.
- Why not share accommodation with a local? If you are planning on finding accommodation in a flat share during your year abroad, try to find one with a local person. This means that you can practise your language skills on a daily basis. You should, however, familiarise yourself with the local etiquette of flat sharing to make sure you don’t offend!
- You will thank yourself if you do a lot of planning before you set off for your new destination. Make as many contacts as you can, possibly find someone to travel with, and make friends with people at your host school or university institution. You should also research your local area, sort out at least temporary accommodation and look into a more permanent set up. If you are going to be a language assistant, you should gather information on your home country/ town so that you can introduce students to your culture. This will also give you talking points to plan lessons around.
- Send your possessions abroad with Send My Bag. When relocating for your year abroad, you may struggle to bring with you all the possessions you would like. Airlines are making it increasingly difficult and extremely expensive to bring any substantial amount of luggage with you. It is also a real hassle trying to drag several bags with you onto public transport. Having your much-loved possessions with you, however, can help to turn your new accommodation into a home and can help ease home-sickness. So, why not ship your luggage to your new destination using Send My Bag. Send My Bag has many international routes, with a great-value flat rate for each route, up to a massive 30 kg. This means that you can bring your favourite clothes, books, DVDs, etc. to quickly help you set up home abroad. Check out our packing checklist to help you pack more efficiently. Visit our student removals page to learn about student shipping and to claim your 10% student discount.
- Book flights in advance to go home during the holidays. Make the most of any advance deals by booking your flights home for Christmas and other occasions throughout your year abroad well in advance. You can use Send My Bag to ship home any Christmas presents you have bought and so avoid excess baggage fees.
- Keep in contact with home. These days, phone and internet access are essential parts of daily life and will be especially important to you if you have left friends and family back at home. If you are on a mobile phone contract at home, you should try to cancel this, if possible, as your tariff will often not include international calls. You can then obtain a pay as you go sim so you only pay for what you use when on your year abroad. Alternatively, you could try to change tariff to one that includes international calls. In the long run, the best option is to purchase a local sim in your new location, especially as you will increasingly need to contact people locally. To obtain internet access, you will often need a landline. The landline provider may be able to offer a package with free international calls. Or, you could use Skype to contact other users at home. If you would rather not pay for a landline, if may be possible in your area to use an internet dongle. Whichever option you go for, make sure you shop around, and ask the advice of locals. They may even be able to help you make sense of terms and conditions if you are not entirely au fait with the local language.
- Stay on top of your year abroad project. If your university requires you to write a dissertation or create a project during your year abroad, you should try to say on top of this rather than leaving it to the last minute. You will likely have a whole year to complete it – a luxury compared to the tight deadlines you face during term time at home. So, do a little at a time over a number of months. That way it won’t seem like a chore. This will also ensure that you don’t forget how to write essays before returning home for final year.
We are keen to add to our list of top tips for a third year abroad. Please help us do so by sharing your tips on our Facebook Page. Read our previous blogs on spending a third year abroad working, as an Erasmus+ student, or as a language assistant.
You don’t have to be part of a scheme like Erasmus+ or the Language Assistantship to enjoy a third year abroad. Instead, you can plan your own activities, like taking on full or part time work, or jobbing as you travel around different locations. While taking an Erasmus+ course or being a language assistant gives you invaluable transferable skills, you will get more immediate experience of a working environment if you choose to work ‘in the real world’, which will have direct impact on your employability.