An Okay Year of Your Life

It’s nearly October half term, and you know what that means? It means it’s about the time that Year Abroad starts getting hard. A reliable source* told me this while I was on my year abroad, and to be honest, based on my experience, it’s true.

Of course, it depends on your definition of hard. Beginning a year abroad is very difficult. Suddenly you’re trying to navigate things that are scary, if usually straight forward, in a foreign language. I never expected buying a sim card to be as difficult as it was. An hour it took me. All because I didn’t know the word for account in German. (It’s Guthaben, in case you were wondering).

But October half term is around the time you’re starting to get settled. When everything that was once new and terrifying, is now commonplace (though sometimes still terrifying).  For me, it was when the sheer enormity of living abroad for nine months was starting to get to me, and Maddie – fabulous person that she is- came to visit me.

Unfortunately, if year abroad blues are setting in for you, I have neither time nor money to come and visit all of you. So I have written a list. It’s a list of all the things they should really tell you before a year abroad.

1.     It does not have to be the best year of your life.

I can’t stress this enough. Your year abroad does not need to be the best year of your life.

I know that your uni probably wheeled out excitable fourth years to tell you how much they enjoyed their time abroad and they want to go back as soon as they graduate. That’s because they have to make you excited enough so that you actually go, rather than en masse mutiny.

Your year abroad might be the best year or your life, and if it is, that’s awesome. But for those feeling like the year abroad isn’t really looking like the best thing ever now that it’s started, that’s okay.

I am here to tell you as many times as you need that your year abroad is just another year. It might be great, it might be awful. Most likely, it’ll be alright with some ups and downs. And that is completely fine.

2.     Ignore people’s blogs.

I know it seems weird that I should say that seeing as this blog began as a year abroad blog, but seriously. If you have year abroad blues, don’t feel obligated to keep up with everyone’s “look at how great this year is” posts.

As someone who runs a blog, I can tell you that no-one’s life is as good as it looks online. No-one’s. Unless someone has a depressingly honest online presence, most people will only put good or good slanted things online. So don’t be fooled by that thousandth “I’m having so much fun – you wouldn’t even believe it” post. They’ve struggled with the language and culture shock too.

3.     You do not know enough vocab.

No matter how good at the language of your new country you are, there will always be something to trip you up. For me, bin bags was a particularly prevalent piece of vocab that to this day I still do not know in German.

Whether you realise this on your first day or five weeks in, it’s okay. Take a deep breath. You’re in the country to learn the language after all. If you knew it already, you wouldn’t need a year abroad.

4.     FOMO is a real thing.

FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, is unfortunately an actual thing. Between friends at home doing fun things and everyone on their year abroad putting only the good bits online, it’s easy to feel like you’re not making the most of your year abroad.

My only advice is try not to worry too much. It’s not particularly useful advice but I don’t really know what else to say. I suffered from FOMO on my year abroad. You just kind of have to get on with it.

5.     Bits of it’ll be great

No matter how your year goes, whether or not it’s the best year of your life, there will some bits that are great. It’s just how life works. Whether it’s the friends you make, or a trip you take, or even just being able to order McDonalds and not have your nationality identified, something will be good.

I hope that if you’re on a year abroad you are having a good time, whether or not it’s the Best Year of Your Life. My Year Abroad was good (you can read all about it in reverse order here), but it wasn’t the best year of my life. And I survived. You’ll be fine.

I also hope that any year abroad blues disappear soon. If you want to talk about how awful/great/mediocre your year abroad is, please feel free. You can leave a comment below, or tweet me. You can even email me katsblogofstuff@gmail.com. Hope you’re all okay out there.


Grundschule Vocab List

Here is a list of words and phrases you’ll need to know working in a German primary school aka the vocab list I wish I’d had back in September. It is by no means comprehensive and spelling may be dodgy as I’ve only ever heard some of them, but it is alphabetical, so that’s something.

Du brauchst mich nicht
Means ‘you don’t need me’. For when the kids keep calling you over despite being perfectly capable of doing the work themselves.

Halt deine/eure Klappe
Means ‘shut your mouth’, though is slightly more acceptable to say to kids in German. Use sparingly and only when at the end of your tether.
Hör zu
Means ‘listen’. Will be said several times over the course of one lesson, most oftentimes with little to no avail.
Ich glaube
Meaning ‘I believe’, it is an excellent addition to any sentence where you’re not entirely sure what you’re talking about.
In die Reihe
Means ‘in the line’, as in ‘walking in a line’. A state of affairs which never happens as the kids aren’t too bothered about the fact that the road is for cars.
Keine Ahnung
Meaning ‘no idea’, it will be used liberally by kids and by you when faced with German vocab that however many years of study didn’t cover.
Means ‘quiet’ or ‘quietly’. Is often said, but cannot often be used to describe the children.
Must be said with great exasperation. Literally means ‘people’ but can be more accurately be translated as ‘children, c’mon. Pay attention, be quiet and give me a break.’
An exclamation of exasperation.
Mund zu
Means ‘mouths closed’. Often combined with ‘Hör zu’, and if ignored, may later by followed by ‘Halt euere Klappe’
Setzt dich/euch
Means ‘sit down’. Will need to be said at least three times for anything to happen
The trend which has all the kids enthralled at the minute. Tiny plastic figures with big eyes that stick to things. Makes one long for pogs or pokemon cards.
Was denkst du?
Means ‘what do you think?’ Gives you time to work out the answer to the maths problem a child has presented you with.


Kids and Other Animals.

My first week at the school was punctuated by children asking me what animals were called in English, namely hedgehogs and squirrels. The thing is, if they weren’t pointing at a picture of the animal in question, I had no idea what they were talking about, so to counter this I have made a vocab list. I really hate learning vocab so I hope you can appreciate a) how frustrating I’m finding it when I don’t understand the children and b) just how little I have to do at weekends.

To do this, I took about five children’s books on nature out of the library, and went on sat on the hill at the back of my accommodation in the sunshine, getting comments from German passerbys that I couldn’t understand. I think the fact that I was chuckling to myself didn’t really help. But I thought I would share the entertaining animal names with you, purely because I want to. So strap in, and prepare to be amused. Also prepare for possible over use of the phrase ‘it’s funny because’.

Rhino – das Nashörn

Literally mean nose horn, and it’s directness as a name amuses me.

Aye aye – das Fingertier

Literally means finger animal, and again, the frankness of the name amuses me.

Sloth – das Faultier

Literally means lazy animal, and really, doesn’t that suit a sloth down to the ground?

Ladybird – das Marienkäfer

Okay, so this one amused me because it’s so different to the English. Though it literally means spotted beetle, which definitely fits with a ladybird.

Shark – der Hai

So to me hai means two things. One, it’s yes in Japanese and Two, it’s how I misspell hi on facebook chat all the time. The fact that it has these other connotations makes me laugh.

Seahorse – das Seepferdchen

-chen is a diminutive suffix in Germany, and for those who don’t study German, See is sea and pferd is horse. So it literally means a small sea horse. Okay, so it’s not amusing in English. But it was to me in German.

Armadillo – das Gürteltier

It’s funny because it literally means belt animal.

Platypus – das Schnabeltier

Of all the things that are weird about a platypus, the Germans decided to focus on the beak, naming it beak animal.

Hippo – das Nilpferd

The horse of the Nile. Good old Germans, with the saying what they see version of naming things.

Dandylion – der Löwenzahn

Okay, it’s not an animal, and it’s more interesting rather than amusing, but it literally means lion tooth.

In compiling this list, I feel that what I’ve really proved is that odd things amuse me and that things aren’t funny in translation… Hopefully you were at least a little amused by them, and aren’t just wondering if I ought to get my sense of humour checked out.