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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope you’re all okay out there.