My year abroad was the best year of my life

The idea of a year abroad, either studying or working, can be great in terms of your CV, new opportunities and experiences, growing as a person and meeting new people. There are many reasons to do it but bear in mind that it may not always be what you expect. There can be a lot of unexpected things that may get in the way of it being different from what you envisaged. Looking back, I definitely looked at the opportunity through rose-tinted glasses.

In sixth form, I jumped at the opportunity to apply for a course with a year abroad, so for me, it was mandatory; I have friends who have done it as a voluntary part of their course, which I think is a better approach. Three years after I applied, I was still excited to go on the year abroad, but I recommend to do it as a voluntary option in case you change your mind.

How to find the perfect uni and city for you

Initially, the process can be quite daunting, and extensive research is needed. I first imagined myself in New York; however, I soon realised that the university wasn’t in the location I imagined. Then I envisaged California, but I didn’t like the style of the university there. Then I looked at Madrid, but the module choices weren’t suited for my subject. This process is extremely trial and error based, and I persevered. For everyone, the journey to find their university abroad is just like trying to find your home university in sixth form, so there are a lot of factors to consider.

I then applied to six universities that I liked and were suited to my course. This was the maximum number of unis you could apply to (at my uni, it might be different at yours), and I recommend you do the same. I think it’s important to ensure that you’d be happy at any of the universities you choose and not settle for an insurance uni that you’re not 100% happy with. If you are struggling with any stages of the application process, check out these tips and definitely speak to your study abroad officers and academic advisor – use them as much as possible!

After you’ve applied, my university then chose the best uni for me from my choices, and I was placed in Sweden. It wasn’t my first choice but a close second, so I was still really happy with my decision. If you don’t end up with your first choice, don’t dwell on what you’ve lost or what “could have been” but instead throw yourself into life at your new university!

I researched all about Swedish culture and got excited about the prospect of living in a new country. The next step is to actually prepare for your study abroad year.

Preparing to go

I had the option to take a language class a month before the term started and for me, it was a good decision to do so. It meant I quickly settled into life in a new country, sorted out any problems with accommodation easier, and made friends with other international students. It also meant I got module credits before the term had even started which is good to act as insurance.

It was the best year of my life

From there, the experience was mainly positive with a few minor hiccups along the way; my module choices were different than I had planned and the darkness in Sweden paired with homesickness affected me mentally.

However, surrounding yourself with friends is really important, and the social aspect played a big part in making my experience positive overall and combating loneliness. One of my favourite parts was the fact that I made friends from all over, meaning I now have an excuse to visit their countries more often. I took trips with friends which were really good fun, and I think visiting surrounding countries and cities is definitely something to take advantage of.

I enjoyed the fact that my modules were different from the ones I study back in England and challenged me. The surroundings of my study abroad year were beautiful in both the summer and winter months, and I had close major cities nearby for shopping and socialising. I really enjoyed the aesthetic of Swedish life and the fashionable minimalism they have; adapting to the Swedish lifestyle and culture and learning the do’s and don’ts was interesting for me. I realised that my year abroad helped me grow and shaped me as a person.

I think a study abroad year is a really good thing to do, and I think any problems along the way are just a part of learning and growing; I believe this experience really helped me to do that. The only downside is the post-study abroad year blues

Isabelle Marsh

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