Deciding to embark on a year abroad in the middle of your studies at university can be daunting (especially in the midst of a pandemic!). I especially struggled with the decision of, what I saw as, uprooting myself from the friends I’d made at uni and putting myself into a position that was, not only, out of my comfort zone, but, in a completely different country, with completely new people.
Do I stay or do I go?
Sitting in my University house seeing all the rest of my housemates starting to plan their housing arrangements and sign tenancies for next year sent me into a bit of a panic. A few thoughts were going through my head:
I have nothing set in stone yet for next year! The nominations and applications for my year abroad plans are not until 2021! Everyone else is so sorted! Not only that, my friends will all have graduated when I get back, who will I live with in fourth year? What if they forget about me? What if I’m viewing their Instagram stories and seeing them all having fun without me and I’m sitting in my new room in Madrid, curled up in a ball, completely alone? And what about the pandemic? Everything’s so hostile at the moment, I mean you can’t see anyone’s face anymore, can’t even give someone a friendly smile! And bars are probably going to be closed, if they are open, I’d have to be that weirdo who waves at strangers at the bar at a 2m radius hoping that they’d like to attempt forming a (socially distanced) friendship.
I even googled at one point ‘Should I go on a year abroad or just stay and do the final year of my degree?’ – I found it this hard to decide. (There were no helpful answers!)
Time for a pros and cons list!
I know what you are thinking: Laura, stop it, honestly, how dramatic. I found that I was looking at all of the disadvantages and just not seeing the benefits. So I decided that there was only one thing to do, what I do for all of my integral and monumental life decisions -make a pros and cons list.
I know it sounds silly. But it really helps to see things in perspective, instead of just in a mush of negativity in your brain (often the negative thoughts shout louder than the positive ones).
Seeing the benefits
Once I had done this I then realised that all of my worries were way less important than the actual benefits I would get from this:
My friends wouldn’t forget me! If anything, they’d want me to go so they’d have an excuse to travel to a different country to visit me!
Also, Covid-19 (showing up like an unwanted guest at a party) should not change anyone’s life plans! Even though it will be a different situation than I imagined when I first signed up for the course, I still signed up for the opportunity to immerse myself in a different culture and language in the first place. Why should that change now?
I started to cross out all of the inconsequential things on my list, and, as a result, ended up with mostly positive outcomes:
It is such a great opportunity to develop language skills. Immersion is the best way to challenge yourself and improve, but it also offers a chance to experience true independence in a new country. I had to ask myself: when will I find a better time to go? It’s before final year, to have the best chance at exams due to more advanced language skills, and before finishing University and experiencing the real world. A taste of the life you might end up having, but with the comforting warmth of the security of financial stability (the student loan and the prospect of an Erasmus grant help of course!)
A great opportunity
After MANY emails to my Year Abroad Coordinator and my University supervisor, (as well as many existential crises over a few glasses of wine) I decided that I would go for it, to take the leap, not wanting to regret making the wrong decision in the future and feeling like I’d missed out on such a great opportunity.
Having said this, and if you are reading this and debating, just like I was, (dramatically looking to google the answers to your problems) it is ONLY your choice so only you can decide what is best for you.
So, my advice to students would be: a year abroad may not be for everyone, but I guess you will never know unless you throw yourself into one! As Laila Gifty Akita says, “Seize every opportunity and make it great”!
Read more student stories about studying abroad
Read our Language Students Abroad blog