Your year abroad is guaranteed to be one of your best life experiences, but the initial fear and excitement can be overwhelming. To make the move easier, you can prepare in various ways which will benefit you when you arrive in the foreign country.
1. Do your research
This may seem obvious, but many people like to go with the flow and not think too far in advance. This is a mistake and will cause huge amounts of stress when trying to settle into your new home. Research the area in which you’ll be living: the best neighbourhoods to rent in; transport links; official languages; cultural aspects etc, as well as how to obtain any necessary documentation; how to open a bank account; how to use your phone abroad; and whether you need to purchase any travel insurance in addition to what’s provided by your uni. If you’re participating in the British Council scheme, useful country notes are provided which will help you in the process leading up to your year abroad. Alternatively, if you’ve chosen the study option, it’s likely that the university website will have a wealth of information for Erasmus students, and if not, ask!
2. Look for accommodation
You may have been told to wait until you arrive to look for accommodation as you can’t trust what you find online. Whilst this is a valid point to be wary of, you at least need to get yourself some temporary accommodation as you don’t want to be stranded when you get there! Using social media is a great way to ask for recommendations and making your search known could lead to finding either temporary or permanent accommodation – you never know what connections people have. If all else fails, it’s not the end of the world if you have to book an Airbnb or hostel for the first few weeks of your year abroad – the Erasmus Grant is there for a reason! Whilst you should never commit to anything or pay a large sum of the money before seeing the accommodation in person, it doesn’t hurt to start looking and organising viewings, although you’re likely to find a lot more advertisements once you arrive.
3. Find companions
Another task successfully achieved through the power of social media. There are bound to be Facebook groups for your university course, halls, fellow Language Assistants in your area etc, it’s just a matter of finding them. Join them and start chatting to people, you’ll all have similar questions and may be able to help each other out. It’s also reassuring to know that there are other people in the same boat as you, just as unsure and apprehensive! Even if you don’t end up being the best of friends, it’s a great place to start if you have a fellow British person to meet up with when you arrive in an unfamiliar place – you can figure it out together.
4. Be in contact with your institution
Whether you’re going to a partner university, involved in the British Council scheme, or you’ve found your own work placement, you should be in regular contact with your receiving organisation. You can ask them any questions you may have (trust me, you’ll have plenty) and make a good first impression by expressing how much you’re looking forward to the placement. Get off on the right foot as you’ll probably need your supervisor to fill out paperwork for your uni and possibly write an evaluation of your work at the end of the placement.
5. Print out photos to take with you
There’s nothing like home comforts when you’re away. Decorating your room with homely things on your year abroad is even more vital than when you moved into uni halls, with you now being a flight away rather than a train ride. Coming home every day to see the faces of your loved ones filling your room will trigger happy memories and keep you feeling up-beat and less homesick. Having them so close somehow makes you feel as if you’re not so far away!
6. Mentally prepare yourself
By throwing yourself into all these physical preparations, you may neglect the equally important mental preparation. Make sure you see all your loved ones before you go so that you don’t feel guilty about being away from them for such a long time. Get used to the idea of video calling as this will be your best form of communication whilst out of the country. And muster all the self-confidence and survival skills you can because no one is going to be there to hold your hand. If you’ve done all the physical preparation then this should help to arm you with the knowledge and reassurance needed for a secure, optimistic state of mind.