5 things to consider before applying for a year abroad

Monday, 11 April 2016 Spain

5 Things to Consider Before Applying For a Year Abroad

With just under two months left of my year abroad in Salamanca, I would wholeheartedly say that I made a good choice choosing to study at a university. Deciding what you want to do on your abroad is as important as where you want to go, and I'm sure a lot of people would agree with me when I say that the advice given to us beforehand wasn't the most helpful or encouraging! So if you're considering applying for a year abroad or taking a gap year next year, here's a few tips to help get you on the right path.

1. What are you aiming to gain?

This is a really important one. Whether it's to add some experience to the CV, to brush up on your language skills or to simply travel, you'll need to think about what kind of experience abroad will benefit you the most. For example, I wanted to study on my year abroad because I liked the stability and routine of going to classes and seeing regular classmates, and experiencing a different type of student life that I'm used to in the UK. But if you'd prefer a new challenge, you might want to try a different environment, such as teaching English or doing a work placement.

2. Are you aware of the country's economic situation?

This point is especially significant if you plan to work abroad and earn money. Some European countries, such as Spain, Portugal and Italy are experiencing notable problems with youth unemployment, meaning that it's likely that finding a position, let alone one that will be well-paid will be much more difficult. Also, it's very important to research rent prices across different cities, since in the capital it's always much more expensive than in lesser known and smaller cities.

3. And how about your finances?

If you're not planning to take a year out as part of your degree course, a good level of financial organisation will be imperative here. Whilst we're still in the EU (hoping we still will be in June but who knows!), Erasmus students doing a year abroad as part of their course are eligible for the Erasmus grant as well as your normal student loan that you would receive in the UK. However, you still need to accommodate for the fact that living costs may be much higher than normal, depending on which country and city you're choosing to live in.

4. Will you need to learn some of the language before you arrive?

This factor will vary wildly depending on where you'd choose to go. European countries traditionally known as good for their English skills are Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. This would work well for someone who wants to study or work abroad, but perhaps doesn't have the time required to reach a considerable level with a language. However, no matter where you go, there will always be people who do not speak English, and I would say this rings extremely true in Salamanca and much of Spain.

If your aim is to improve on a language, I would highly recommend going to a place which does not speak it often! On the other hand if you're a complete beginner, research individual cities to find places which are more English-friendly, and if possible take an intensive course! (Barcelona is a good example if you're planning to go to Spain).

5. Do you struggle being away from home for long periods of time?

Everyone gets hit with homesickness from time to time, whether you're halfway across the world or five minutes down the road from your loved ones. I think it's a great character building experience, one that requires some independence and courage, and a year abroad can feel extra daunting when it's a completely different country and environment! With all the excitement that comes with this, there will be low moments.

The frustration when customer service can't understand you on the other end of the phone (check), having asked someone to explain something to you again and they simply repeat the same sentence at the same speed (check) and someone not understanding you because of a very slight mispronunciation of one word (checkmate). All of these very real situations will make you want to teleport yourself back home to your family, who'll make you a cup of tea and offer up some chocolate digestives too whilst you cry into it.

All of these factors should provide a starting point to make practical and informed decisions towards one of the best years of your life!

Have you been on a year abroad? What advice would you offer to those researching their options?


5 Things T Consider Before Applying For A Year Abroad

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