The year after the year abroad



By Anonymous Author

An anonymous student talks about the challenges of returning to Bristol, balancing and adjusting to university here after a year away.

So, the year abroad is over. You come back to Bristol, to your comfort zone, where there are still a lot of friends who have stayed on either to do a masters or to work, and there are also those returning from their own year abroad. And you are meant to slip back in, seamlessly, to the easy routine of first and second years. Some play, but probably quite a lot of work, and most of all a sense of ease that you are in the right place - at least geographically.

Compared to the emotional rollercoaster of last year – forgive the cliché, but it really does describe the ups and downs of the year abroad – it is true that I know my way around Bristol and the university and I know what to expect, more or less, in terms of studying and socialising a lot better than this time last year. The workload is higher but this was always to be expected and feels like a natural progression. Most of my friends are still in the city, I know the lecturers and I can place my order in a restaurant without worrying about pronunciation or conjugating a verb correctly.

But, in reality, the transition back into life in Bristol has been a lot more unstable than I had ever expected. Although everyone talks about the year abroad as if it is the part of your life where you will have to adapt and come to terms with a new lifestyle and new people the most, coming back afterwards is not necessarily a walk in the park either.

Relationships change and the distance you experience whilst abroad can feel like a test of friendship. Did we stay in touch regularly enough? Did we Skype as much as we should have? And whilst friendships can’t always be measured in this way, and not everyone feels the need to message and call every week to maintain a friendship, the year abroad does reveal who you want to stay in touch with and in whom you want to invest your time: after all, it is very precious.


And so, returning from the year abroad, it can be difficult to ease back into friendship groups. A group dynamic might have changed, friends themselves have changed over the year, there are new members in the group which means that attention has shifted. Most importantly, you have almost certainly changed during the whirlwind of the year abroad. At worst, this means you feel like you’ve lost touch with the group and you no longer feel as at ease as you used to. And it is this feeling of loss – whether recoverable or not – which is frustrating and even saddening as final year begins to slip away. Alongside this, balancing new friendships and relationships you have brought back with you from your year abroad can make the return feel overwhelming, just when you thought the hard part was over.
A lot of life can happen during one year, both for you, on your exciting, glamorous, Instagrammable year abroad, and back home, where things tick along nicely, but where change happens gradually which you can ultimately grow to feel out of step with.
I think it is important to accept that you can’t keep abreast with everything and everyone, both at home and abroad. Friendships go through phases and realising how I can best invest my limited time left at university has been a difficult but gradual process for me. If anything, being abroad and then coming back and the difficulties this has led to have been a learning curve for me, as I gradually realise who I am and what really makes me happy.

But I don’t regret having been away for a year abroad at all; I learnt so much and had some incredibly memorable experiences which have certainly caused positive changes in my life. And I am so grateful that I have some wonderful friendships now, back in Bristol, who have indeed developed since they began, including during my year abroad, and I hope to hold onto them for a long time. We have both matured and this has led to a strengthening rather than a distancing between us.
It has been unexpected how emotionally challenging it has been to come back to Bristol, perhaps because so much attention is focused on the year abroad that we forget to talk about what happens afterwards.

Featured Image: Epigram

What was your experiance of coming back from a study abroad? Let us know!

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