Top tips for your year abroad


By Izzy Green Fourth year, French and Spanish

Embarking on a year abroad can be daunting. Izzy Green offers up her top tips, along with some helpful advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Travel Aware Campaign.

Going on your year abroad this year? I have collated some tips from myself, and other ex-year-abroad-ers at Bristol, to help make your move a bit easier. I’m also working as a Student Brand Ambassador for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Travel Aware Campaign, so I have also included helpful travel tips from them!


It’s probably the most asked question, but unfortunately there’s no easy answer. Finding accommodation depends on the city that you are moving to; sometimes it may be best to wait until you are there, while in others the earlier you find somewhere the better. My biggest piece of advice is to talk to past year abroad students - there’s a really great Facebook page where you can chat to previous Bristol year abroad students and ask them for tips.

Currency cards

These were our saving graces on year abroad. Whether it be Monzo, Revolut or Caxton, you can withdraw money for free and send to different bank accounts without a fee and with a good exchange rate.

Travel insurance is a must

You may consider it an unnecessary expense, but you never know what’s going to happen - lots of us unfortunately had problems, but luckily, we had insurance, so weren’t out of pocket! The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has some great advice on travel insurance; making sure it covers all of your belongings, and the activities that you’ll be doing, is especially important. I’d really recommend that you take a look before you head off.

Live with locals

If you want to improve your language skills, I can’t recommend living with locals enough! For me, it was the best way to improve my Spanish. In Valencia, I lived with other Spanish students, and I found it the most laid back, casual way to practise speaking.

…or with friends!

However, if you’d rather live with a friend from home, do it! There are plenty of ways to learn a language, so don’t feel like you have to put yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable; moving to a foreign country is a big deal in itself. It’s really important to be proud of the progress you make - don’t be self-critical by telling yourself you ‘should’ be doing things another way.

Make new friends

Finding local friends can seem like a daunting task, but there are so many ways that you can branch out. Offer English classes to fellow university students; find tandems or Erasmus networks on Facebook; or go to bars with your English friends and find a group of natives to chat to. If you put yourself out there, it can be very easy!

alelmes / Unsplash

EHIC Cards

If you are travelling to Europe, an EHIC card is so important! They are free and can save you a lot of money on medical expenses - and trust me, it happens! Remember, you’re away for a year and may need to visit the doctors - even for just a cold or the flu (especially if you’re working and need days off, as many countries require proof of your illness).

Prepare yourself

Know that your year abroad is not always going to meet your expectations - and this ISN’T a bad thing. It’s impossible to predict how your year will turn out, so the best way to prepare is to be open minded from the start.

Be respectful

I advise that you check your new home’s local laws and customs. It’s really important that you not only keep yourself out of trouble, but also make sure that you are respectful of the new culture and society that you’re living in.

And finally…

…social media isn’t real life! If you’re having a hard time adjusting and see that other people on Instagram seem to be having the time of their lives - stop! Remember that everyone has bad days, and social media will only show the best parts of year abroad.

To me, the most important thing is to go into your year abroad with a positive attitude. Be a ‘yes’ person, try new things, step out of your comfort zone, and enjoy yourself! Talk to those who have been, I’m sure that they’ll tell you that they had an amazing time and didn’t want to leave for final year!

Featured Image: Daniel Corneschi / Unsplash

Do you have any tips for those embarking on a year abroad? Let us know!

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