Opinion | Why it's okay for your year abroad to be more flawed than fun

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By Julie Hengen, French and Spanish, Third Year

Nothing is more alluring than the thought of spending a year abroad in a beautiful, exotic country. But when your long-awaited time overseas doesn’t correspond with your expectations, you’re bound to feel down – and you’re not the only one.

From instantly finding new best friends to having the adventure of a lifetime (every weekend), it seems that stigma and pressure surround the oh-so amazing year abroad almost as much as they do Fresher’s week.

The bar is set unattainably high with life supposedly starting to resemble to a sappy teenage movie as soon as you step foot into a new country. But these expectations can quickly turn into dreadful disappointments if they don’t come true.

Then, when you don’t talk about your time abroad so much that it becomes your new, slightly annoying character trait, it feels like you’re doing it all wrong. The truth is much simpler: going abroad on your own is hard and that’s okay.

From culture shock to loneliness – there is more than one reason why you might be struggling more than succeeding. But that doesn’t mean you’re not growing.

Whether it’s finding out that you’re not made for big city life or realising that not every country you visit magically becomes your new favourite place in the whole world, even a bad experience is a good lesson learned.

Especially this year, post-Brexit and amidst a global pandemic, with new visa requirements and travel restrictions, the reality of studying or working overseas is far from breezy.

The challenges you might encounter are plentiful: maybe your apartment is grim, perhaps your flatmates make you feel more lonely than lucky, or your studies bring you more pain than pleasure.

It might even be that you can’t quite put your finger on it because on paper, everything is ideal, except for the fact that you’re feeling rather blue than blissful.

Even a bad experience is a good lesson learned.

Whether there are a million reasons for your sorrow or none, overcoming these kinds of difficulties on your year abroad – or even just enduring them – will make you come home all the wiser and more resilient, too.

Keep in mind that you’re only there for a semester or a year at most, so don’t panic or get disheartened if your time overseas doesn’t exactly turn out the way you wanted it to. While you’re there, you might as well try your best to make your year abroad as enjoyable as it is educational.

Try to get to know the city you live in; wander the streets like a tourist, buy some flowers, decorate your room, or treat yourself to a little brunch and you’ll be sure to discover that there’s a beautiful side to every place in the world, even if you have to squint to see it.

The Croft investigates a year abroad: Russia, Spain, Italy, Copenhagen, France and Switzerland

Don’t feel pressured if everyone constantly seems to be out and about with friends – take time for yourself whenever you need to. And if you ever feel particularly homesick, remember that your friends and family are just a phone call away.

Regardless of the perfect social media pictures of sunny beaches, late nights-out and weekend trips that every student overseas competitively posts, believe it or not, there’s nothing shameful about not feeling at home when that’s exactly what you are – not at home.

Keep in mind that your time away is about personal growth and development more than about curating the image of a happy holiday. Whether it’s a positive or a negative experience, it certainly is a transformative one that you won’t regret, even if it ends up being far from perfect.

Featured Image: Unsplash | Kristina Tripkovic


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