The emails reminding you to start your applications are flooding in, the paperwork is piling up, and the to-do lists are getting scarily long. The idea of leaving Swansea for a year and taking off to a foreign country can feel overwhelming.
So, I’ve compiled a list of my five top tips that will help you embark on what could be one of the best years of your university career!
1. Try not to feel overwhelmed
You are going to be on the receiving end of a lot of information in the next few months; paperwork, emails, and meetings. I remember sitting in my room last year, feeling incredibly overwhelmed at how much I had to organise. The truth is that most of this information will be useful at some point and it is perfectly normal to feel stressed. You’re doing better than you think.
2. Location, Location, Location
One major aspect that the university did not fully explain was the way the different locations worked with regards to the preference and popularity of each institution. I spent my year abroad in France, so I can only tell you my experience in applying there. The application asks you to list your top three preferences in ‘regions’, for example, the region of Nice.
One mistake that myself and a lot of others made was assuming that applying to the region of Nice meant you would be located in the city of Nice. This is not accurate. An example of this is a friend of mine who applied to be in the region of Toulouse, hoping and assuming that she would be in the city. The reality is that she was located two hours away in the middle of the countryside. Remember to do your homework on the different regions and where the cities are located, as there’s an extremely high chance that they are not where you would assume!
3. All the boring admin? Do that ASAP
In my experience it is best to get the paperwork done as soon as possible – a lot of things can’t happen until it has been signed and delivered. Knowing that you have completed all the administration tasks will give you peace of mind later in the process. If you’re planning to teach through the British Council, just like I did, then you will need to set up a bank account in your new home, and until one is set up you can’t get paid. Just bite the bullet, go into the bank and set it up. It is an intimidating thought but once it’s done; that’s it for the year! If you’re not happy with something, then change it. If your workplace is not what you expected, then contact the university and they will be there to help. At the end of the day it’s time abroad, and a whole year of your life, so make sure you enjoy everything about it!
4. Choose Wisely!
Unless you are studying at a university in your time abroad, then there is a high chance that you will have to find your own accommodation. My friends that were studying abroad have said that the universities’ accommodation process was similar to the one used at Swansea. However, if you are working or teaching then Swansea University is not responsible for securing your accommodation. For this, my biggest tip is not to book anything or sign any form of a contract until you get there! This might sound ridiculous, especially for the organised amongst us, but you could potentially be ripped off or taken advantage of if you’re in the UK and unable to fully understand what you are signing up for. My friends and I decided the best plan was to book a cheap hotel or Airbnb for a week and use that week to explore the area. Enquire about local flats and spare rooms that are available in practical locations that you enjoy being in. This will give you a better understanding of the area and where the cheaper accommodations are located.
5. Live and Travel
You are probably going to have plenty of spare time. Whether you are working or studying, there will definitely be times where you can kick your heels back. I only taught for three days of the week, so free time was definitely on my side! If you are working through the British Council then, in my experience, your pay will always be very good too, which is a bonus for any student! People often travel during their time abroad. Even just travelling within your new home country will give you the chance to become more culturally educated. You will also have the chance to be one of the students walking around campus, talking about ‘that one time on my year abroad’. If that isn’t an incentive, then I don’t know what is!
It sounds obvious, but just live! It’s like the advice we all got given when we were freshers; don’t just sit in your room and watch Netflix, we were told – join societies, be social and bond with your flatmates. Make sure to follow this same advice whilst you’re abroad because your time there could be much lonelier than it should be if you don’t. You will make friends from all corners of the world and be immersed in cultures and ways of living you never thought you would. It sounds like a cliché, but I swear it’s true.
So, there you have it!
There’s so much to do when preparing for your time abroad, but I know I would have felt a little less apprehensive if someone had given me these tips. I hope that they can help you feel better too.
By Grace Dembowicz