12 tips for 12 months abroad
Lena El-Sheikh, a second year Media and Communications student at Newcastle University spoke to Viola, a first year Classics student at Oxford University, who spent her gap year travelling around Australia and Bali, and volunteering in China.
Viola, a student at Oxford University, knows all about the thrills and anxiety of travelling abroad, as she spent 7 months away from home travelling all over the coast of Australia and Bali, before spending some time volunteering in China as a TEFL teacher. So if you're busy planning and looking for some advice on how to get the most out of your year abroad, read Viola's 12 tips for your 12 months abroad!
1. Research Your Destination
Knowledge is power, so the more you research for your trip, the less stressful it will be having to navigate yourself around a foreign country. Make use of handy checklists on travel websites, including the FCO Travel checklist travel checklist, so you have all the essentials on lock.
Viola's no.1 essential: Know the emergency phone numbers for the country you're in.
2. Two Are Better Than One: Bring A Friend or Make Friends!
There are both pros and cons to travelling with a friend, but in situations where you're stranded in the middle of nowhere with no point of contact, it is VERY reassuring to have a friend with you. However, if you're still set on being a lone traveller, make sure to have local contacts on hand in case you ever get yourself in a tricky situation!
...being with a friend means that you have someone there who will help and support you and it means that you're never alone.
3. But Not Everyone Is Your Friend
Stranger! Danger! The rule still applies, especially in a foreign country.
“Don’t get into just anyone’s car – you may have just made a new friend but they are still a stranger!
4. Hide Your Valuables!
It’s very easy to get caught up in The Passport Hustle if you’re not careful enough with your valuables. Keep your passport safe and hidden at all times, and don’t walk through the streets of China flashing your new iPhone 7. Viola recalls getting her phone stolen in China as one of the worst moments of her gap year!
“It was incredibly stressful and upsetting at the time but it definitely toughened me up and I learnt from it.”
5. Get Insurance!
If you’re travelling throughout Europe, make sure to apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), it’s free of charge and can score you reduced healthcare costs abroad – so there’s no excuse! But remember, your EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance. Make sure to get comprehensive travel insurance to ensure your EHIC is validated!
6. Book accommodation in advance
When it’s your first night in a foreign country, the last thing you want to do is have to deal with the hassle of booking a room for the night, so always book your accommodation in advance! Or else you may end up homeless, as Viola found herself one night in Hervey Bay, Australia.
"We found a small, fenced enclosure which was hidden from the main roads which we stayed in until a man came up behind it and looked directly at us at about 2am! It was so scary and meant we had to run with all of our stuff to the other side of the shopping centre. We barely got any sleep that night."
7. Culture shock is real and shocking
On your year abroad, not only are you experiencing a new country, but you’re also experiencing a new culture and you will probably find yourself with symptoms of culture shock. To reduce the shock, make sure to familiarise yourself with the local customs of your host country and be as respectful as possible. And if you’re unsure on what is appropriate, don’t be afraid to ask the locals!
"I think the main culture shock of the whole trip was probably truly experiencing how the Chinese live whilst living with two separate Chinese families. It’s very different from living at home in the UK!"
8. Learn the language
One of the best ways to immerse yourself into the local culture of a new country is by learning the language. Communication is key when you’re trying to get from point A to point B, and Viola can testify that some key words may have come in useful when bartering with taxi drivers in Bali!
9. Stay in touch with family and friends
It’s always good to have a point of contact in your home country, someone who knows your whereabouts and your plans for the day so that if something doesn’t go according to plan, they can help you out asap.
10. Have the correct visa
If you’re travelling to multiple countries throughout your year abroad, make sure you have the correct visa for those countries to avoid any unexpected trips back home!
11. Bring a First Aid Kit
This may sound simple enough, but not everyone remembers to bring a first aid kit with them and then they find themselves in the middle of nowhere with no hospital in sight and you have to be able to tend to yourself.
12. Have fun!
"Your experience is what YOU make of it."
For all of the latest foreign travel information, head to the FCO's Travel Advice website. Follow the FCO on Twitter @FCOtravel, watch their videos on YouTube and add them on Facebook to get instant access on all of the latest travel updates.
For 20% off the booking fee for your accommodation abroad, visit UniPlaces.com and use code THIRDYEARABROAD :)
Our insurance-related articles are in partnership with our friends over at YearAbroadInsurance.com!