Combatting boredom on your Year Abroad

Combatting boredom on your Year Abroad by

Hannah is studying French and Italian at the University of Salford, and is spending her year abroad studying in Forl, Italy, and teaching in a collège lycée in Brittany, France. Here is her advice for keeping busy and avoiding boredom on your year abroad.

You've been bombarded with motivational talks, presentations from past students, current tutors and foreign university lecturers and you're prepared to have 'the best year of your life'. But what happens when you have a job to do where all of your colleagues are middle aged professionals and you're not just an Erasmus student? What happens when you're living in a town with a population of 5,000 and an average age of 70?

I'll tell you what's most likely to happen; you'll get bored. And to be honest that's pretty much your worst case scenario. But the problem with boredom is that it can lead to other things such as homesickness and a general low mood.

For me, as a language assistant in a tiny town in the middle of rural Brittany, I'm in a slightly different position to most. When the majority of people spend their time abroad working, it’s in a full time job in an office environment with strict hours and reprimands. As a language assistant you are given a bit more slack. Some may think of this as a life of luxury but believe me after between 5 and 9 months at the job you may think otherwise. As a Comenius Assistant I am contracted to between 12 and 16 hours a week (British Council assistants only have a maximum of 12). When you think about it, 16 hours over 5 potential working days is not a lot, especially when most school days have 7 hours of lessons and most of the teachers work on between 15 and 20 hours per week. That’s the full time, contracted teachers.

You will probably find yourself feeling at a bit of a loss. So much time and so many valuable things that could be done with it but often an unpredictable schedule in school and probably just a lack of motivation to do anything but sit around and watch TV.

Trying to find something to do as and when won’t work. You need to set yourself targets and little things that you want to achieve before you get bored instead of getting into a rut and digging your way out.

As for those studying French I can lend a helping hand: the reason I’m in France is to study my French. In light of this, I’ve decided to dig out some internet resources and make use of them. A few that I have found really useful include;

  1. Duolingo (a free online language learning resource with the capacity to save your progress and test you - compared with the likes of Rosetta Stone) 
  2. Youtube (Cyprien, NormanFaitDesVideos specifically for French but try and find your countries equivalent famous YouTubers!) 
  3. BBC Languages (a free online language learning resource) 
  4. Langmaster (a free online French course)

Duolingo and BBC Languages offer activities for a number of different languages so go and have a look.

Another thing that I, personally, am trying to work on is to be more active. Not just getting out and about in town and in neighbouring towns and cities but actually doing exercise. I have just about sussed out the local swimming pool and am hoping to get into the habit of using it soon.

One advantage of having to do work for my university is that I have something else to throw myself into. A big part of the work I have to do is to develop a cultural understanding so I’m hoping to make full use of the library and its expanse of resources on Brittany and Breton culture.

My main advice is: don’t let boredom get the better of you. It’s so easy not to bother getting out of the house and to waste your days doing absolutely nothing, but when you reach the end of your year abroad you’ll discover that you regretted that time.

Combatting boredom in turn combats homesickness and even stress so try and keep active and if you are finding it tough, take a few minutes to really think about how you're spending your time and look at what things there are to do in and around where you live and even how you might be able to have an impact on your local community. Here's some more information on extracurricular activities on your year abroad.

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